Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Are Funny Memes Damaging to the Profession of Nursing?

I'm incredibly proud to be a nurse. Being a nurse has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Not long ago I was attending to a patient and she asked me if I liked my job. I answered her with a fervent 'yes!' and told her that my job challenges me every day and that I get to meet the most amazing people. I told her that I can't imagine doing any other job.

She very honestly opened up to me and told me that after seeing what nurses post on Facebook, it seemed like we hated our patients. I was a bit speechless but assured her that I love my patients and think of them often even while not at work. She further admitted that she has avoided going to the hospital in the past because she didn't want to be cared for by a nurse that didn't like her job or her patients. I was horrified that someone that may have seriously been in need of medical care did not seek it because of my fellow nurses' social media posts.

Her frank confession changed the way that I viewed my colleagues posting of humorous(and often rude)memes on social media. I know that nursing is a very stressful job and that those in medicine often compensate for the stress by coping with humor that can be very inappropriate. Break rooms at hospitals are full of jokes that would surely be deemed unacceptable on the floor where our patients can hear them.  Social media, however, is an entirely different beast. The jokes and memes put out by medical professionals do not only come before those inside medicine, they are seen by everyone on your friends list.

So, I'm asking with honesty-- are these jokes and memes harming the profession of nursing, a profession often regarded in the past as the most honest of all professions? I fear that it is.

I follow a blogger that happens to be a physician and he recently shared a meme from a nursing blog's social media feed. It was relatively harmless, but indirectly inferred that nurses may not care about their patients. The comments on the meme ranged from nurses mocking their patients to non-nurses commenting that it seemed like nurses no longer care.

I felt sick. I care every, single day. My co-workers care every, single day. I work for a non-profit and make a very low wage and bust my ass every hour of every shift and often work unpaid hours so that I can finish my charting and communicate with other agencies working with my patients. I think of my patients often in my non-working hours and am often brainstorming ways to help make their lives better. I know that I'm not alone. The vast majority of nurses care so very, very much for our patients even when we become jaded and are exhausted physically and emotionally.

I've shared some memes here that my nurse friends have shared on their public social media feeds. I admit that I shared the more mild memes because the more offensive messages made my stomach hurt. We're publicly implying with each of these memes and messages that our patient's pain isn't real, that our patients are stupid and that we don't really want to care for them. 

I know that I'm going to be lambasted by the jaded nurses who will accuse me of not having a sense of humor. That's fine. I can deal with that. I do understand how years on the job can jade you and how humor can get you through the toughest day. I actually happen to have a wicked sense of humor and a raging potty mouth. However, there is a time and place for everything. 

I can't help but think about the most vulnerable of patients out there. Those who already have a fear of hospitals. Those are are sick but are afraid of being shamed for their weight, or drug use, or lifestyle. Those who have already had a poor experience with medicine of whatever kind. 

Is there a chance that these posts may increase their fear so that they may not seek out help? 

Is there a chance that patients may not trust their nurses during their hospitalization? 

I believe there is a strong chance of that happening for some patients, even if the number is small. And, if that is so, isn't that enough reason for us to stop publicly posting memes that make our patients feel shamed, even in the smallest way? 

I promise you that I will do my best to think in the future before I make a public post, both about what the post may make others feel about my beloved profession and how it may impact the psyche of a future patient. My profession deserves such a pause of thought, as do my patients. 


  1. I don't think you could be a nurse and not love your patients!! As a retired dentist, it's the same thing. But the fact is, we deal with people, and some people are.....interesting! You may love them but they have their quirks, and it's only human nature to have humor about those quirks (or complain about them...ha ha)
    Good for you for standing up for nurses!! We need them more and more---especially as we get older!

  2. I have addressed the same struggle again and again with the retail profession. The negative meme, though sometimes hilarious alter our minds both within the profession and without to negative outlooks on our attitude towards our customers. Why can't it be as viral to laugh about how much we love our job. This is my entire purpose of starting my blog, showing there can be retail positivity. We don't all hate our job and our customers, despite what you would think from the thousands of daily social media posts.

  3. I think of the meme as a way to let off steam. Reading this I realize I should think of the more long range effects...

  4. You make good points here. I think it's a form of black humour similar to what was joked about in my profession of custodial corrections. We could laugh st things that others would cringe at, we learnt to keep it in-house. Nicely written!!

  5. I have never considered this before. I'm amazed that people take memes seriously. To avoid a hospital because a nurse just happened to post a meme on their wall says something about that patient rather than the nurse.

  6. i completely understand your concern. I think it's the same issue with teachers. Like everyone here has said, humor helps you get through the stress of the dealing with the more "challenging," but it's best patient/students/customers/parents, but it's best kept in-house when it's too edgy. We do harm to our professions and hurt those we really are committed to serving. Great, thoughtful post, as always!

  7. Teachers have some memes too that can cross the line and I feel bad. On the other hand, some are spot on and hilarious. Fine balance! Nurses are amazing!!!

  8. Maybe these memes are a form of stress relief. Nurses are so valuable, but as a daughter of a nurse, I know how hard their job is. Nurses ROCK!!!

  9. My family is full of Nurses, EMT's and Firefighters. I know how hard all of them work and I also know how much all of them care. Why else stay in a profession that has you working every day of the year, even major holidays? Why else go out in a blizzard when everyone else gets to stay home? And dark or gallows humor is sometimes the way that we all need to cope, why not people in the medical profession? But I can understand what you are talking about here and will share this post with my family.

  10. Personally, I think that people can make jokes about their job and still like it. I have one of those mocking, sarcastic senses of humour though. However, many people do not find that sort of thing funny, so I do think that it is probably safer for people in certain professions to avoid jokes, complaints and too much detail about their jobs on social media, yes. It's a complicated area, though. I kind of think that probably the way to look at it is, as a nurse or a teacher, etc, if it is something that you would think twice about saying to patients', pupils', parents', etc faces, or putting in a letter or having in a newspaper article that they would see, then you should probably think twice about putting it on social media too.

  11. Not in the medical field but I have had multiple surgeries and cancer 3 times and I think it depends on the hospital "system" youre in. My own experiences have been great (Middlesex Hospital in Middletown CT.) From Docs. on down to the person that cleans the room each day were great, happy, always greeting me if I was awake, checking to see if I need water filled ect. Other hospitals in the state I've visited people in, have been less than adequate. Dirty patient rooms, dirty hallways, nasty inattentive staff, nurses that don't come around unless called and even then only after 20+ minutes of waiting. I have even called the hospital the next day to complain about cleanliness of the room and nurse attitudes. So I'm not surprised at the nurses posting stories about patients but I think it's just the ones that are fed up with the life that do this.

  12. Very nice article and I never thought of it from your point of view. In other news, I know of a nurse that one time posted a clip of a young Travolta swinging his "junk" on camera.

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  15. I am agree with you , i am also proud as a nurse. It is a great opportunity to help people. I always try my best . As a nurse I need best capstone project ideas. I think. You are right person who help me. Thanks for share this post.

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  17. Memes are actually concepts in a form of links, images, phrase, fashion, sites or videos which is spread through the internet. funny memes