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Hall Two at Spectrum Blogett where I was head nurse in 1964. Photo taken in 2011.

“Are you a nurse?” asked the woman sitting across from me at Caribou Coffee this afternoon.

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“I was snooping into your article there on Healthy People 2000.”

Indeed, I had an article I’d published years ago in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing laid out on the table. My article on leisure was under the heading of Healthy People 2000.

Before I could say more, she said, “I have to say something you won’t like, but you probably already know it, but nurses are not nearly as smart as PAs.”

I could feel my eyes start to bulge, my pulse speed up, and a lecture coming on. I counted to twenty-five and patiently listened. This older woman had had some procedure done in a physician’s office and had asked the nurse some “simple questions” about after care. When the nurse could not answer, she’d asked the PA (physician’s assistant) who rattled off what she wanted to know.

Trying to act like I’d been mellowed by the scent of lavender, I smiled and asked if her “nurse” was really a “nurse.” She thought so. Then I launched into a low key lecture about how we as nurses have not done a good enough job educating the public about our differing educational backgrounds, knowledge, and skills. I gently explained to her our ongoing internal problems of defining ourselves and agreeing to an entry level degree for practice.

I went on to say that I’ve been concerned about this for fifty years, since I was in nurses’ training in the early 60s.  Which set her off that I couldn’t possibly have been around that long.

Assuring her that I have been around that long, I felt great at proclaiming my soapbox of educating the public once again. Coffee anyone?