This Is What Nurse Power Looks Like

Kelley Johnson may have taken third place in the Miss America contest but she will always be #1 with the nurses.

The comments made earlier this week on the View about the Miss America contestant, Kelley Johnson, continue to spur nurses to remark in social media. The hashtags #NursesUnite , #JustANurse and the Facebook page  #NurssesShareYourStethescopes are swarming with spirit and support for nurse power.

As The Nurses’ Nurse, I have spent years promoting the power of nurses in society. I am so grateful to Kelley Johnson who competed in the talent section of the Miss America Contest as a nurse. She recited a story based on the poem, Just A Nurse.  Her short speech, about being a nurse who gave dignity back to a man with Alzheimer’s disease was great.

Rather than appearing as just another female entertainer in a flowing gown and a push-up bra, Kelley dressed in scrubs and a stethoscope, to prove that the beauty of a woman should be judged from the inside out.

It took over 500 pages of my book, Labor Pains, to say what Kelley said in less than three minutes. Patients don’t cry out for the doctor to save them, they call for the nurse. It takes all the arts and sciences together at the bedside to give compassionate care. If that’s not a special talent I don’t know what is.

A Hospital without Nurses is like a World without Water

It is sad that the View, which should portray powerful women, presented themselves as a group of hens pecking at the integrity of a nurse for a few cackles. This type of catty behavior is at the  core of what makes it so hard for nurses to break out of the social stereotyping that has portrayed us as sex objects who are incapable of being both feminine and smart.

Kelley Johnson may have taken third place in the Miss America contest but she will always be #1 with the nurses. Never underestimate the power of a nurse.

Good Friday

As a nurse I’ve had to follow a higher law. Sometimes I had to do what was right instead of what was easy. There were times that I had to stand up to ridicule and berating from my supervisor because I disagreed with the staffing of our department.  I can’t help but wonder how it might be, if more nurses took a Garden in Gethsemane moment and surrendered to a crown of thrones rather than compromise safe patient care.

Care for the Caregivers


When it comes to writing down our own truths we’d rather put a needle in our eye. At least that’s what I’ve seen when nurses spend their day collecting, recording, gathering, or charting data but, can’t be bothered filling out a report that accounts for our own needs. 

We’re great at helping others figure out where it hurts but when it comes to our own pain we shy away from telling our own truths about what’s wrong with our profession. Over and over when I ask nurses to report missed meals, bullying, or safety issues, they say: “But nothing ever changes,” or “That’s the way it’s always been.”

Yet as scientists, we know that everything is in a constant flux of change. Transformation takes time and effort. It needs guided action or change tends to lean towards disorder.

It’s a matter of whether you want to be accountable for creating the change you’d like to see or if you’d prefer to float aimlessly down the river allowing change to take you where it will. Everything that happens is the result of past, present, and future choices, and believe it or not choosing to do nothing is still a choice.

Some things seem to take forever. It took ten years to get staffing ratios instituted in California and that was after the law was passed! Like watching grass grow, the process of change can be incredibly tedious. Today we reap the benefits, as nurses flock to California from all over the country because they want what we have: mandated rules that demand safety for our patients.

I know it’s hard after a long day of pumps beeping, call lights buzzing and multiple admissions to write down the issues that challenged your ability to give safe patient care; but, if you don’t document, it didn’t happen. Patient safety depends on Nightingale’s proven worth of data collection. Otherwise nothing changes if nothing changes and hospitals will continue with the status quo unless we as nurses direct our practice to take care of ourselves as well as our patients.

How much trouble is it is it to give voice to what’s bothering you?  Your truth is the most valuable tool you have to affect and maintain positive changes. Whether you have an issue with unsafe assignments, missed meal breaks, or bullying: please tell me your story or ask a question that concerns your clinical practice.

One truth in nursing I’m happy still remains the same, is that nurses want to be proud of the care we give our patients. We want to ease the suffering of hurt and heed the call of a higher law. Together we can make a difference.

The Nurses Nurse