Thursday August 22nd 2019

Nurses unite with pride (and stethoscopes)

The original “shot heard round the world” commemorated the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. But another shot heard round the world came on Sept. 14, 2015, when the hosts of the television show “The View” offended nurses by mocking Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, an RN who chose to deliver a monologue demonstrating her talent as a nurse during the Miss America competition. The flippant comments struck a chord with RNs around the world who were incensed by the suggestion that only doctors use stethoscopes and that Johnson, who was wearing scrubs, was in a costume. No way, not ever, were RNs going to tolerate such blatant disregard for their knowledge, abilities and lifesaving interventions.

Pam Cipriano

Thanks to immediate action by Joslin Leasca, an APRN from the Rhode Island State Nurses Association who alerted us to the outrageous comments, ANA leapt into action. Quickly joined by thousands of nurses worldwide, the groundswell of social media response thrust nurses into the spotlight with hashtags such as #nursesshareyourstethoscopes, #thisisnotacos­tume, #showmeyourstethoscope, #nursesunite, and #nursingismytalent, among others.

You probably know the rest of the story … the hosts apologized to their viewing audience, the president of ABC News apologized to me, and more than a dozen companies paused their advertising, stating their respect and support for nurses. Such collective action, organic and swift, detours from traditional theories of collective action but can be a powerful force for social movements in the Internet age.

Nurses can be heartened by this message from Johnson & Johnson: “J&J values and appreciates nurses and we respect the critical role they play in our health care system. We disagree with recent comments on daytime television about the nursing profession, and we have paused our advertising accordingly. We’re committed to raising the level of awareness about the skill and knowledge that the profession requires, and we send our thanks today and every day to the millions of nurses who touch the lives of patients and their families.” And Eggland’s Best stated: “[The company] appreciates nurses and values the important role they play in family health. We thank the millions of nurses across the country who work to improve the lives of their patients and families.” ANA is following up with these companies and others to be partners in helping us advance our profession to improve health for all.

Our colleagues, other health care professionals, family, friends and consumers also spoke up in solidarity to afford us the respect our work demands. Television celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and Dr. Mehmet Oz, took the opportunity to host Miss Colorado on their shows and highlight the essential work of nurses. Online articles in Forbes, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and US Weekly trumpeted the vital contributions of nurses, while other bloggers acknowledged the dangers of “messing with nurses.”What was a “foot in mouth” moment for the television hosts

became a clarion call to action. And nurses responded. The unity of spirit and pride was palpable. Nurses set the record straight and engaged hundreds of thousands of people in recognizing nurses as smart caregivers (who use stethoscopes) and leaders in health care. You may have been one of more than 5 million people who saw ANA’s campaign on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites, or among the more than 38 million individuals around the world reached by media coverage of the story overall, but no doubt you had a conversation, text, email or phone call from someone who respects and admires you and understands what you do.

Banding together to project and promote professionalism is what we do. Never before has this been so critical as we seek to achieve the “Future of Nursing” vision — to be full partners in changing health care for the better. Nurses acting together create a strong and powerful voice that speaks up for not just nurses but the welfare of our public. Nurse pride — it’s a beautiful thing!

— Pamela F. Cipriano

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