A few months ago, a Facebook post that was all too real to me went viral. A nurse in Queensland, Caitlin Brassington, wrote about her frustrations when being disrespected as “just a nurse”.

Sadly, she is not the only one who has experienced this – as evidenced by the 27 000 likes and nearly 5000 shares the post has received with overwhelming comments agreeing with Brassington and telling their own similar experiences. I’ve even seen this myself in my own career as a registered nurse.

I myself as a nurse, in the past have had conversations with people in the ‘business world’, where you talk about work and what you do for a living, and you can hear the change in tone a conversation gets when they learn that you are a nurse. Or should I say, “just a nurse”.

There is a misconception that exists against nurses, mainly because of ignorance and lack of understanding over what we do. Which I honestly believe mainly comes from people that have never experienced serious ill health – a situation where the nurse is the one that’s constantly by your side.

Yes, we are not doctors, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t knowledgeable and that we aren’t playing a crucial role in the health-care system.

There’s a respect that doctors receive that is lacking for nurses. I’ve dealt with patients before where I have been asking for their consent for something, which was denied, and then a doctors come in, explains it to them, and the patient will happily oblige them when I was saying exactly the same thing as the doctor.

It’s rather disheartening to see that a whole career – especially one where you are caring for others in need, even potentially saving lives – can be disrespected and disregarded with a single word: “just”.

Public opinion aside, what also adds to the “just a nurse” narrative is the mentality of some within the profession itself. I’ve lost count the number of times that a nurse would subconsciously sell herself/himself short, downplay the hard work they have done simply by saying that they are “just a nurse”. Why do some people do this?

You’re not “just a nurse”.

People won’t understand until they have seen a nurse at work close hand. Unless you have seen a nurse at work, have seen the things we see, the problems we try to help fix, the long shifts and late nights, interrupted sleep and missed family occasions, without knowing all that, we won’t be anything more than “just a nurse”.

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