“The Doc was Awesome!”

When I was but a nurseling, working in a hospital way out in the sticks, it was a pretty common occurrence for someone or other to come up to me in the grocery while I was picking over the melons or something, and say, “I am so much better now, thank you, thank you.” I hardly ever remembered them at all, but that was okay. It was nice they noticed despite their fractured tib-fib/DVT/SVT/head injury.

Far fewer people approach me now in the big city. Occasionally I see the odd ex-patient, though. Last summer I was in Merrickville, way out in Eastern Ontario, having dinner at a bar; a guy saw me, and said “I remember you. You were there when I had my heart attack. The doc was awesome! He saved my life!”

Well, I thought, actually no. I did remember this guy, who came roaring in with the proverbial elephant sitting on his chest, and smelling like a two-pack-a-day habit. He was a bad anterior wall STEMI. The doc emphatically did not save his life; we as a team saved his life. As for the nurses, we

  • identified his chest pain as probably being cardiac in origin
  • gave him ASA
  • got the diagnostic ECG, saw it was an MI, and promptly alerted the physician to his presence
  • did the usual secondary assessment, hooked him up the cardiac monitor, provided oxygen, and started two IVs
  • prepared the thrombolytic drug for IV push
  • ordered the chest x-ray and drew bloodwork
  • Pushed the thrombolytic, gave him morphine, metoprolol, and enoxaparin and sedative

All within ten minutes of arrival. And apart from the thrombolytic and the other meds, before the doc even laid eyes on him. The nurses’ role in this was slightly more than secondary and hand-maidenish, wouldn’t you think?

I was reminded of this incident yesterday, when I saw this on the The Truth About Nurses website:

Physicians are Awesome

Tonight ABC will air the fifth episode of Boston Med, the eight-part documentary about the work and personal lives of health care workers at Massachusetts General, Brigham and Women’s, and Children’s hospitals.


But the new series has received an amazingly positive reaction from some reviewers and even some nurses because, along with the 16 physicians and surgeons profiled in the four episodes that have aired so far, there is one nurse! In a few scenes, this MGH nurse, Amanda Grabowski, displays technical knowledge and gives viewers some sense of nurses’ roles as patient advocates and autonomous practitioners. But as the episodes go on, the show steadily forgets her clinical work, focusing instead on her social life. This approach undermines the sense of her as a serious professional, and even flirts with the stereotype that nurses are mainly about romance.


But it’s unlikely the nurse elements will have much impact alongside what will likely be profiles of some 25 physicians, especially since those profiles utterly ignore the nurses who actually provide most of the skilled care to the patients portrayed. The overall message is that physicians, especially surgeons, are the life-savers who do everything that matters. [emphasis mine.]

It’s the same old story: the physicians get the glory, and the nurses get the minor supporting roles. We’re ancillary, and remember, ancillary comes from the Latin word ancilla, meaning, “maid.”

At some point you have to ask, how do physicians always  get the good PR?  What’s the mystique about? (Trust me, up close and personal, there ain’t much.) And also, how much of this do we nurses do to ourselves?

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  1. #1 by Anne Silva on Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 1205

    Excellent post.

    I believe that nurses actually prevent doctors from killing patients, sometimes.

    But that’s just my opinion…

  2. #2 by Wanderer on Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 1502

    We do keep doctors from killing patients, especially in July! We know what we do, our loved ones know what we do and our patients (most of them!) know what we do. That’s enough for me.

  3. #3 by mog on Tuesday 27 July 2010 - 1603

    You should try being further down the patient’s pecking order. Seeing the endless thank you letters to doctors and nurses but nothing about radiology is disheartening. That x-ray taking isn’t just aim and point there are a few technical things to get right so that the doctor gets a useful diagnostic image to read. And then when the doc can’t read it who do they turn to before they speak to the radiologist?

    I tell myself that the patients think we are some kind of nurse, and judging by the amount of comments I hear on the lines of; “did you have to do a little course to do this?” “are you the x-ray nurse?” “do you have to train to do this?”

    It’s teamwork that helps patients but only some that get the glory.

  4. #4 by Cartoon Character on Thursday 29 July 2010 - 1433

    I was enthusiastic about Boston Med at first, when I saw the realistic presentation of the nurses role….and as the show carries on – with more focus on the MDs…I am becoming less interested. I agree with you on this one……I have been in on very many deliveries where I have coached and been at bedside constantly for the whole 12 hr shift, sometimes for several days, then sometimes even delivering the baby – only to have the parents hand me the camera so I can take a photo of the MD with the mom and babe and dad. :( no thanks there for sure.

  5. #5 by LC on Friday 30 July 2010 - 1146

    I started watching Boston Med out of interest after reading your post and although it obviously could be done better and has too much of a family network vibe to it I’m impressed with the nurse Michael and how he is showcased in episode 4 & 5. It shows him knowledgeably and professionally taking care of sick patients and then pans to him talking to the camera explaining what is going on, something the TV networks never leave for the nurse! It’s nowhere close to perfect but it does exceed my expectations for ABC.

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