Monday, November 1, 2010

Nursing vs. Tess Gerritsen

Last post ended with a medical question: What is dextrocardia? Dextrocardia is when your heart is on the right side of your body versus its normal position on the left. It is rare... I think I've seen only one or two cases in my nursing career. Even if it is on the wrong side, it can still function normally.

I was recently perusing other medical writer's blogs when I came across an interesting controversy that I thought warranted discussion here at Redwood's Medical Edge. The focus of this blog is strategies to write medically accurate fiction. The foremost premise being do good research. What happens when the research is accurate but the reader thinks otherwise? What if those readers are nurses and you're a physician author?

Tess Gerritsen, an acclaimed novelist/physician published a novel called The Bone Garden. From her blog dated 10/17/10 she writes:

"Recently I’ve been taken to task by a number of nurses who are outraged that in my novel The Bone Garden, a book about childbed fever, I make no mention of Florence Nightingale. Instead, my book focuses on Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and how his theory of infectiousness revolutionized American medicine. How dare I write a story focusing ONLY on a doctor’s contributions, and ignore the contribution of Nightingale?
Here I offer my defense."

It definitely is worth the read. Go to her blog and check out the post for October 17th.

I think this controversy may highlight a couple of different issues. My only plea is that you read this whole post. The first issue: Are nurses jealous of physicians? Of their value and position in society?

Imagine a nurse who gets asked the question, "Why didn't you go to medical school?" I doubt physicians get asked the reverse question. When I get asked this, I feel like what they are really saying is: Being a nurse is below you. You should have used your intelligence in a more practical way. Or, I like this comment better. "You're just the nurse. I want to double check that with the doctor." The self talk becomes... They don't trust my opinion. They think a nurse doesn't know anything about medicine. Now, I want to prove how smart I am. What better way than to out a physician for some perceived error like not doing appropriate research for a fiction novel?

Now, I don't know the exact motive for these nurses to write Tess Gerritsen. This is one theory as to a possible reason. I also don't want to throw my compatriots under the bus. However, if you're going to stir up trouble, just ensure your facts are in order.

Now, before all nurses everywhere skewer me, I have an alternative theory as to what I think may be the more likely motive. These nurses want the value and contribution of nursing to be recognized.

Sometimes, it's easy to feel undervalued as a nurse. Imagine with me for a moment the ER nurse caring for a person who has ingested some prescription medication. She is watching for those subtle signs that the patient is worsening and begins to notice that there are wide swings in the patient's heart rate and requests an order from the physician for an IV... just in case. Her nursing intuition is throwing up red flag after red flag... so she goes to grab an appropriate sized resuscitation bag and hooks it up and makes sure the oxygen is flowing through it. And when the patient does stop breathing, this nurse immediately begins to resuscitate the patient as she hits the call light to get more help. The patient is stabilized by the medical team. The family is relieved and thankful and they go up to the physician and say..."Thank you so much for saving their life."

Of course this doesn't happen on all occasions. Lots of families do recognize that it is the nurse who is largely at the bedside providing their care and having an influence on their loved one's outcome but I also think all nurses everywhere have encountered this situation.

So I do thank those nurses for trying to ensure that those people who have contributed to the professionalism of nursing get the recognition they deserve.

Which motive do you think it was?


  1. Candace Calvert just pointed me this direction as I've got a couple of questions for my new WIP.

    Can I just say...

    Nurses rock.

    That is all.

    Okay - not really. But nurses do rock. My son has been in the hospital 4 times [he's three - the most recent was this past summer when he had an adverse reaction to codeine after his T/A and stopped breathing]. Now, to be fair, some nurses stink. And some doctors stink [our first pediatrician didn't even suspect the codeine - the one who came on the next day did; we'd worked with him 3 other times]. But overall, I adore nurses :).

    And our ped nurse practitioner has become a friend - even calling in an Rx for us after we spilled most of our antibiotic on a weekend.

    Love nurses :).

    [And will get to the questions later :)]

  2. Carol,
    I'm glad you love nurses so much! You're right... there are good and bad in every profession.