Doctors Tell You What To Do, Nurses Teach You How

Do you remember the episode of Joy Behar when she mocked Kelly for her choice of “talents” in the Miss America contest, but from time to time it still resonates with me. Didn’t she know that the jabs about nurses wearing “costumes” (scrubs) and using “doctors’ stethoscopes” would unleash the wrath of several thousand fiery nurses, ready to draw blood? We’re a passionate bunch, serious about what we do.

My husband, Dr. Daniel Amen often says, “Doctors tell patients what to do, but nurses show them how to do it and hold their hands.” Nurses closely guard, watch, monitor, comfort and advocate for patients. One thing nurses do better than nearly any other tribe is protect their own, almost as vigilantly as they protect their patients!

What Did I Miss?

In this particular episode Kelly Johnson (Miss Colorado) chose to perform a monologue about how important being a nurse is to her instead of performing a song or dance as her talent in the Miss America pageant. More specifically, she shared her experience about that “one special patient,” an Alzheimer’s patient, who left a special mark on her heart. The insults of Joy Behar and Michelle Collins were met with overwhelming ferocity from the tribe of nurses hell bent on supporting Kelly.

This left me wondering if the professionalism and kindness that Joy showed me when I was on the Joy Behar show for my book “The Omni Diet” was an act, but I doubt it. She gave me a twenty-minute segment, was funny and kind, and a wonderful host.

You have to wonder why someone like Joy, with every word being monitored, would choose to publicly humiliate a beautiful young woman, clearly talented on many fronts, who dedicates her life to helping others. Didn’t she have the forethought to know the pain she was bringing upon herself? Jerry Seinfeld said, “The Brain Is a Sneaky Organ,” and he was right. Some things should never get out of your head!

Why Would Someone Say That?

I suppose it’s possible that Joy Behar is shallow or not very smart. That’s the easy answer, but not probable. It’s more likely that she said something without thinking; one of those things we all think and even say occasionally, and hope no one EVER hears—except the whole country did! I’m going to venture to say that she had a brain fart (yes, nurses talk about bodily functions a lot), momentarily engaging in destructive, catty gossip for the fun of it, with no thought of the pain it would cause. I’m sure glad I’ve never done that! Aren’t you? The difference is, I had the good fortune not to have the whole country watching.

That’s why your tribe is so important. The people you surround yourself with help shape your habits and norms. The values of the people you surround yourself with speak louder than words.

As a society I believe we have some responsibility in perpetuating the ongoing cycle of evil gossip, as we sit glued to the television waiting for the next atrocious thing to happen, or the next person we can crucify. Americans drive the ratings with our ravenous appetites for spectacle. Television isn’t about integrity and fact; it’s about tension and drama. Joy Behar gave America what it asked for, what it begs for everyday. Unfortunately (or fortunately), she didn’t pick a fight with a nurse, she picked a fight with every nurse. That’s the power of a tribe!

I do have faith in the power of the words “I’m sorry” and can say with some certainty that most nurses are empathic and forgiving when met with sincerity, just as most of us are relentless about people taking responsibility. Go hug a nurse and tell them how they’ve helped you at some time in your life. It’s a tough job. Those same traits that make nurses bossy, tough and sometimes scary, are the same traits that make them great protectors.


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