As I continue to read in effort to better understand my doctoral pursuit, I am also reminiscing on my nursing career. Honestly, I can’t believe I am old enough to say I’ve had a career or even that I can look back and see cultural change. However, as a new graduate nurse, I was certainly in the generation that would get up from her chair when a physician walked up to the desk, or even leave the desk so he could have the entire space to himself. I work with an older physician now that has the same mindset and is certainly irritated at me when I don’t move so he can utilize the entire documentation counter. I simply remind myself (silently with my feet planted firm in the same space as when he approached) that he is a wonderful man, a generous man, yet raised in a different healthcare era. I kindly smile and offer him shared space, collaborative space.
The irony is that same era valued the manners of a gentleman. Women were ladies. Men held open doors and pulled out seats for the ladies. Men were kind and gentle, respecting their female counterparts, yet the female nurse did not receive this same sort of respect. Was this because female nurses were not viewed as ladies because they worked like men, was it because they weren’t gentle and delicate? Was this because they were servants and physicians were comfortable ordering them around like slaves? Was it maybe because physicians weren’t gentleman? Was it because physicians viewed themselves as higher society, a more worthy being than the average gentleman?
As I search for images to include in my posts about nurses, I either find women in scrubs and medical jackets or vintage pictures of nurses who certainly would not conjure up the perception of someone who has earned the title of doctor. Nurses were either playful and cute, doting over the physicians they worked for, or loving and compassionate work horses.
The medicine/nursing war is certainly a feminist issue, a gender issue at heart. Nursing and medicine are two different disciplines, both dependent on the other. It was a nurse that taught the physician to wash his hands between patients to prevent contamination that lead to death. Nurses are trusted by patients, respected. Connections are developed. However, the nursing profession is largely composed of women, and medicine has a history of largely being male.
Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives are favored, and certainly physicians are aware of this, and more importantly threatened by such. However, nurses do need to demonstrate themselves as more than a servant, but also as an independent thinker. We need to build our body of science and unite to protect our profession. Advocating for the profession, particularly within the healthcare infrastructure is vital and community education regarding our advancing profession should be the priority of advance practice professional groups.
No one discipline owns the title “doctor.” Nurses were simply slow to embrace the doctorate in the professional (clinical) role. In fact, the first DNP graduate was in 2007, the year I opened my practice. I will enter the 10th DNP class of Frontier Nursing University and continue as a pioneer in my field.