Nurses: the importance of the (relatively) powerless
In response to the first installment of Medicine Mensch, I've received two e-mails from doctors aggrieved at what they see is a slight upon nurses. Owing to their misreading of the article or the unclarity of my prose, they mistook the term "hierarchy" for a ranking of importance. According to such a reading, I would hold that medical students are more important [sic!] than nurses, who in turn are more important than cafeteria workers, transporters, and the like.
Of course, nothing could be further than the truth. The hierarchy in the article was meant to be (and, in fact, my impression is that most readers understood it as) an informal characterization of the power and control each profession is vouchsafed within the hospital's many labyrinths. My iimportance to patients' medical care is approximately nil compared to the hospital's lifeblood which flows through the veins of every nurse. But who's going to get paid more in the future, and who has more access, even at this early stage in his career, to the decision-making apparatus of the medical center? Me. There are fair and unfair aspects of this sociological fact, but representing a state of affairs in prose should not be taken as an endorsement.
To any nurses who might have read the article: if you did take offense, feel free to assume that I know absolutely nothing about medicine and am a snotnose short white coat bumbling along the wards. After all, that was the point.
Next article, a month from now: all about psychiatry. In a thousand words or less.