Nurses: Write Your Mind Out

Last fall I heard Suzanne Gordon, journalist and long-time advocate for nursing, give a rousing speech to a room full of nurses. I’d read about her, but hearing her enthusiasm rekindled my smoldering fire of the necessity of promoting the professionalism of nursing.

Ms. Gordon, as a non-nurse, challenged us to stand up for nursing. Reaching Medicare age, she implored us to carry on her work. A few of her suggestions:

Get rid of the chicken-soup, caring-only notion of nursing. We are more than the traditional image of the nurse as caring and nice. Yes, we do care, but we are, importantly, a thinking profession.

In that vein, get rid of the heart as a symbol for nursing. Replace it with the mind.

Ask, what perception does the public have of us? What role do the media play in their portrayal of us? What can we do to change it?

Last year, Gordon published When Chicken Soup is Not Enough: Stories of Nurses Standing Up for Themselves, Their Patients, and Their Profession, her antidote to the prevailing “heavily sentimental genre” in which nurses “deliver  up story after saccharine story that reinforce traditional stereotypes of nursing and women’s work” (p. xi). Seventy-one essays by nurses from around the world are grouped under nine attention-getting headings, such as “Excuse Me, Doctor, You’re Wrong,” “Not Part of the Job Description,” and “Choking on Sugar and Spice: Challenging Nurses’ Public Image”.

Two things recently prompted me to pull Gordon’s book off my shelf. First, an email comment by Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, founder and executive director of “The Truth About Nursing” blog and website and author of Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk. Spending just a few minutes on her blog will convince you that how the media portrays us really does matter.

Second, I got an email notice that the distinguished journal, “Creative Nonfiction,” has put out a call for submissions for an upcoming book, Becoming  a Nurse: Real Stories of Nurses, Their Lives and Their Patients. Deadline 11/30/11, 2500-5000 words. They’ve already put out a doctor version: Becoming A Doctor: From Student to Specialist, Doctor-Writers Share Their Experiences.

Nurse readers, including myself, think about it. Would you like to accept their challenge to write a story “dramatically and vividly” from your career? Accept the challenge to carry on Suzanne Gordon’s mission to show that nurses have brains as well as hearts? Accept this opportunity to stand up for nursing?

Check out the submission guidelines at www.cnf.org.