Nurses Aren’t All Bad, I Promise

Being a nurse on a social media platform can be heavy some days. I open my Twitter feed and I am often confronted with hate, dislike, or disdain for the profession. Whether it be from patients and their loved ones, or sadly, other healthcare professionals (even nurses – but I won’t get into that). Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of love for our profession too, but I find it’s often overshadowed by the high engagement of the negative reviews or at least that the negative ones seem to stick more easily in my mind.

I know people have had bad experiences in healthcare. I have had bad experiences with the system and with certain professionals in the past – you are not alone in this. I recognize that some people have had horrible experiences too, much worse than my own. I don’t know what that’s like, but reading your stories I feel horrible at some of the treatment or in some cases, failure to treat, that have occurred. The pain you’ve endured. I can only imagine the anger you feel after a medical intervention or interaction gone wrong. I truly feel sorry you ever had to experience that.

I am not excusing these events or the actions of those who have failed you in medicine. Malpractice, negligence, or maltreatment of a patient in anyway is not something I support, I want to make that clear. If a healthcare professional, nurse or other, has ever caused you or a loved one harm (physically, psychologically) then there are ways to deal with this in the system – they are not perfect, I wish they were, but they do exist. Advocate for yourself or the ones who cannot – I’m right there with you fighting for the rights and protections of patients.

That being said, what I am upset about is that nurses as a profession are being clustered together in a negative category due to experiences with one, or even a few. I have seen nurses, in recent times, be called “uneducated”, “bitchy”, and other words I will not repeat.

These comments may be in reference to one nurse, or one experience, but they are applied to ALL nurses. The whole profession is being told they are uneducated or rude; that they don’t care about their patients; that they “know nothing” about the area they practice (and likely did additional studies) in.

In every profession out there, there will be people or groups of people that maybe don’t really want to be in that profession. They’re not passionate about it. They’re there for money (haha!) or something else – I’m not really sure what drives them to enter a profession they’re not truly committed to. These people tend to take out there frustration on others, or at least I think that’s what happens. There is also those people who just don’t care and this shows in their work too – this might be less dangerous in a non-healthcare field, but in nursing or other medical professions it’s a safety risk, frankly.

Notably, people also make mistakes. Nurses are human. We have lots of safeguards and tactics to avoid mistakes, but everyone makes one at least once. Luckily, most are minor or near misses. Sometimes they aren’t – sometimes this is negligence, sometimes it’s the faulty healthcare system not providing nurses with the supports they need to work safely. A detailed analysis of these situations allows us to determine the cause or contributing factors to errors, and in many cases allows us to correct them or at least, prevent them in the future. Again, I’m not excusing major mistakes in care on behalf of any professional. Just exploring why these might happen and highlighting that it is not always lack of education or “not knowing” something that causes these issues in practice.

There will also be people who are just… not nice. Aren’t there people like that in every area of life? In high school. In any workplace. On the internet. I’ve had a bad server at a restaurant before, but I don’t think that every server I have will give me that same experience.

Unfortunately, this is just how some people are. Again – I’m not sure why someone who is miserable and perpetually angry would go into a profession where you work with people, and that can often be high pressure, but they do. I’ve experienced interactions with these types of professionals in the workplace and it’s not nice. As a nursing student, I felt scared to go to placement because I wasn’t sure the type of person I would have to shadow. I had many excellent experiences and nurses I will never forget, but I also had bad ones that I will remember for probably just as long.

We can’t really control this – there isn’t a questionnaire on your nursing school application that asks you if you actually like people most of the time, or if you were a high school mean girl/boy. Even if there was, due to potential biases & lack of self-awareness (or purposeful ignorance of one’s true self), some people like this would still slip through the cracks. Even with interviews, people can portray themselves one way and end up being totally different in the workplace.

I wish that your negative experiences didn’t happen, I really do. It pains me to read about them. I want everyone to have as good as an experience as they can in the healthcare system, but like I said, it’s not perfect. There is lots of room for improvement. I can’t control how some people act towards others. If I could, I would reset your experience and do everything possible to make it better.

I can tell you though, that many if not most nurses, want to care for you. They would go above and beyond to help you. They would stay after hours working with you. They would make a handful of phone calls to get you the medication, appointment, or support that you needed. They would share your pain, heartache, and suffering with you – and they often take it home too. Like you remember your bad experiences, we do too – many of us strive to do better. We also remember are good experiences – as many of you also do. I’ve seen nurses share stories from 20-30 years earlier, of patients and moments with patients they still remember and hold close to their heart.

Seeing comments about being uneducated, or not caring – it actually hurts a bit. I know you’re not talking about me specifically, but many of the comments are directed at the profession. I know many nurses (if not most of them) who worked very hard in school – it was not easy for many. Most are very smart and are doing so much to improve the system, or even the world. Maybe they’re just working to improve patient experience one person at a time by being an excellent clinic, bedside, or nurse in any role.

Many of us care deeply about our patients and their loved ones. We are human beings, just like you. We are mothers and fathers; the child of a slowly aging or ill parent; healthcare system users ourselves. Your negative experience is not lost on us – we care. We want to make it better.

Each negative experience I know of, I stop and think “how can we make this better?” “How can I make sure this never happens again?” “What do we need to do to facilitate this or that change in the way we work?”. Many others are doing this too.

So, I’m sorry that someone didn’t care, or hurt you or a loved one. I know sorry doesn’t cut it in many situations – we need to do more. An apology doesn’t erase what happened to you or what you experienced – I know this. Know that many of us are working towards this. Know that many of us remember our experiences with you as much as you remember them – good or bad. We take that all forward with us to better our practice and better your experience.

Similarly, we remember the slander we see online or hear in person. Please know that many nurses (and other professionals) care about you, want the best for you, and would go above and beyond to help you. Please know that many of us are genuinely nice people, not bullies. Please know that we study (continuously!) and work hard to be in this profession – it’s not easy, and it’s not the stepping stone below being a doctor. Nursing is it’s own profession and a very important one at that. Many of us love what we do and are committed to caring for our patients. We are educated, hard working, and committed to patient care.

I try not to take comments I see online personally, because it isn’t about me, but I hate to see my entire profession being attacked. It hurts. It’s hard to read that you’re stupid and bad at your job when someone doesn’t even know you – and yes, sometimes these comments about a person’s experience with someone else are directed to others online.

Social media is great for ranting, letting off steam and you reserve your right to use it for that purpose, but just remember that behind any profession there are people, real human beings – and we have feelings. We also know you have feelings and we’re not all out to get you.

Many of us care, are educated/smart/resourceful/the list goes on; we want what is best for you and we will work to get there. Advocate for yourself in healthcare – especially if you have a bad experience (a friend wrote a great blog post on this recently here) or feel like it’s going down that road. There are options in most cases – ask about them. Many of us would love to help you get the healthcare experience you want.

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