Short Post on Just Words

tumblr_static_bo8byijx4q0o48g40gsokw8gcI have been told that some nurses think the comments made on The View about nurses aren’t important.  They are just words.  Indeed, they are.  But let’s not forget that just like a nurse is not just a nurse, words are not just words.  Words are not a jumble on letters on a page.  Words are how we put into language what we think.  When Joy Behar used the words “a doctor’s stethoscope” the problem wasn’t the 18 letters that left her mouth.  The problem was the thought, the attitudes those words reflected.  Those thoughts were surely that physicians do the important work and nurses, well they just just….  These attitudes stand behind all the decisions that we make about patient care.  For example, many patients think doctors are the ones to go to when they have questions about their illness,and  that nurses have nothing to offer.  Policymakers think nurses are just extensions of the physician’s brain.  Think of the term “physician-extender.”  Where does that come from?  It comes from the same kind of thinking that makes people use words like the “doctor’s stethoscope.”

Words like “girl,” to describe nurses conjures up images — thoughts that turn into actions.  Do girls need to be well paid?  Do girls have fully developed brains? Are girls able to think on their own, for themselves?  Do they have their own knowledge?  Certainly not!  Just as girls need to be supervised and guided by parental wisdom, nurses are conceptualized as needing a big daddy — or now big mommy — to help them make it through the day.

Nurses should never doubt the power of their words and actions.  The commitment of nurses like those at #nursesunite to respond to these negative comments with their own words has resulted in the loss of two advertisers to The View.

So yes, the things that people say, or write are indeed just words.  But words make a difference.  Like nurses, they can be a matter of life and death.

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Great message. Words matter – we need to use the correct words when referring to ourselves and others. Example: “doctor” is an academic title that anyone with a doctoral degree deserves to use; yet it’s used when people mean “physician” and perpetuates the misconception that only physicians can be “doctors.”

  2. Deeanna Burleson, RN MSN

    Suzanne, you are so correct. Words are not just words they are a window into our culture, what we value and what we believe about the object of the sentence. If we begin to really listen to conversations and the words that are used for one person but not another we will begin to not only see conversations differently but also respond differently and have or promote a different message. Steven Pinker in the Stuff of Thought talks about language as a window into human nature. Language sets the tone for the ability for each of us to attempt and achieve a level of well-being in all areas of our lives. Thanks, Suzanne for the work that you are doing.

  3. Deeanna Burleson, RN MSN

    Suzanne, if this is a duplicate just delete. I responded but not sure it came through. You are so correct in that words are not just words. Words and our language is a window into our cultures, beliefs and values. Steven Pinker in his book, The Stuff of Thought describes language as a window into human nature. The language we use, the tone of the language creates the ability to collaborate or fight. It honors other beings or not. It creates the container to allow or not others to attempt or achieve any level of well-being. Thank you for the work that you are doing in healthcare cultures. So, needed for the reason of existing, the patient.

  4. Pingback: Change of Shift (blog carnival) | Volume 6 Episode 2 October 2015 | My Strong Medicine

  5. Pingback: Change of Shift (blog carnival) | Volume 6 Episode 2 October 2015 | The Change of Shift

  6. Must read new book The Yellow Sick Road nurse kept journal 22 yrs of bullying abuse dysfunction in the medical world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>