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From the Bedside: “Are You My Nurse?” The Importance of Claiming Professional Identity

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Amanda Anderson, MSN, MPA, RN, CCRN Originally published for HealthCetera, the voice of the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College CUNY

In their book, From Silence to VoiceBernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon discuss the silence of the nursing profession in the media. Chapter after chapter, they expose how reluctant we are to share with the public the details of our job, how we hide behind the stereotypes and discriminations of our profession, and, most importantly, what we lose because of this silence.

I’ve picked it up again, after my first read years ago. It’s funny, to see the notes I scribbled in the margins then. Lots of ?!?!? and WHY DO WE DO THIS?! It’s not so funny, seven years later, to realize how much remains unchanged.

 Over the weekend, on a bus ride back from a quick DC trip to see my sister, I read the chapter entitled, “Presenting Yourself As A Nurse.” I remember reading this so long ago, thinking their recommendation to introduce myself as “Nurse Anderson,” while expecting other providers to address me as such, seemed kind of dated. Do I want to be called Nurse Anderson by interns who are now, a growing handful of years younger than me? Kind of feels like being called “ma’am” by a stranger in the grocery store.

But they make a good point: the discrepancy between doctor’s and nurses title usage – doctor’s always introduce themselves as such, while nurses are often the mysteriously untitled profession – solidifies physician-identity in the mind of the patient and, ultimately, the public. Sure, when chatting at the nurses station, first-name basis between providers is fine, but in introductions to patients or family, first-name-only-nurses surrender their professional identity.

I floated to endoscopy yesterday. Assigned to man the recovery room with two other nurses, I pondered this identity challenge, and decided to conduct some experiments. As sleepy patients wheeled in from their various procedures, I’d give them a little shake, and with Buresh and Gordon in my brain, I’d say, “Hello! I’m Amanda, I’m a nurse,” to their crusty-eyed, confused gaze. Just coming out of twilight anesthesia, many marveled at the simplicity of my greeting, and its ability to provide them with much needed context. Not one of them asked me where they were, or who I was, and honestly, it felt good to title myself openly. Read more.


Amanda Anderson, MSN, MPA, RN, CCRN is an award-winning Critical Care nurse and emerging health care policy leader. Her extensive bedside experience, paired with her advanced administrative training, gives her an intimate understanding of the demands and challenges faced by professionals administering care at the front line. Amanda's narrative analysis stems from her writing training and scholarship, and her compelling authority inspires confidence. She credits writing as a catalyst for her ability to excel in patient-centered care. Read more of her work on her personal website, This Nurse Wonders (www.thisnursewonders.com), or by following her on Twitter @ajandersonrn



Tags: nursing
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