Just Say No to Nurse Angels

FullSizeRenderThe American Nurses Association has declared this National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2017) theme as “Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit” to accompany their designation of 2017 as “The Year of the Healthy Nurse.” To help nurses celebrate the week, a host of businesses are offering “freebies” to nurses, including 1,000 calorie cinnamon rolls. I have nothing against high-calorie baked goods, but to celebrate nurses I recommend books and inkpots. Books, as in real books by real nurses (my current favorites listed below). And inkpots? I explain that in the following excerpt from my upcoming commencement address to graduates of the Yale School of Nursing:

“Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about a topic I am passionate about: nursing. But not traditional nursing—not the Lady with the Lamp during the Crimean War—and not the white uniform-clad nursing angel of Hallmark moments. About that nurse angel, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf and her similarly stifling angel of the house: whenever you feel the shadow of her wings or the radiance of her halo, take up the inkpot or whatever modern equivalent is nearby and fling it at her. Because nurses are flesh and blood people. Nurses are not supernatural beings. We, as nurses, are human beings. Today, I want to talk to you about the real life transforming and transformational nursing of which you are all a part. I want to talk to you about radical nursing. And about the radical self-care it takes to be a radical nurse.”

I have always bristled at the mention of nurses as angels and included this pet peeve of mine in a previous blog post from January 10, 2016: “Sick Nurses.” So I was delighted to run across a poem, “Killing the Nurse in the House,” by nurse and poet Cortney Davis. I had the pleasure of reviewing her forthcoming collection of poems, Taking Care of Time (Michigan State University Press), which won their Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. This is the endorsement I wrote: “Searing and unsentimental, the poems of Cortney Davis serve as haunting and truth-telling companions. Whenever I am in need of inspiration or of reconnecting with compassion and with all it means to be human, I return to Davis’s ’stories tamed on the page.’ Although, as in her poem ‘The Snake Charmer,’ Davis knows her poems connect us with the wild, untamable places of our lives.” Taking Care of Time avoids the overly religious (to me) themes that have appeared in some of Davis’ recent writing. It will have a permanent place in my home library once it is published.

My current favorite “Real Books by Real Nurses” (and yes, I do include my own and yes, I do realize that this is not a very diverse group of authors and welcome suggestions of books I may not know about):




2 thoughts on “Just Say No to Nurse Angels

  1. Reblogged this on Marianna Crane: nursing stories and commented:
    I just spent the morning at a table in the cafeteria in the hospital where I volunteer. I had post-it notes and pens for the staff and visitors to jot down a note of appreciation to the nursing staff and place it on a large white board on the wall–a “Gratitude Wall”. We volunteers will continue to do this between 12 and 2 p.m. today, Monday, until Friday May 12th for Nurses Week. Nurses even wrote notes of appreciation for their colleagues. I especially enjoyed hearing the patients say how grateful they were for nurses and the care and attention nurses gave to them and/or their family.
    Since I retired from nursing, I generally ignored Nurses Week having experienced empty platitudes and silly gifts when I worked in the profession.. Seems things are changing as evidenced in my volunteer hospital and from the recent nursing blogs and articles written by nurses.
    I am reblogging Josephine Ensign’s post “Just Say No to Nurse Angels.” I agree with her sentiments and only wish my book was published and included in her list of real books by “real nurses.”


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