Nursing Voices

Friday, April 13, 2007

In Defense of Nurse Ratched.

I’m getting word that the name of my blog is upsetting some people, so it's time that we clear the air and discuss some issues that are circulating within the nursing community.

There are nurses in our profession who are on a mission to elevate the profession of nursing by combating nursing stereotypes. They truly feel that as long as nurses are portrayed as buxom sex-craved women, or women such as Nurse Ratched, the profession will forever be condemned to subservience. I applaud anyone who stands up and fights for their beliefs, however I think that nurses are missing an important point.

Despite prolific stereotypes of nursing within our culture, nurses are the most trusted professionals in America. The public loves us and no one in their right mind believes that these stereotypes are an accurate portrayal of our profession. We are viewed as angels of mercy, another stereotype that many nurses are willing to accept. The problem with nursing isn’t how we are portrayed in pop culture, or how the public views us, the problem is entrenched in how nurses view each other. Nursing is not only a profession; it’s a culture all to its own, and frankly, it’s the most catty and backbiting culture on the planet. I’ve never been able to explain this phenomenon, but I’ve always suspected that it’s because the nursing profession is swimming in estrogen. Yes, my statement could be construed as another stereotype, but come on, let's be honest, I bet that thought has crossed your mind, too.

Cultural stereotypes aren’t the problem; we are our own worst enemy. We can’t even agree about who is qualified to be a nurse. The great debate about who is educationally qualified to be a nurse rages on. Outsiders with a bird’s eye view of our profession can’t figure us out, or they take advantage of our divisions, and use them to exploit us. For example, hospital administrators have exploited these divisions for years, and continue to use them to subjugate their nursing staff. Other professions, such as doctors, are also stereotyped in the media, yet they are thriving as a profession. Doctors are powerful within hospitals because they don’t undermine their colleagues, and they work together as a united front. Nurses need to take note, and follow the example set by physicians.

Believe me, when Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, he wasn’t thinking, “Gee, how can I insult nurses. I know, I’ll create Nurse Ratched. That will do the trick.” Nurse Ratched is a literary metaphor for a lot of different things, and I make no apologies for choosing Nurse Ratched’s Place for the name of my blog. As an ardent bibliophile, and as a psychiatric nurse, I find her character fascinating and I enjoyed the book. Stop throwing rotten tomatoes, and start focusing on making relevant changes that will empower nurses.

Let the hate mail begin...........


Blogger Angry Nurse said...

Thank you!

Finally someone else saying what so badly needs to be said!
I personally have been shouting the equivalent of what you have so elegantly expressed here only I have often chosen to simply express by saying “the biggest problem with nurses is nurses!”

Usually I am ignored, treated with contempt or relegated to the category of a dissatisfied minority.

If you do actually get hate mail it may help to remember that sometimes the quality of a person character can be measured by their detractors!

That being said and in regards to any hate mail you may receive: THE MORE THE MERRIER from my perspective!

Great post!

3:13 PM  
Blogger jaz said...

You hit the nail on the head, MJ.

There is an old world saying, "She who would tell the truth should have one foot in the stirrup."

Well, actually, in the old world, they said "he who would..." but hey! It was the old world.

Either way and even so.

5:22 PM  
Blogger greensunflower said...

1) I am currently having a horrible time with a petty nurse at my preceptorship. She would sink me into the ground if she could. The cattiness is horrible and I am sure I contribute in ways that I dont know. Also the most gossipy nurse at work is a man. Go figure!

2) I dont like the nurse ratched thing because of personal reasons. But certainly think you are entitled to name your blog cause well it is your blog. Really is you had some racial epipth (sp) up there I still wouldnt complain. Rights are rights.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

I think the name of your blog is hilarious and have thought so from the first day I read it. I also like the Mother Jones reference.

She took a potshot at my blog, too. I'm still pondering whether or not I want to dignify it with a response. I think there are some issues going on that have contributed to her problems all along. It's sad, really.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Triage said...

Amen! We, as women and as nurses, are our own worst enemies. I had a good chuckle over your comment on estrogen. I currently work with 7 other femal nurses in a rural home health agency. Amazingly, we all get along, are proffessional, and supportive of each other. Amazingly, we are all into menopause! LOL I enjoy your blog.

8:42 PM  
Blogger girlvet said...

Diversity of blogs and blog names make the nursing blogosphere go 'round. Its content that is important anyway.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Sing it, Sistah! Will we ever get together as nurses and utilize the power no one seems to thing we have?
And the cattiness is rampant in my department and it is Menopause Manor!
(And I'm about ready to get my condo...)

11:08 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Well put and AMEN, Nurse.

Hell, if I wanted to name my blog what I REALLY thought about my chosen profession, I'd have named it:

"Tales of a Poop-Scooping, Hard-Working, Doctor-Sassin', Patient-Nagging, F-Word Saying, Should Have Written a Book Called 'The Old Nurse and The Vein', Ex-Boozin', and Would Somebody Just Shoot Me and Put Me Out of My Dang Misery, Last Cowgirl in Texas Road Nurse Blog"....

As a rather rebellious person myself, I've had my ups and downs in this profession. I am a dichotomy (spelling?) in that I sometimes behave in traditional, "old-fashioned" nursing behaviors---and yet many times act in a modern, nurse-empowering fashion.

But most times I act like in The Bohemian Road Nurse Way, which is to support my sister/brother nurses and simply "get the job done".

11:42 PM  
Blogger Doc's Girl said...

My mother was an nurse so I have such a soft spot for you guys...:o)

(Thank you for your kind words on my blog, by the way. :-D)

1:35 AM  
Blogger Smalltown RN said...

You have said what has needed to be said for a very long time. I have always said nurses eat their young. It crazy...rather than support each other we chose to eat you for breakfast. It a very strange phenonmenon.

Nursing was my second profession...before going into nursing I worked for the Federal government in a very non traditional role for a woman at that time.

Most of the nurses I have ever worked with have done nothing but nursing and have nothing to compare their environment, behaviours, attitudes, to.

Now with the continued cut backs and lack of leadership on individual units and the raging's crazy. Everyone thinks they should be leading the ship but don't have the skills to do it....there way of making change is by stabbing you in the back.

It's scary....and I shudder to think what management truly thinks of us as a profession. Yes sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies.

I must admit I do get a bit perturbed when I see us being portrayed as some little sex toy in sitcoms. To me that is degrading....

Great post...I love the title of your blog...and I say bring it on all you naysayers.....

3:50 AM  
Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

Let's hear it for Nurse Ratched!

11:52 AM  
Blogger lesser being of leisure said...

I love the name of your blog, and I have a link for you on my (somewhat medical/somewhat non-medical blog).

It shows that you have a great sense of humor too! :)

2:08 PM  
Blogger Nurse Kelly said...

I just defended you on that Universal Health liberal rag...if my comment is approved. Pfeh. A tree somewhere is missing a stick and a protologist is getting a new client, if ya get my drift.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Couldn't resist weighing in on the responding posting....

10:03 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

Oh Lord, I just noticed that blog "moderates" comments. In case the blog owner chooses not to post my comment on the posting called "Nervy", here is what I wrote:

"I’ve read both sides of the argument, and I’ve got to respectfully disagree with you.

What you’re saying kind of reminds me of the District Attorney blaming the rape victim for wearing a mini-skirt, eh?

I don’t think the problems facing our nursing profession has anything to do with blog names or scrub colors. I think it has everything to do with the fact that the sexes are different and express themselves with very different types of emotions/issues (which translates into blog titles, clothing, discussions on their blog postings, etc.)

As an example, look at the doctors’ blog names. Typical macho male shit. Things like “Fingers in Orifices, Knife Man, Angry Pharmacist” or else aggressive blog titles symbolized by LARGE CAPITAL LETTERS—not to mention the dumb girly pictures that Flea is constantly putting on his site, or the frequent use of the F-word in some docs’ blogs, or ER docs frequent ridiculing of Medicaid females with many children.

Okay, so then you have us nurses. Many of us are ladies who have female type emotions. And many of us don’t take ourselves so seriously that we have to name our blogs “serious” titles. We women are secure enough to take ourselves less seriously than many male doctors and may have “hidden jokes” in our blog titles which you might have mistakenly translated as a “weakness” or “stereotyping” of the nursing profession.

In fact, now that I’m on a roll—what IF nurses did as my example above about doctors naming their blogs typical “male, macho, aggressive” stuff—but in a female way?. We might have nursing blogs called:

“Fingers or Foleys in Every Butt”
“The Angry Venipuncturist”
“Huber-Needle Girl”
“Grunt Nurse”
“C.T.M.H.A.I.F.Y.U.” (Come to my hospital and I’ll “blank” you up….)

(I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you the raunchier side of my personality, heh!)"

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Nurse Payne said...

First of all, the reason I first read your blog was because of the name - Nurse Ratched. Being a psychiatric nurse and having 'studied' Cukoo's Nest in several classes in college in the '70's, how could I resist? I would say that those people who can't get past labels are not very "culturally competent".

Second, I am so relieved to hear another nurse say what I have only said in whispers to non-nurses. Nursing is my 3rd career and although I know I found my calling, I frequently make it a point to tell people that I haven't always been a nurse. I've found that, as a nurse, I tend to get pidgeon-holed in ways that I didn't before I became a nurse. Nursing is the largest 'female-dominated' profession and it's unfortunate that we can't unite for reasons others have already expressed. Nurses should be running the health care system.

Nursing issues cannot be separated from women's issues and as much as I love being a nurse and a woman, I prefer working with men, or at least, women who have worked through some of their insecurities.

I applaud you, Nurse Ratched!

11:07 PM  
Blogger ERnursey said...

Other than JCACHO, nurses are each others worst enemy. Until we learn that and leave kindergarten we will never advance as a profession. Professionals do not eat their young, tattle and belittle each other especially in full view and hearing of their coworkers, physicians and patients, no wonder we can't advance beyond the stereotypical big boobed bimbo portrayed in the media.
BTW, I started reading your blog because I love the nurse Ratched character. The only thing better than the moveie was the book.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Mother Jones RN said...

Hi everyone:

Thank you for all of your comments. I first want to say that I really respect the writer who triggered this debate. I am a big fan of this individual's website, and I check it out almost everyday, and I will continue to do so. Although I don't agree with everything this person say, I admire his or her passion, and how this individual expresses their thoughts.

I'm glad to know that I'm not the Lone Ranger out in cycber world having the same thoughts and feelings about the nursing profession.


1:44 AM  
Blogger Dr Dork said...

I find the presumption and generalisation that we docs don't read nursing blogs kinda offensive.

Many of us have "tongue-in-cheek" names, that are inherently self-derogatory.


1:57 AM  
Blogger scalpel said...

I too first read your blog because of the name: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of my favorite books (and movies) ever, and that character was amazing. Only someone totally humorless would be "turned off" by your association with that character.

You are an amazing blogger, witty, kind, and obviously excellent at both nursing and human interaction. I can't even believe that you have a critic at all, but I think that fact may say more about them than you. Keep up the good work.

I may not comment on your blog as often as you comment on mine, but I hope you realize that I do appreciate the excellence that I always find here, and I for one enjoy your pictures immensely.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Charity Doc said...

I don't see what's so "macho male shit" about the title of my blog, "Fingers & Tubes In Every Orifice." It's a dictum of trauma and critical care that we were all taught during med school, residency, and especially during Advance Trauma Life Support training. Granted there are perceived tongue-in-cheek innuendoes, but it's a phrase that forces you never to forget that critical care patients need you to be thorough, check their rectal tone, see if they have a high riding prostate, guaiac their stool, insert a foley catheter to check their urine and monitor urine output, insert an NG tube or orogastric tube to decompress their stomach & prevent aspiration, check for an upper GI bleed, look in their ears to see if there's blood/hemotympanum/otorrhea, look in there nose to see if there's CSF rhinorrhea/septal hematoma, etc...There's nothing machismo about prying fingers and invasive tubes. Not doing it, not adhering to the basics can lead to very grave consequences and bad patient outcomes.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Road Nurse... said...

As I told you on your blog comments section, Charity Doc, it was in a tongue-in-cheek tone to talk about differences in the way the sexes express themselves---for crying out loud, I respect the hell out of you, doc, and it was a JOKE, doc, a JOKE! Sheesh, and geez, you DO need a vacation....

2:42 PM  
Blogger Nurse M said...


8:38 PM  
Blogger Dr. A said...

Ditto what everyone else has said. I think the same people sending hate mail to you also sent hate mail to me. Nice to be in great company. Great post!

10:23 PM  
Blogger Charity Doc said...


Didn't check my email for your comment so I missed it. I just happenned to be reading Nurse Ratched's Place and this post and responded.

10:18 AM  
Blogger AtYourCervix said...

I love you Nurse Ratched - don't ever change!!

12:52 PM  
Blogger marachne said...

I agree that there is a segment of the nursing population that is more interested in sowing dissension than creating change that benefits all nurses.


I think one of the largest problems facing nursing as it is perceived by the general public is that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT WE DO!!! and even worse, most nurses can't articulate it either!

So you hear about "caring," and "compassion," but you don't hear about the advocating, teaching, assessing, problem-solving, integrating of knowledge, etc. I'm not saying that nursing at its best isn't caring and compassionate, but it is also life saving/enhancing in so many ways.

It ticks me off that so much of what "doctors" do on TV shows is really nursing care--and nurses are generally not shown doing anything productive.

I know it's been mentioned before but every nurse should read "From Silence to Voice" by Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon -- and act on their suggestions.

4:37 PM  
Blogger marachne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Labor Nurse said...

I couldn't resist putting my two cents in.

I agree with what everyone is saying here. I have not read the other blog post that has seemingly started all of this, but I have read other posts on that blog and have come to one conclusion: that is one angry RN (or ex-RN?) So my feeling is that anything that remotely might be offensive to a nurse is misconstrued.

Although, I do have to say that I think there are people out there that think there are sex-crazed buxom nurses in short skirts running around the unit giving sponge baths or the ol' battleaxe running a tight ship...but the reason it doesn't bother me so much is because every one will eventually need an RN someday and learn what nursing is really all about. And appreciate us.

10:16 PM  
Blogger The Mental said...

If people would lighten up, stop taking themselves and life so seriously, stop attacking others--especially those who are having fun, this world would be so much less insane...and so much more fun.

Your blog title caught my attention and I am the richer for it. Thank you—The Mental

12:24 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

A-MEN sista!

And also: what marachen said. People have NO CLUE what nurses do.

8:53 AM  
Blogger poody said...

I agree Mother Jones. Thuis is one reason why I have never "made it" in my nursing profession. I do not fit it to the "nurse" model. I am loud,opinionated,and don't feed itnto the eat thier own ideaology of nursing. I have never been able to understand how that happens but it does and every day too. LOL Wait till they figure out who Mother Jones was!

11:15 AM  
Anonymous geena said...

No hate mail here. Amen.

Why are we all being so secretive as to what blog spawned this post?

10:13 PM  
Blogger TC said...

Yow! Can I get a witness?

Great post and great comments. I work with someone who can be sweet as pie with families, but if she doesn't like you-she'll do whatever it takes to bring you down. And I am currently on her S-list. Oh well. Women, in general, are our own worst enemies, so it only stands to reason that nurses, where women are in the majority, would be the same. You've heard of the Blue Wall of Silence? Nurses have the White Wall of Incrimination.

But I also find that we're more likely to say things that others don't or won't say because we don't stand behind a united front. So there!

11:06 AM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I'm new to the nursing profession (3yrs), and I can only say that it's not a lot different to the supermarket that I worked in over 25 yrs ago in regard to the way women treat each other...and as I live in Australia, I guess it's the same all ove the world. Sad, too sad...
Bugger the name, MJ; a blogname is unique to the individual. I'm sure a lot of people will never understand the significance of another's blog name...Please keep writing; it's too good to miss ;)

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doctors present a united front?

Doctors don't undercut one another?

On what planet is this true? (I think you might have a slight case of tunnel vision.)

7:32 PM  
Blogger dr_dredd said...

Nursing is not only a profession; it’s a culture all to its own, and frankly, it’s the most catty and backbiting culture on the planet.

Just wanted to let you know that I'm very much enjoying your blog. I also wanted to say that the mostly-female ob/gyn programs I've dealt with are also incredibly catty and obnoxious. When I was a third-year med student, my resident asked, "What are you, stupid?" This was the first day, and it went downhill from there.

5:11 PM  

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