By Sara Ahronheim
To the team at Global TV,
Relaxing on the couch with my family snoring in their beds, watching some TV to calm my mind before leaving for a busy night shift in my Emergency Department, I was shocked to find myself watching an advertisement that insulted me, my hardworking colleagues, and my profession.
A “teaser trailer” for an upcoming show called “Nurses” on Global TV, is shameful. The idea behind the show is admirable; nurses absolutely do not get enough recognition from society for the work they do and the sacrifices they make. I have no problem with the concept of the show, in fact I am glad to see a show like this presenting nurses in the role of everyday hero.
The issue at hand is the trailer. It opens with a group of gorgeous men and women, diverse, with perfectly styled hair and makeup, and beautifully pressed scrubs of all colours, strutting forward to the lyrics “beautiful people…”. It continues with large, boldfaced words:
“No country clubs. No fancy cars. No limelight. No egos. They Are Not Doctors.”
Wow. How terrible could you make us out to be? As if society and the media don’t already paint physicians in this light. Let me tell you, the majority of doctors are not at all country club members, fancy car drivers, limelight seekers or egotistical people. Yes, there are certainly some within this profession who display some of these characteristics – but I promise you that there are nurses and many other professionals who do so as well. Most of us doctors (I would say almost all) came into this field to help people. That is the aim of our lives: to make others’ lives better. Heal the sick. Take away pain. We didn’t become doctors to drive a Lexus or seek out fame and fortune. We do what we do every day because we care.
Why would Global and the producers of a show about my exceptional colleagues, nurses, feel the need to throw physicians under the bus in order to garner attention? The claims made in this trailer are libelous and divisive. There is no need to smear the reputation of doctors as a whole, and feed into society’s unfounded fear of physicians. Doctors, nurses and the entire health care team work together to treat patients. We do not work against each other. Our teamwork should be celebrated.
Let me tell you about a normal day in the life of a hardworking physician mother, so that you can better understand how contrary this is to the image portrayed in the trailer:
Sunday evening, dinner, bath and bed but the kids don’t want to sleep until somewhere after 10 pm. She falls into bed around midnight after preparing for the next day’s work. That night, a few hours later, which is Monday morning, somewhere around 3 AM: the preschooler is calling from his bed. He joins his parents in bed and three hours later they wake at 6 AM. Rousing the older one, they rush through breakfast, last minute studying for a test, lunchbox prep and they fly out the door in the predawn dark by 7:20 AM. She drops the kids at school and daycare, and speeds to work to arrive at 8 AM for her shift that begins exactly then. Throwing on her scrubs she joins the emergency department team for a full day of saving lives, balancing dozens of patients both old and new, advocating for testing and discussing with consultant colleagues to come and evaluate her patients. In between CPR on a young father whom they revived, caring for an elderly cancer patient who subsequently passed away with her family by her side and without suffering thanks to the medications prescribed, reducing a dislocated hip in another patient, teaching medical students and residents, and keeping a full department afloat and moving, there is barely a moment to sit.
In the Emergency Department in particular, members of the team from orderlies to unit agents to nurses, are able to take long breaks multiple times a day. Physicians work the whole shift through; often she goes to the washroom only once in a twelve hour time span. She eats on the fly; a bite here or there but often skipping breakfast and eating lunch in various bites after 3 PM. She works from 8 AM to 6:30 PM and finally, exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally, she drives home in the dark. Taking five minutes to cry off the sadness of the day, she sits in the car in her driveway while the children wait expectantly inside, wondering when she’ll show up. Finally she wipes the tears away, puts on a happy face and heads inside to see the kids and spouse. They do it all over again; the dinner/bath/homework/bed routine, and she falls into bed around midnight again with barely a moment to decompress from what she did all day long. And the cycle repeats itself again.
The rousing majority of doctors I know, work similarly long and busy days. We work evenings, we work nights, we work weekends. When many of our friends and family are tucking their kids into bed, we are leaving our children’s sides. When most of the world is sleeping quietly under starry skies, we are driving into work. When our children are sick at home with fever and any one of a variety of little kid sicknesses, crying for mommy and daddy, we are abandoning them to their misery and going to care for the children, parents and grandparents of strangers. We do this, and so do our nurses.
I did not choose my field of work to make money, to find fame, to stroke my ego. I chose medicine because I truly care about people. I honestly want to make your mother feel better when she comes in vomiting at 2 AM. I vehemently want to chase disease from the door when your teenager shows up with meningitis, trying to die on my table. I pray for help from above as I resuscitate your three year old who choked on a quarter. I cry in the washroom during my one pee break on my night shift because I lost you when you were rushed to our door in cardiac arrest. I beg forgiveness from the souls I cannot help though I tried my hardest. I do not then drive home in a Ferrari and drink champagne with my country club friends. I rush home, spill hot tears quietly in the shower after taking care of all the others in my life, and try my hardest to take care of myself in stolen moments.
So please, do all of us a favour and remove this disgusting trailer from its’ TV and online presence. There is no need to vilify the physician, no justification for insulting an entire profession of people who do our best every day to care for you and your loved ones, often at the expense of our own little worlds. We work together with nurses, allied healthcare workers and the rest of our teams, and we deserve just as much respect.
Sara Ahronheim, BScH, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC, MOT Social Media and Communications Representative, Canadian Women in Medicine Attending Emergency Physician, Montreal, Quebec