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October 19, 2016

She was called 'just a nurse'—again. But this time, she pushed back.

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Feb. 25, 2020.

Caitlin Brassington's response to being called "just a nurse" has sparked a global conversation about the value of the profession, ABC News reports.

How to engage your nurses—and make them feel valued

'Just a nurse'

Earlier this month, Brassington—who lives in Toowoomba, Australia—ran into an acquaintance in a grocery store after working a busy shift, as she described in a Facebook post that has received more than 22,000 likes.

The acquaintance apparently had never seen Brassington in her scrubs and said she didn't realize Brassington was "just a nurse."

"Over my 18-year career I have heard this phrase many, many time[s], but today it got to me," Brassington wrote on Oct. 7. "Am I just a nurse?"

Brassington then cited several examples of her responsibilities that show how important a nurse's role is.

"I have helped babies into the world, many of whom needed assistance to take their first breath, and yet I am just a nurse," she wrote. "I have held patients' hands and ensured their dignity while they take their last breath, and yet I am just a nurse. I have counseled grieving parents after the loss of a child, and yet I am just a nurse."

"I am the medical officer's eyes, ears, and hands with the ability to assess, treat, and manage your illness, and yet I am just a nurse," she continued.

She concluded that "if I am just a nurse, then I am ridiculously proud to be one!"

Global response

Brassington told ABC News that she wrote her post on behalf of nurses around the world. "It has started a worldwide conversation about how we value and respect certain service industries within communities," she said. "I think this conversation is long overdue."

Some nurses have commented on the post to share their own stories, while others thanked nurses who have cared for them in the past.

One commenter wrote, "I have had a number of 'just nurses' hold my hand when I was getting patched up, or hug me when my dad was ill, or sit with me when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, or guide me when my daughter would not feed. Thank you, just nurses, some may not appreciate you, but I do."

Homayoon Sanati, a medical oncologist and medical director of the MemorialCare Breast Center at the Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California, said nurses "do a lot of the work that is often unrecognized," such as taking a patient's vitals or starting IV treatment. "They're a very, very important part of the care," he said.

Similarly, Brassington told ABC News that nurses' roles have changed significantly in the last several decades, "particularly with advances in technology and advanced training," but that many people don't realize it. "I think more than ever nurses now have a partnership with doctors and are a vital component of the health care teams," she added (McKenzie, ABC News, 10/16; Armstrong, Courier-Mail, 10/13; Boult, The Telegraph, 10/12; Miller, SELF, 10/11).

How to engage your nurses—and make them feel valued

The National Prescription for Nurse Engagement

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