An Ode to Nurses

“If Mr. McMurphy doesn’t want to take his medication orally, I’m sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don’t think that he would like it.”

~Nurse Ratched – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm.

~Florence Nightingale



We all know that crotchety RN with an attitude, but for every Nurse Ratched, there are multiple Florence Nightingales! In fact there are about 2,751,000 [1] Nurses in the US alone. It is no secret that Dr.’s have it rough with their prolonged schooling, the abuse some of them endure during residency and having considerable debt [2]. Nurses don’t have it any easier, with being understaffed and overworked, high nurse to patient ratios. It is no surprise many healthcare workers report being burned out [3] and jaded.

Healthcare workers suffer stresses that may leave them hurt physically [4] and drained [5]emotionally. There is no shortage of satire characterizing cranky nurses and greedy doctors. However, just like there are many competent, humane and passionate physicians, so too are there numerous nurses that toe the line between medical science and compassionate care.

A good nurse knows all about pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical care and outcomes of diseases. Certainly a great nurse knows when their patient is decompensating requiring immediate intervention.


But what happens when the limits of medical technology are reached? Once the team of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapist, and imaging technologists have left feeling defeated after a valiant fight to keep a patient alive, the nurse will still be there. He or she will wipe off all the blood, remove all the tubes and wires, and make sure the human that has passed is presentable to their now grieving family. She will touch and talk or hug family members, a primitive, though powerful technology.


I occasionally am asked by an inquisitive nurse to explain what I am seeing during an ultrasound examination, I am happy to share what knowledge I have acquired, the inverse is also true. When I hear or encounter something in a unit I may have little knowledge of, they too provide me with a brief clinic on the mechanism of a certain drug, or the clinical course a certain disease takes. I believe that is what really being part of a team is all about. We are all experts in our respective areas of health science, yet we can learn so much from our peers, be they physicians, nurses, perfusionists, the list can be quite long.



So the next time you come across a Nurse Ratched, remind yourself that they may be burned out, stressed or overworked an underappreciated just like you may be at times. Try to reach out a friendly hand, it may or may not work, but there is nothing lost in trying. When you meet a Florence Nightingale, sing their praises, ask them to teach you something, or just engage in friendly small talk.


So on behalf of myself, thank you nurses, without you, there would be no healthcare system.

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