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by Peter Moskos

November 10, 2008

Cops and Nurses

I'm not the first to point out that cops and nurses have a lot in common. This is from a nurse/midwife:

I was reading your book today on the train and thinking about cops and nurses. I was a one-woman nurse academy for the last year and it's such a maddening process. I had to teach new nurses:

1) the rules of a system;

2) that nurses don't always follow the rules, they do it another way, but please know the rules; and finally—if the nurses can handle such cognitive dissonance and it doesn't utterly disillusion them:

3) that the system is misguided and broken, and the informal way nurses do it doesn't really benefit laboring women or respect birth either. And that just about everything in the labor room goes against evidence-based practice.

I feel some success when the new nurses start talking about home birth. It's the only sane response to learning about hospital birth at **** (or most NYC hospitals). But then after orientation the nurses have to go out and do the hospital job anyway, which means being asked to fit all patients into the same tight, wrong mold.

I am about halfway through the book. It sounds like nurses have a similar response to cops. There is a lot of dehumanizing of patients, and gallows humor, and gory details over drinks. They get very good at writing reports (documenting in the chart) that fit a certain picture even if not really accurate.

To an extent, nurses have a sisterhood and look out for each other, but there is also quite a bit of undermining and backstabbing (women culture vs men?). And yet it is amazing how often the nurses can still be kind and creative and still see the screaming bleeding whining person in front of them as an individual human needing support.


dave h said...

Very interesting post. As a healthcare security officer, I have had my ups and downs with my co-workers in the nursing profession. Sometimes there are differences over legal issues (such as when we can legally hold a person for medical reasons). A relative few actually seem to look down on us since we are a bit lower on the pay scale and we aren't "medical professionals." This doesn't stop them from calling me to put my body on the line for them if needed.

Generally, most of these ladies and gentlemen do excellent work in a less than ideal system (like the police). They put up with terrible verbal (and sometimes physical)abuse from those they are trying to help (like the police). In spite of the differences of opinion I have with our nurses, there is a definite kinship. Together we endure emotional trauma that most people could not deal with. Together we soldier on in the hopes that someday, someone will listen to those of us on the frontlines and make changes to healthcare that will relieve some of the pressure. Thanks to all of the nurses out there. I know you'd be there if I needed you, and I hope you feel the same way about those of us in public safey.

PCM said...

well said.

Anonymous said...

I am a police sergeant in a segregated violent Midwest city. There is both a kinship and a rare conflict between police officers and nurses. I find the rare conflicts to be predominently personality conflicts which are not due to the professions we serve but the people performing them. We both service the community during times of high emotional, physical, and spiritual stress and are required to perform at times when everyone else is unable. Because we live in a culture which highly values personal responsibility and independence and we service those who may temporarily be unable to exercise these attributes our efforts and sacrifices often go unappreciated. We are there when the sh!t hits the fan. I want to thank all my brothers and sisters who serve our communities daily. The world is a better place because you make it so.