Full disclosure: I drive far too fast on the highway, and I’ve been pulled over once or twice by friendly City of Toronto or O.P.P. constables. I confess I have played the I’m-an-Emergency-nurse card, and usually get waved off with a warning, or at worst a nominal fine. It’s an unspoken courtesy: we’re all emergency workers, and while we might fight like family amongst each other, we stick together too, just like family.
But I would be lying to you if I said there wasn’t an element of quid pro quo, not in the actual care of any police officer, of course, but in the thousand other ways the police need our cooperation. You want to leave quickly with that drunken guy who needs sutures? The goodwill of many a nurse, I think, would be strained if they had just got a whacking fine for speeding. Ideally, this should not happen. Nurses should be fined appropriately for traffic violations, and police should not expect special consideration when they come to hospital for any reason. But the reality is our social and professional existence is greased with such ethical compromises.
When Colorado Springs cardiac nurse Miriam Leverington was stopped for speeding, she grumbled to the police officer.
“I hope you are not ever my patient,” she reportedly told him.
What happened next has become a topic of widespread debate in Colorado and on the blogosphere. The police officer, Duaine Peters, complained to the hospital where Ms. Leverington worked that her comment amounted to a threat, suggesting she might give him poor care should he ever become her patient.
The hospital fired the nurse, and now the nurse has countered with a lawsuit. She says she was merely exercising her right to free speech — and expressing her hope that she never see the policeman again.
Aside from the ambiguity of the nurse’s statement (it’s either a threat or, a strong declaration of dislike) is it ever appropriate for the police going to our places of work to complain about our mouthy behaviour? And is being punished by loss of employment maybe a little extreme for essentially telling a cop to flock off?
You get the sense two related things are going on here: nurses are being held to a far higher level of accountability* than the community at large, and this particular nurse violated social norms related to nursing: she wasn’t meek, deferential nor docile, and she had to be punished. I wonder if a paramedic or firefighter had made the same remark — both of whom operate in the charmed circle — the officer would have gone the same extreme to complain, and whether there would have been job losses as a consequence.
*A topic, perhaps, for another post.