By Claire Nightingale
“[A woman] is usually a success as a sick-nurse, for that profession requires ingenuity, quick comprehension, courage in the face of novel and disconcerting situations, and above all, a capacity for penetrating and dominating character.”
– HL Mencken, In Defense of Women
“She never sleeps, the TikTok nurse. She is dancing, dancing. She says she will never die.”
There is a long beep emitting from my patient’s alarm. It is the sound that accompanies the end of a life in the ICU – the patient’s heart has ceased to beat, and a long flat green line appears on the monitor beside his bed. “ASYSTOLE, ASYSTOLE” the monitor screams. This is usually cue for everyone to run into the room, ready to pound on the patient’s chest and pump him full of drugs necessary to restart his heart. In certain cases, however, the patient has been deemed what’s called a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), which means we allow the patient to die naturally (as naturally as one can die lying in a sterile hospital bed hooked up to monitors and punctured with endless tubes).
Such is the case with my patient tonight. He is 85 years old, dying of pneumonia related to the coronavirus. His family has prudently decided not to inflict torture on his elderly, frail body, and has made him a DNR. It is 11:23, and he has just died.
Despite having nearly 10 years under my belt as an ICU nurse, this is my first night in this particular ICU as a travel nurse. I am unfamiliar with the location of certain supplies, and the postmortem paperwork. But caring for a dead body is the same as in any ICU – remove the IV catheters and tubes, wash the body, place him on fresh sheets, and transport him down to the morgue. I begin to wash his body. It is still warm. I place some gauze inside his mouth, and gently wrap a ribbon around his head and tie it under his chin, so as to keep his mouth from gaping open.
In the background, I hear music. It is loud pop music blasting from the nursing station. I can see through my patient door’s window. A nurse has her hands on the desk and is thrusting her buttocks back and forth. Another is spinning in a chair next to her. Two more are standing by doubled over in laughter.
“For the apparel oft proclaims the man,” Polonius advises Laertes in Hamlet. The manner in which these nurses present themselves – both in clothing and in manners – proclaims apathy, boredom, immaturity, and a general lack of self and duty. One has her scrub pants scrunched up around her knees. Another has frumpled, wrinkled scrubs blotched with bleach stains. They all have the same messy bun piled on top of their head. No makeup, no effort to look pleasing or comforting, which is what the sick desire to see when they must be tended to.
I open the door.
“Hey, can I have some help in here? Just doing a postmortem.”
The nurses all stop and look up at me. Their heads are tilted down, their eyes are full of annoyance. One girl slowly walks over and pokes her head in through my door.
“Yeah, what do you need?”
“Just some help finishing making him look nice before he’s taken downstairs.”
“Um you know, like, no family can come visit right? You don’t need to bathe him, just put him in the bag. Anyone know where the fucking toe tags are? Fuck I guess I’ll go down to SICU and find one.”
The other nurses have not left the nurses station. They continue to dance and chatter.
“Did you see that fucking surgical resident? I’d fuck him two ways from Sunday. He has a wedding ring? Even better, give me a fucking challenge.”
What I am hearing and seeing apalls me. These are younger nurses, all in their early 20s. You would not see such behavior with older, seasoned nurses. But then, most older seasoned nurses are gone – having been pushed out by administration to non-bedside roles, or having left of their own accord due to frustration at the system or an injury sustained on the job. Nursing is dominated by inexperienced, entitled young women, who see the bedside as a mere stepping stone for a “real career” either in administration, education, or as a nurse practitioner.
To be sure, this is not all nurses. But this is the case in any given scenario – it is never all of anything, there are always exceptions. What I am noticing are general trends in the character and behavior of nurses, which happen to mirror the trends manifested in modern day women.
The downfall of the nursing profession parallels the downfall of woman herself. Feminism, from its origins with Wollstonecraft in the 19th century to its current monstrous manifestation, has wreaked havoc on the feminine spirit. No longer is femininity defined by her gentle character, her familial loyalty, her grace and temperance and patience. No longer is success defined as healthy relationships and a wholesome family, but by a briefcase, cheap heels, and an empty refrigerator. Don’t take it merely from my observation, listen to the words of Millenial women themselves, such as this quote from a New Zealand thirty-something:
“We like to live our lives as a certain type of glamorously stressed young woman who’s forever stepping out of Ubers clutching coffees and text-walking into meetings shaking out our blow-dry in a too-busy-to-deal-with-everyday-banality kinda way.”
If you read between the lines in the quote above, you know that this woman doesn’t really believe this. Women have been sold a lie – a poison masked as an antidote – and now they are beginning to show the symptoms. Having been promised liberation from domineering husbands, women now find themselves alone and defiled by too many sex partners to remember; having been promised liberation from the duties of the home (which feminist Betty Friedan likened to a “comfortable concentration camp”), women now find themselves in cheaply furnished apartments with plastic plants and a dining table set for one.
As with other “minorities,” women have had gushing praise and endless entitlements heaped upon them, simply for being a female (although even the word “female” is now without clear definition). They have been given numerous financial grants and special privileges, have been told “the future is female,” and have been given total domination over petty mid-level administrative posts that allows them to exercise their vindictive cattiness in a myriad of new ways. They are praised for mediocrity, and are greeted with “YAS QUEEN” for acts usually bitchy or cruel in manner.
Nursing, having been a female-dominated profession since time immemorial, was bound to suffer the consequences of feminism and liberal nihilism. With feminism equating gentleness and sweetness with weakness, women have lost the softness in their touch. Being a “bitch” is proclaimed with pride. “Girl power” is plastered on lunch boxes and given to our daughters. Bedside nursing – which refers to the actual nurses at the bedside providing patient care – is now looked upon as lowly work to be relegated to foreigners and “dumb girls” (another Betty Friedan jewel). In an article entitled The Image of Nursing: Not Good Enough for a Feminist? published in Nursing Times, author and nurse Sandy Summers recalls:
“In 2008 a lawyer we know explained that a friend’s preschool-age daughter had a serious problem. The poor girl wanted to be a nurse! The girl’s mother, who had a PhD and was married to a physician, was aghast. She told her daughter that she should do the “feminist” thing and be a physician.”
This disgraceful attitude permeates the world of nursing. I witness it everyday. Patients are turned roughly in the bed; their requests for a glass of water are met with audible huffs and eye rolls; their rooms are left cluttered with trash and food trays are left to rot on the bedside table. “I didn’t get a bachelor’s degree to wipe ass,” I once had a new nurse curtly explain to me. She had obtained a nursing degree at George Washington University to the tune of $160,000. She, like many other nurses, saw herself among the educated elite, with tasks like wiping drool and feces off a helpless patient falling beneath her.
This leads into my next point. Modern day “education” has also played a role in the destruction of both women and nurses. Anyone with an ounce of sense or the inclination to pay attention knows that the modern collegiate system is a racket. Young people are sold the lie that success is within reach only if one possesses a college degree. Endless new majors have popped up – from the ever-memed “feminist dance theory” to the vague “communications studies.” Federal-backed student loans and the explosion in the number of university bureaucrats have resulted in skyrocketing costs. Many women enter college and leave four years later saddled with a lifetime of debt, an inflated sense of self importance (now that they are among the “educated”), and a penchant for abusing alcohol and drugs. Their liberal arts degree, which they believed would open doors and dreams, now buys them an office job with a mediocre salary and two weeks vacation at a cheap resort in Florida.
Modern nursing has not escaped the bastardization of the education system. In the past, nurses were trained in a vocational setting, with the majority of their training taking place in the hospital. They shadowed nurses in the hospital, observed and learned from them. Nowadays, nursing education has been relegated to the classroom, being taught through an academic lens and focusing on topics such as “qualitative versus quantitative research” and the “impact of genetics on antimicrobial therapy.” Basic skills are no longer prioritized. You may think I’m exaggerating, but most graduate nurses have never started an IV on a real patient. They are not taught how to properly bathe patients, how to have patience when feeding them, how to create a calming and soothing environment. Most importantly, they are not taught bedside manner, and are thus completely unprepared for how to interact with the sick and their (sometimes difficult) families.
The TikTok nurse is a predictable outcome of modern liberalism. A serious profession cheapened. Women displaying themselves as whores. It is particularly damaging during the coronavirus, when trust is most needed in healthcare professionals. Not only have videos of nurses dancing on IV poles been circulated, but so have far crueler videos, including nurses making fun of suicidal patients and nurses making fun of a patient’s bowel incontinence. Humor is a valuable coping mechanism for stress – but it should never be expressed publicly, and never in the context of humiliation.
Nursing is an honorable profession, one in which a person humbly accepts the duty of putting another human’s life in her hands. It is not a soul-sucking corporate office job which leaves you feeling bored and unfilled, or a service-industry job that provides minimal economic stability. It is a job wherein you are allowed the opportunity to make a person feel better, to make them well again. You connect with patients and families during the worst times in their lives. You are there to see a man’s last breath on this earth. You are there to help him take his first steps after surgery. You are there to help persuade him to eat when he is feeling too depressed to take another bite. You are there to comfort him when he is all alone, because no visitors have come to sit with him.
To close with the words of Florence Nightingale herself:
“[The nurse] must have a respect for her own calling; she must be a sound, and close, and quick observer; and she must be a woman of delicate and decent feeling. Women should have the true nurse calling, the good of the sick first the second only the consideration of what is their ‘place’ to do – and that women who want for a housemaid to do this or the charwomen to do that, when the patient is suffering, have not the making of a nurse in them.” (Notes on Nursing, page 126)