It took me a long time to realize I wanted to be a nurse. Although some people know what they want to do for a career when they’re children, I was still completely undecided in high school when I began to feel pressured. I decided that healthcare sounded both interesting and fulfilling, so I decided that I would become one of the healthcare workers I had the most contact with a physician. I had never been hospitalized and knew nothing about the nursing profession so it was not on my mind.
However, in my third semester of college, after becoming disenchanted with the idea becoming a physician, I had a breakthrough that nursing could be a better fit for me. After much rumination and stress, I changed my major. I wish that as I was initially making my decision, I had more experience with the positive aspects of nursing and what the profession entails.
The American Nurse, a film by Carolyn Jones, is an example of a film that would have helped me because displays facets of conventional nursing I had never been exposed to and has helped me understand how skillful and intelligent nurses are and what a meaningful profession it can be. Seeing this film now as a newly-transferred nursing student has helped me realize that I have goals that I desire to reach in my career as a nurse, and I have begun to consider how I will set these into motion.
One of my main overreaching goals as a nurse is to reduce patient and anxiety and fear. Surveys have shown that many patients in serious health situations, such as those diagnosed with cancer, “have major difficulties dealing with psychological issues and…report oncology providers do not…recognize, adequately treat, or offer referral” for the emotional issues (Legg, 2011). These issues of anxiety and stress have been shown to have a significant effect on patient quality of life as well as satisfaction with care, and if they report that their mental health is not being properly addressed, this is an issue that nurses need to pay attention to as the main patient advocate (Legg, 2011).
Patients may also face anxiety when faced with trying to understand medical information presented with technical terminology, when preparing for a life change such as birthing a child or approaching death, or when unsure how to pay for a procedure. As a nurse, I look forward to being able to assist people in these stressful situations and do my best to reduce their emotional and psychological burden from stress, anxiety, and fear.
One scene from The American Nurse that I felt was particularly moving was when Naomi Cross, the labor and delivery nurse, put her face directly against the face of a woman receiving an epidural, and told her to breath with her saying that they were going through it together (Jones, 2014). I believe that Ms. Cross’s words and actions gave that woman strength because she showed an obvious commitment to helping her focus and achieve her goal. This is the type of nurse I would like to be able to become one who knows how to help a patient understand that I am working alongside them and I deeply want them to achieve their health goals, whether they are delivering a baby, overcoming illness, or even achieving peace at the end of life.
Another reason I personally enjoyed The American Nurse was because it focused on showing such varied aspects of the profession that may not be brought to mind when somebody thinks of a “nurse”-for example, Nurse Toni Faust works in hospice in a prison, and Nurse Jason Short works in rural Kentucky, driving to people’s homes to provide their care with a great deal of independence. These atypical nurses were a relief to see in film because although nursing seems to be progressing rapidly from the days we wore hats and dresses, there are still abundant stereotypes that surround the nursing occupation.
I can say that I have been affected by nursing stereotypes personally, as I originally dismissed the idea of becoming a nurse; I believed based on my limited knowledge they were subservient to and not as intelligent as physicians. Thankfully, I was able to see that nursing is an entirely different career that works alongside physicians and other healthcare providers like nurse practitioners to help the patients in a different way that is just as necessary to patient health and happiness.
However, the problem is that there are many people who do not have the opportunity to realize this, and it definitely does not help that much of the media, especially current television shows such as House and E.R. depicting hospitals, show “nurses acting as ‘helpers’… rather than autonomous and knowledgeable professionals” and “doctors doing nurse’s jobs” such as medication administration and emotional support, leaving nurses to do menial labor if they are even depicted at all (Brown, 2009). While people can dismiss this as fictitious television, I feel that it is important to realize that the media that we consume can consciously or unconsciously affect how we think, and when nurses are depicted as especially unskilled laborers on television, it can “devalue the way we view nurses in the real world” (Brown, 2009).
With the media saturated in these stereotypes and with many people already having an image of a nurse in their head, I sometimes wonder how much I can do to change society’s view. However, what I can do is aim to be a knowledgeable and professional nurse and be upstanding in my career, both in technical skills and in personal touch.
I can also try to influence those working around me to do the same, encouraging professionalism and skill. By being a good representation of nurses for all of the patients, family, healthcare workers with whom we come into contact, we hopefully will be able to affect the public’s image of nurses and try to eliminate negative stereotypes of subservience and incompetency. Another way we can help is by promoting material such as The American Nurse project, which can help show people exactly what real, modern American nurses do and provide the positive image of our profession.
Viewing The American Nurse has helped me concretize my goals for my nursing career. All of the nurses shown in the film demonstrate a dedication to reducing patient anxiety and fear especially Naomi Cross who assists families with childbirth, a time of great fear for many people. The film helped me see the many ways that nurses can be there for the patient to help their mental state during their medical procedures.
After all, mental health is an important facet of overall health, an idea that I feel was very clear in the nurses’ actions in the film. The film was also very positive in its depiction of the nursing profession, which I feel is extremely important considering how saturated our media is with negative stereotypes of nursing. Media similar to this film is necessary to show the public the reality of contemporary nursing.