Sticks and Stones…

June 26th, 2007  |  Penlight

There’s something to be said for the anonymity of the internet. I found, when I first started blogging, that being anonymous helped me find my voice without worrying about anyone’s preconceptions of who I was. I also know, from experience that I’m not proud of, that it is so easy to flame someone when they don’t know who you are. So it disturbs me when I see blogs that are cynical or derogatory of patients, coworkers or each other.

In my first posts, I vented frequently about my job, my coworkers, and the families I dealt with. I didn’t hesitate to be flippant. I thought, at best, my blog would be read by a small group of transplant professionals. Soon enough, I found out that a large segment of my reading population was made up of 1. Recipient families and 2. The general public. Maybe it’s the nature of organ donation that made me change — people who get a bad impression of donation don’t donate. Given the ever increasing waiting list, if one donor can save eight lives, then one “no consent” can mean eight deaths. That can be harder to quantify if you work in the ER. I mean, people don’t stop coming in because they’re offended at something they saw on Grey’s Anatomy.

Believe me when I tell you I have made my fair share of jokes about gomers, gorks and patients who are conveniently allergic to every non-narcotic pain killer on the market. It’s part of the reason I left, actually. I didn’t want to be one of those the-next-time-you-try-and-kill-yourself-get-it-right nurses. You know, when you’ve seen it all, there’s nothing left to learn. It certainly is never too late to change your point of view. As Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at something, the thing you look at changes.”

So how much “bile”, if you will, is ok? It’s easy to say, “Hey, it’s my blog, I’m going to vent and I’m not going to be politically correct about it. If someone gets offended, too bad.” That’s fine. If you go on the internet, you should take what you find with a grain of salt. Caveat Emptor. However, there is something to be said for the fact that we are medical professionals. I ran into this blog, The Thinking Mother, and read her concerns after reading a nurse’s blog and the issue of confidentiality. That’s just one person. But a recently released study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project show that 40% of Americans have used the internet while coping with a major illness.

Here’s my other beef: what happened to dialogue? It’s seems lately, and not just on medical blogs, that we’ve gotten into a habit of “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality. In some respects, you can’t even blame internet invisibility on this — just watch any presidential debate. The difference between venting and discussing can be the difference between using the internet as a bedpan or a colonoscopy. Like the scatological reference? It’s intentional. Fortunately, I don’t see these flame wars on the medical websites like I do in other parts of the blogosphere. Really, though, I think we should remember that the general public does pay attention to what we, as nurses and doctors, say and how we say it.

Susan McNicholas
About Susan McNicholas
I graduated Brookdale Community College in December, 1996. Most of my nursing experience has been in the emergency room, but I've also done stints in the OR and PICU. For the last 3 years I've worked as a transplant coordinator for an organ procurement organization. These experiences I share in my blog at Donor Cycle. I also live with my amazing husband, my teenage daughter and my new baby girl. Along with a smelly dog, various cats and too many fish they make up the rest of my life.

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