It’s not often that I get riled up by things patients do thanks to a dedicated sense of Zen and a well-developed ability to shrug things off. So it’s a big deal to me when I let someone get to me.
Someone did the other night. I know rationally it’s not a big thing, in fact it happens fairly regularly. But deep in my psyche it stung and I’ve been perservating over it since. I got fired by a patient.
It’s happened before, it will happen again is what I keep telling myself, but it nevertheless unnerved me. Why? The reason? It was because I’m a man. Or as I crassly put it on Twitter, “I got fired because I have a penis.” It’s one of those things us men in nursing come up against and we have learned to take it in stride. There are ingrained social and societal mores, stereotypes and prejudices that cannot be erased in the first five minutes of you meeting me, the male nurse.
Rationally I get it. Emotionally/psychologically I don’t.
If you’re a 80-something year old lady, having a male nurse is probably a bit out of your comfort zone and no matter how professional the nurse is, it still isn’t comfortable. But I don’t understand totally. If you’re that age, odds are good, like 100%, that your Ob/Gyn was a man. You let them view and examine your holiest-of-holies, but when it comes to the nurse, the one who ensures you get the right medications, that the treatments we are doing is actually working, it’s just too weird. I’m not asking to examine your bits, in fact I want nothing to do with them. I even offered that if you were uncomfortable I could have our aide help you with your bathroom needs. Clueless I’m not. I can tell when things are not quite right and take preventative action, so I thought I had it covered.
Yeah, I was a little surprised when a family member came out to the nurses station and spoke to a co-worker about it. Not to mention I was sitting right there. My name was on the patient’s board and I was the only guy sitting there. They didn’t talk to me because they were ashamed, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t have been so upset if they had asked me about it. In fact in I would have offered to swap assignments on the spot, no muss, no fuss, no dirt off my shoulder.
We swapped out assignments and solved the problem
Here’s the thing too, they commented to the nurse who replaced me that it wasn’t my ability, but merely my gender as the reason to swap. I’ll take that. More though, I was angry. I was angry because it wasn’t my skills, my attitude or inter-personal skills, it was that I was a man. It’s accepted because of this, but what if it had been because I was black, or gay, or Muslim? I’m not truly making comparisons and saying I’m being oppressed, I’m trying to make a point. Prejudice is still prejudice.
I will agree that there are some places men shouldn’t be nurses. Hell, I’m guilty about it since I had a little bit of problem with my wife having a guy nurse in OB, but I never would have asked to change (and in that case only because he was incompetent.)
I had thought at this point in time the acceptance of men in nursing this was a non-issue.
I was wrong.
As I said above, it’s happened before and will happen again. But it still doesn’t make it right.
Addendum: I’ve let this post simmer for awhile and while I’m not as pissed as I was, it still irks me. But I tell myself, “get over it.” And it works. Most of the time.