Medicine looks at food as treatment for health problems.
I have long thought of food as medicine. I stumbled on a certified medical specialty called Culinary Medicine from an online health newsletter. There is a formal educational track that leads to certification as a Culinary Medicine Specialist. Registration is open to Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Physician Assistants, Dietitians, Pharmacists and Diabetes Educators. Sites for study include 60 academic centers across the country. The curriculum not only addresses foods that help to treat specific health problems across the life span but also deals with socioeconomic barriers such as food insecurity.
“Culinary medicine is not nutrition, dietetics, or preventive, integrative, or internal medicine, nor is it the culinary arts or food science. It does not have a single dietary philosophy; it does not reject prescription medication; it is not simply about good cooking, flavors or aromas; nor is it solely about the food matrices in which micronutrients, phytonutrients, and macronutrients are found.
Instead, culinary medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. Culinary medicine is aimed at helping people reach good personal medical decisions about accessing and eating high-quality meals that help prevent and treat disease and restore well-being.
A practical discipline, culinary medicine is unconcerned with the hypothetical case, and instead concerned with the patient in immediate need, who asks, “What do I eat for my condition?” As food is condition-specific, the same diet does not work for everyone. Different clinical conditions require different meals, foods, and beverages.
Culinary medicine attempts to improve the patient’s condition with what she or he regularly eats and drinks. Special attention is given to how food works in the body as well as to the sociocultural and pleasurable aspects of eating and cooking. The objective of culinary medicine is to attempt to empower the patient to care for herself or himself safely, effectively, and happily with food and beverage as a primary care technique.”
La Puma, John. “What is Culinary Medicine and What Does It Do?” Population Health Management, February 1, 2016.
Here are some recipes from the Culinary Medicine site.
The pandemic has educated the public about the nursing profession and the state of our health care system by:
Showing the dedicated, skilled, and committed men and women as front-line professional nurses working to make a difference in the life and death of their patients—at times with great personal risk.
Exposing the discrepancy in access to health care services between the haves and the have nots.
In response the findings above, The Future of Nursing 2020-2023: Charting the Path to Achieve Health Equity believes that because nurses “work in a wide array of settings and practice at a range of professional levels . . . (t)hey are often the first and most frequent line of contact with people of all backgrounds and experiences seeking care, and they represent the largest of the health care professions . . . that (N)urses can reduce health disparities and promote equity, while keeping costs at bay utilizing technology, and maintaining patient and family-focused care into 2030.” Nurses can achieve this by not only taking a prominent leadership role in the national health care system but at all levels of health services.
The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) with the endorsement of The Future of Nursing Committee developed nine recommendations for accomplishing this goal. You can read about them here.
The public is often unaware that nurses work in such a wide variety of settings. Nurses’ knowledge and competence in the broad area of health care services and the fact they are the largest group of health care workers, validates their ability to take on leadership roles from the state and federal to community levels.
Here is a list that Nurse.Org has compiled of some settings outside of hospitals where nurses work:
The need to analyze and control health care costs has driven a surge in informatics as a nursing specialty. Effective nursing informatics can help to rein in health care costs at hospitals and other medical facilities. Plus, informaticists can also help bedside nurses care for patients more efficiently by improving systems.
2. Nurse Case Manager
“More and more reimbursement for healthcare delivery is linked to readmission rates,” said Cheryl Bergman, professor at the school of nursing at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.“ A nurse case manager helps manage the holistic care of patients to decrease readmission thus, keeping patients out of hospitals.”
3. Cruise Ship Nurse
A beyond-the-bedside job search could land you in a position that resembles an ongoing vacation. In normal, non-pandemic times, cruise ships come and go from the nation’s Southern port cities every day. These ships have to bring healthcare providers like cruise ship nurses on board to care for their passengers.
4. Legal Nurse Consultant
“Some law firms hire expert nurses for particular cases (such as surgical nurses if the case involved a surgical claim),” Bergman, of Jacksonville University, says. “The pay per hour is often set by the nurse and could be very lucrative ($300 an hour) for reviewing the legal documents with additional fees if called for deposition.”
5. Nurse Educator
Nurse educators can shape the future of patient care, both at the bedside and throughout the nursing profession.
6. Healthcare Risk Manager
Risk managers work to ensure patient and staff safety, respond to claims of clinical malpractice, focus on patient complaints, and comply with federal and state regulations.
7. Certified Diabetes Educator
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 21 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes while another 8 million have this condition but don’t know it yet. That’s a lot of people who will need help controlling their blood sugar in the next few years.
8. Flight Nurse
Bedside nurses who enjoy critical/emergency care may enjoy the challenges of flight nursing. Flight nurses help transport critical patients via helicopter or airplane.
9. Forensic Nurse
Forensic nurses help solve crimes and collect evidence. They can also help a coroner determine a cause of death.
10. Nurse Health Coach
Are you the kind of bedside nurse who enjoys developing one-on-one relationships? Have you ever found yourself, weeks after a discharge, wondering how a patient is getting along?
11. Nurse Administrator
If you want to get away from direct patient care at the bedside but think you would love the business side of healthcare, nursing administration may be the perfect new career for you.
12. Telehealth Nurse
Telehealth nursing uses mobile phones, tablets, and computers to provide remote healthcare and medical education.
13. Nurse Writer
Nursing school requires excellent communication and writing dozens, if not hundreds, of papers about healthcare. This is why some nurses may want to turn their skills into a new writing career.
14. Correctional Nurse
Just because some patients are incarcerated doesn’t mean they don’t need medical care, mental health care, or emergency care.
15. School Nurse
If children have always been your favorite patient population or you just need a change of pace from working with adults, then becoming a school nurse may be an excellent fit for you!
16. Public Health Nurse
As opposed to bedside nurses who work one-on-one with patients, public health nurses promote the health of an entire population.
Nurse recruiters help healthcare, and medical companies fill staffing gaps. This allows hospitals and health facilities to provide safe and effective patient care and ensure that the business’s operations continue to run smoothly.
19. Medical Device or Pharmaceutical Sales
If you want to use your clinical expertise to help patients live healthier lives working in the corporate world, medical or pharmaceutical sales might be an excellent opportunity for you!
20. Utilization Review Nurse
Utilization review nurses ensure that patients receive the care they need while also preventing unnecessary or duplicate services. They work with patients, families, and healthcare staff to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the care plan. They also work with insurance companies to ensure coverage for the services provided.
Two nurses write about hospice services in literary journals. Great reads!
The Sun is one of two literary journals that I have unsuccessfully submitted to over the years. The other is the Bellevue Literary Review.
Close to 20 years ago, I drove to The Sun’s offices, parked in front of a single-family house on Roberson Street in Chapel Hill, and placed my submission, an essay doubled-spaced on hard copy, folded, and slipped into a legal-size envelope along with a cover letter and self-addressed-stamped-envelope, in the mailbox by the front door. I drove back to my home some five miles away and waited.
Imagine my pleasant surprise to find that each journal has recently published an essay by a nurse. And the topic is similar: hospice.
I can’t display sour grapes because I have long promoted nurses telling their stories. And since I have worked as a hospice nurse, I know that hospice care is poorly understood and underutilized.
Barbara Woodmansee is a hospice nurse who is stationed at a local hospital awaiting referrals from the staff. She has been told to keep a low profile. Her essay tells of seven hospice admissions. They give an overview of the types of patients hospice manages and the variety of services that the hospice program provides. Woodmansee shows how hospice intervention makes a difference in a patient’s last days along with the roadblocks she faces in providing care. She also tells us of a personal experience that inspired her to be a hospice nurse.
One of Woodmansee’s patients, Carrie, is a woman in her early 20s who developed COVID after delivering a heathy son. Her immune system has failed, and she has “multisystem organ failure; sepsis has debilitated her heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs to the degree that she has no reserve left to fight her infection.”
Woodmansee is present in the hospital room where the patient’s family gathers while life support is withdrawn. “Once the ventilator is removed, Carrie’s entire family stands at the bedside, each with a hand on her body—all except for her mother. Ann has taken Carrie’s infant son to the car. When her daughter dies, she is holding the baby.”
Woodmansee notes that “COVID has made me even more aware of my inability to support everyone affected by a patient’s death: the dying person, the family, and the staff who are trying so hard. One of the important gifts we (hospice nurses) give to families in hospice is our presence, but we have to move so much faster now, with so many new barriers between us, both physical and psychological. Worst of all, we’re getting used to it.”
With that, Woodmansee shows what nurses feel and the relentless circumstances they have had to deal with the COVID pandemic. Her essay also shows the personal investment a nurse makes to each of her/his patients.
On The Brink by Barbara West, Bellevue Literary Review, Issue 42, 2011 BLR Prize Winners.
Barbara West, an on-call hospice nurse, deals with an unclear after-hours emergency. She visits the double-wide trailer occupied by an elderly sister and brother. What she finds is the brother, slumped over in a wheelchair close to death while the caregiver/sister seems bent on ignoring reality.
After West attempts to lift the brother from the wheelchair to the bed, a loud sound emits from his body, and his breathing stops. She says, “If you work in hospice long enough, you’re bound to be accused of murder at some point. It could be over the phone, in a moment of passion from a guilt-ridden, out-of-state, family member. Or in person, simply because you’re the one at the door at that pivotal moment. Or maybe because you’re the white nurse with a Northern accent, the face of the American health care system that denied Daddy access to dialysis back in Oklahoma. For the first time in my career, I wondered if I might now have actually done what I’d previously only been accused of.”
West misses the interdisciplinary team that is available during usual working hours. Now on a Friday night, she alone must address all the issues other team members would. And it is when she notes their skills, the reader is made aware of the rich services a hospice program can deliver. But we also realize that, in the absence of other team members, nurses can assure that appropriate care is given.
The humor threaded through this story softens the sharp edges that West overcomes in steering the brother’s death to an acceptable closure. But the reader sees what discomfort West carries within her. She seeks reassurance from a coworker that she handled this case correctly. We learn that memories, both pleasant and uncomfortable, long remain with nurses when making judgements they must make on their own.
May we see more nurses writing their stories outside of nursing journals for the public to enjoy and be enlightened and to realize that nurses do make a difference.
Over two weeks ago I slipped while doing a lunge—part of my exercise program to stay strong and flexible now that I have reached my ninth decade. The following day at an Ortho Urgent Care, I found out that I had injured both my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and my Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL). Definitive diagnosis pending.
What follows is one of the many examples of having a mobility problem as an older woman.
One morning, a week ago, I fell out of bed. Well, I just slid out of bed as I attempted to wipe up water from the floor with a bath towel. I had spilled the water out of a bottle with a spout that could be closed just in case I tipped it over from the bedside table it wouldn’t spill. (that only works if I close the spout in the first place.)
I didn’t want to slip on a wet floor and harm my already injured left knee, so I called my husband to bring me a bath towel. Of course, my husband could’ve wiped up the spill, but I am always in a rush to get a job done. While I leaned over trying to soak up all the drops under the bed, I stretched out too far. I couldn’t pull myself back onto the bed. I had no choice but to slither to the floor taking care to keep my injured knee straight. There I was on my stomach. On the floor. Parallel to the bed. Face down. After I managed to roll over, my husband bent to pull me up. No way would I allow him to do so. He might damage his back, or worse. I lay for a few moments trying to figure out how to get up from the floor. Scenarios danced in my head: 911, fire department, neighbors, grandchildren, embarrassment. Finally, I bent my good knee, crawled over to the bed, and pulled myself up. Gazing at the ceiling, I felt lucky as an 80-year-old that I had the strength to wiggle out of a tight situation without injury to me or my husband.
Yesterday, I had an MRI and today I will see an orthopedic physician to find out the extent of the damage and, most important, what I will need to do to heal the injury. Will the exercises I have done (thanks to Dr. Google and YouTube) show an improvement to my knee? Now I only wear the leg brace and use a cane when I am outside. More recently, I have managed to climb up and down the stairs of our 2-story townhouse.
This injury is teaching me to listen to my body, find ways to keep up my strength and flexibility as I age, and to slow down to smell the flowers. There are probably more lessons for me to learn as I move forward.
So here I am, a new octogenarian who thinks she is still twenty (my birthday was May 3rd).
When I turned 80, I decided that I wanted to stay strong and flexible. Last Thursday, I was doing lunges while watching Grace and Frankie on TV. Grace and Frankie are my role models. Love ‘em and will miss them since this is their last session. I only allow myself one episode at a time.
I had great intentions that evening but didn’t do too well on the execution. While attempting a lunge, my left leg slid sideways which overextended my knee. I toppled backward on the carpet. The pain alerted me that I had caused a big problem. I immediately followed the RICE treatment: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The next day, after an x-ray and physical manipulation of my knee, the Physician’s Assistant at an Ortho Urgent Care declared that I had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a common injury of athletes and more common in women. I lumbered out of the Urgent Care wearing a hinged T scope knee brace and with future MRI and orthopedic physician appointments, and an acute awareness of my advancing age.
My husband and I had spent the middle two weeks in May at the North Carolina beach in celebration of my birthday. I walked twice a day: once with walking shoes on the streets behind our rental home and once on the beach, dipping my bare feet in the cool Atlantic waves as the tide flowed onto shore. I felt wonderful. Walking is my main exercise. It not only keeps me in shape, but clears my brain, letting the creative juices bubble up. This is why I prefer to walk alone—or with a non-communicative husband.
As I write this, it’s been almost 72 hours since my injury. I’ve discarded the ice and am now using a heating pad. My leg is elevated when I’m sitting. I walk with a walker and the knee brace. I borrowed a shower chair and cancelled my social engagements with friends for the next two weeks. My life has narrowed. However, I’m not deterred even if it takes a while to get back to my previous level of activity. Damn that New York minute.
I talked to my friend Lois the other day. She was telling me how she is orchestrating a skit for Talent Night at her church. “It’s silly,” she said. “It’s a skit that I have done years ago with my family.”
What caught my attention was the fact that Lois is selling this idea to a group of similar older folks by asking, “Who can get down on their knees?” Only two out of 10 said they could get down on their knees (and, I suppose could get up again). Well, that was all Lois needed because the skit calls for two folks to be animals. She also told her church group that she is not telling them what the skit is about because they have to be “spontaneous.” On top of that, Lois is working on what the “Choir” will sing. I have the inside scoop that Lois is writing alternative rhymes to common ditties, such as Old MacDonald had a Farm.
Now think about this, here is a group of elder church members who are willing to participate in a skit when they have no idea what it is about, agree to be spontaneous, get down on their knees in order to be animals, and sing farcical words to familiar melodies in front of the church congregation!
Lois made the point that at a certain age it no longer bothers us old timers to join in comical entertainment. Why should we care how we are perceived at this late stage of our lives?
So, when I read Tim Hoyt’s, latest story, Playing with Young Minds, under his weekday missive, Story with Morning Coffee, I thought of Lois and her giddy church group. Tim’s story is silly, too, but underneath the seemingly simplistic premise is a profound lesson about growing older.
Stories for Morning Coffee and No Eggs
by Tim Hoyt
~Playing with Young Minds~
“Age is just a number.” I hear that all the time, mostly from men and women who are doing pretty well in spite of knees that don’t think about running a mile any longer and chests that keep on pumping in and out figuring, with proper attitude, they’ve got plenty more good days.
“Yeah, and it’s a big number,” I say back to anyone who implies that being eighty-six is anything like being forty-six. Sometimes, I devise devilish mind experiments with them in giant glass test tubes.
I understand attitude. Attitude is everything when you’re eighty-six.
I’m Samuel if you want to call me something. Samuel Perkins. There are a number of things I like about being old. I like the respect I get from most young people. They call me “sir.” That’s kinda sweet. In my twisted mind, which is short on synapses and long on memories, “sir” translates to “Yikes-a-geezer.” But they mean well. They offer to carry my groceries. I let them sometimes. Occasionally, when one of their tribe is particularly obsequious, like they’re trying to earn a merit badge or something, I’ll hand them five dollars and say, “Here’s five dollars. Go turn it into ten dollars.” Everyone my age got that story beat into them in Sunday School. Youngsters under forty haven’t a clue. But they leave me alone. “Yikes-a-geezer” is in a foul mood today, they think, and they walk quickly away, probably rethinking the merit inherent in Social Security and Medicare programs.
So, what do I want to happen today? Today, being typical of most days. I want most days to be atypical. I want life to jump up and smack my behind and surprise the daylights out of me.
This past Easter, Patrick, my buddy for so long, we forget how we met (not really – that’s just something we tell the Yikes-a-Geezer crowd) and I walked down Central Street holding hands. Patrick wore his bunny suit. He skipped and carried a basket of candy which he passed out to gawking little kids. I was his handler. Patrick-the-Easter-Bunny, obviously, didn’t talk. I would say, “Now, now, Easter Bunny, we must visit all the children before midnight. Dad’s laughed. Mothers just stared at us with pity. Kids were delighted.
Why on earth do we do things like this? Because we don’t give a rip what anybody thinks. That’s not entirely true, but it is pretty true. Patrick and I made our marks. Each of us got an education, made a good living, married, raised a family, paid the mortgage, volunteered for fund-raisers, and a lot more. We contributed.
At eighty-four and eighty-six, Patrick and I are secure in who we are. The self-doubt boat docks in a younger neighborhood now.
Now, we can be Easter Bunnies (I wore the suit last year). A few months ago, I was roaming through a re-sale store and spotted an old guitar missing some strings, and a damaged ukulele. Patrick and I put on a street concert. Our sign said, “Lessons Available, Cheap.” Such fun. And no self-consciousness whatsoever. That ship sailed long ago, too.
Patrick asked me if I would like join him and ride our bicycles in the Naked Pride Parade this year. He’s making that up and he knows I know he’s making it up, but I say, “Sure, what should I not wear?”
I celebrated my last milestone birthday ten years ago in Paris. I thought this current milestone would find me riding on an elephant like Gloria Steinem on her 80th. Instead, my husband and I will drive three hours to the North Carolina Coast and spend two weeks in an oceanfront rental on the beach. My immediate family: son and his significant other, daughter, her husband, and three grandsons (with or without their friends) will spend time with us as work and school allows. I won’t play host, cook communal meals, or direct social events.
Besides taking pleasure in my family’s company, I’ll take long walks on the beach, relish fresh fish dinners from nearby restaurants or cooked by volunteer family chefs, sit at the water’s edge reading or watch the sea gulls dive for fish.
In the evening, I shall sit on the open deck and count the stars while the ocean waves break on the shore.
I plan to bring my watercolors in case the mood moves me. Possibly, after my writing has lain fallow for the last few months, I might revisit my “second memoir.” Many memorable events, especially in my younger days, have taken place by the ocean. I’ll indulge myself with introspection by digging deep to uncover details of my past so I can smile, laugh, or perhaps cry.
While I’ll always have Paris, this milestone birthday celebration may prove to be more memorable.
I am honored that my blog has won 6th place in the Top Nursing Blogs of 2021 sponsored by IntelyCare. This honor is an especially important recognition to me because the nursing community voted.
The prize is a feature profile on the IntelyCare Website. See below:
Marianna Crane is the author of Nursing Stories and the sixth place winner of our Top Nursing Blogs contest. She has been a nurse for over forty years and has practiced in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, home health, and hospice.
Marianna was one of the first people to become a gerontological nurse practitioner. Over the course her career, she developed a passion for home health care.
Marianna is retired from nursing. Her work is now focused on her writing, and her fellow nurses certainly benefit from and appreciate this gift!
Check out Marianna’s blog here and read on for a Q&A.
Maggie Kilgallon / Apr 11, 2022
IntelyCare: What inspired you to start writing about nursing?
Marianna: “I have always wanted to be a writer. When I retired after a 40-year nursing career, I began to take writing more seriously. I attended writing classes, workshops, conferences, and joined a writing group. I write about what I know: nursing.
I started my blog, Nursingstories.org, in 2011 and eventually published a book, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, in 2018.”
IntelyCare: What inspires you to continue writing a blog?
Marianna: “I believe that nurses are generally reluctant to call attention to themselves. My blog shows what nurses really do and how they make a difference. Under the umbrella of ‘Olden Days of Nursing,’ I spotlight nurses in my cohort to document the evolution and history of the profession.
The COVID pandemic has opened doors for the public to watch nurses in action and appreciate the contribution they make to health care. This is an unprecedented moment for nurses to take advantage of their popularity and visibility. We see more articles in the media about nurses and nursing practice than ever before. Recently, I have been re-blogging timely facts I have found on the internet or in the news media about nursing that would be of interest to my readers.
I try to include other topics in my blog such as writing, growing older, and confronting ageism, and my love of food. Lately, however, because of all the recent rich material about nursing, my posts center around nursing issues.”
IntelyCare: What advice would you give to other nursing professionals looking to start a blog of their own?
Marianna: “I encourage nurses to start their own blogs and write about their nursing practice. There are many free websites available. The time is ripe to show the challenges the profession faces. The public has seen how much of a difference nurses make to the improvement of health in our communities. There are many changes needed to improve our health care system in general, and nursing practice, in particular. The attention the nursing profession has received of late will only promote better outcomes for our patients if nurses continue to promote themselves. A blog is one way to do so.”
Check out the full list of Top Nursing Blogs here!
I had fun last year with the annual Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge 2021, so I decided to enter again this year. My theme last year was Places I Have Been. This year I planned to blog about my three years in nursing school (1959 to 1962). This would also fall under the Olden Days of Nursing theme I sometimes blog about. I even bought an old Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary just like the one I had used in nursing school. Hopefully, it would help me figure out what to write about if I got stuck at one of the letters—especially Z.
I was still working on a tentative list for the letters when I logged on to the 2022 web site to sign up. I had missed the theme deadline. Bummer.
But in order not to waste all my efforts, I want to share with you what I found for the letter Z.
Z zoanthropy: Delusion that one is an animal. (Taber’s cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Clarence Wilbur Taber, 11th Edition, 1969, page Z-1)
Okay, I’m reaching here. Who wouldn’t with the letter Z? I actually did have a patient who thought she was a cat. Not that I saw any evidence of this. She looked and acted perfectly normal.
Seton Institute, just outside of Baltimore on a bucolic campus, was a private psychiatric hospital run by the Sisters of Charity. Twelve of us students from St. Peter’s School of Nursing spent three months there in the 1960s. During the tour of the facility, I realized, as a seventeen-year-old, that bizarre-acting patients scared me—even the catatonic woman who didn’t move. Thankfully, our student role was to be recipient of knowledge rather than dispenser of therapy.
One of my memories revolves around two women patients not much older than I. One was recovering from post-partum depression and the other thought she was a cat. We three had more of a social relationship than the professional relationship that I should have promoted.
I took walks with them. I even short-sheeted the cat patient’s bed. The post-partum depressive patient told the cat patient that she must be liked when the “nurses short-sheeted your bed.” If she reported me, would I have been tossed out of school?
There were other nursing schools that sent their students to Seton Institute for psych experience. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of young men hanging about. I dated an enlisted Navy guy and a cadet from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Besides taking leisurely walks with my patients and short-sheeting their beds, learning to play bridge, and dating some interesting boys, I must have learned a bit about psychiatry because when I took the “comprehensive” tests in senior year in preparation for sitting for the State Nursing Boards to become a licensed registered nurse after we graduated, I received my highest score in psychiatry—in the 99th percentile.
I never wanted to work in psych. And in my long nursing career, I never did.
The pandemic has shined a spotlight on the critical role of nurses in hospitals — and the risks they routinely encounter while doing their jobs. The field of nursing, however, is still deeply misunderstood. This is perhaps no surprise: Nurses’ work is often undervalued compared with that of doctors, and almost 90 percent of the nursing workforce is women. Here are five common myths about the profession.
Myth No. 1
Nursing is lucrative.
Nursing is sometimes described as a lucrative career. Since the pandemic began, articles have highlighted the huge demand for these highly skilled professionals, as well as the particularly profitable career of travel nurses — who go wherever they’re needed, sometimes earning $5,000 a week, even more than doctors make.
The reality is that most registered nurses make a solidly middle-class salary. A 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median annual wage for registered nurses is $75,330 — respectable but not remarkably lucrative, particularly when many employers don’t give pay raises for additional certifications. According to ZipRecruiter, in some states, average salaries hover around $55,000.
Myth No. 2
Nursing is no longer a desirable job.
The great exodus of health-care workers is a pressing concern, two years into the coronavirus crisis. This is evident not just in the steady stream of news stories about fed-up nurses quitting on the spot, but also in viral Twitter videos like one from an ICU nurse who, in an explosion of angry sentiment, quit after 19 months of working in pandemic conditions.
In fact, interest in this career remains high. An NPR segment from October reported that some community college nursing programs have 800 applicants for only 50 openings. Research data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows that 2020 enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs increased by nearly 6 percent, enrollment in master’s degree programs went up by 4 percent, and doctor of nursing practice programs saw their enrollments jump by almost 9 percent.
And according to the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, thousands of foreign nurses, ready to work, are awaiting U.S. visa approval.
Myth No. 3
It’s better to have a doctor treat you rather than a nurse.
It’s widely assumed that doctors are the best at all medical procedures, including starting IVs or drawing blood. This myth shows itself in medical TV dramas like “House”and “Grey’s Anatomy” that almost exclusively portray doctors as the only members of a treatment team, or editorial cartoons questioning the merits of nurse practitioners. More recently, physician Sandra Lee, from the reality TV show “Dr. Pimple Popper,” received a lot of negative fallout over a tweet questioning why a WebMD article discussing sunburn vs. sun poisoning was written by a nurse instead of a dermatologist.
One reason this struck such a nerve is that a significant part of what nurses do, besides provide direct medical care, is educate patients and family members. Nurses advise parents on how to care for newborn babies who spent time in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Many procedures typically done by nurses — like placing urinary catheters or, in many states, removing sutures — haven’t been done by doctors since they were in medical school. Furthermore, a physician-run study published in the Lancet research journalfound that nurse practitioners performed as well as junior doctors on all procedures and tasks in their emergency department, except two — taking medical history and educating patients at discharge — on which the nurses performed better.
The reality, however, is that these jobs were dangerous well before covid-19. Nurses and other health-care workers accounted for 73 percent of all injuries and illnesses resulting from nonfatal workplace violence in 2018, according to a BLS report. The Justice Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have long reported that nurses and other bedside care providers, such as medical technicians and nursing assistants, are most at risk for an incident of workplace violence. The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak in 2017 called nursing one of America’s most dangerous jobs and highlighted an emergency room nurse in Southbridge, Mass., who survived a vicious stabbing; a Massachusetts health-care safety bill was named after that nurse (the measure stalled in the legislature).
Beyond that, roughly 86 percent of registered nurses are female, and the field is still subject to over-sexualized stereotypes. Each Halloween brings a new wave of “naughty nurse” costumes; type “nurses” into the GIF search box of any messaging app, and you’re likely to find sexually suggestive images. Sandy Summers, a registered nurse, argues convincingly that these images fuse “caregiving with easy sex,” creating a dangerous atmosphere of disrespect. One research review found that 43 percent had reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment. Julia Lehman, an emergency department registered nurse, told me that sexual harassment is so common, she builds deflection statements into nurse trainings that she leads.
Myth No. 5
Nurses are superheroes.
Because of the nature of their jobs, nurses often perform remarkably well under stress. But this has turned into the harmful misconception that nurses are somehow superhuman in their resiliency. A contestant on CBS’s “Tough as Nails” cited being a nurse as a reason she should be successful in the show’s grueling competitions. Well-meaning posters, T-shirts and even art from the likes of Banksy depict medical workers in superhero masks and capes; Marvel Comics created “The Vitals,” a comic book featuring nurses in pandemic-related medical adventures. Research shows that the perception of toughness permeates the field.
The sober reality, however, is that living up to this superhero image is impossible — not unlike Luisa in the Disney movie “Encanto,” who is both heroically strong and tragically anxious. In a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey last year, 62 percent of health workers said worry or stress related to covid-19 had a negative effect on their mental health.
A 2020 study from the University of California at San Diego established a higher rate of suicide in nurses compared with the general population, which led the school to develop a suicide prevention program specifically for those in health fields. This and other crisis interventions help considerably. Code Lavender, an alert system created in Hawaii and championed by the Cleveland Clinic, draws a rapid-response team of traditional and holistic practitioners to help hospital staff or patients within 30 minutes of a report of a particularly traumatic incident.
Rebecca Simik is a graduate student in the science writing program at Johns Hopkins University. She was a research associate at University of California, San Diego, for 20 years and managed both clinical psychiatry and neuroscience research groups focused on severe mental illness.