Miss Colorado Reminds America That Nursing Is A Talent
Sep 16, 2015

There has been a lot of social media attention given to a monologue that was delivered by a nurse in the Miss American pageant earlier this week.  Nurse Kelley Johnson, who also happened to be a contestant in the pageant representing the state of Colorado, took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight the importance of nurses in our society during the talent portion of the program.

While there have been plenty of critiques of her monologue, what I found most compelling about the monologue was what she said, not how she said it or what she was wearing when she said it. 

Yes, her story was simple, but it was also very powerful and emotional. 

Miss Colorado began the monologue by recounting her conversations with one particular Alzheimer’s patient.  She explained the apologies she would make to him for being “just a nurse,” and not being authorized to accommodate certain requests, such as a change in medications.  As the story unfolds, we discover that this particular patient, Joe, helped Kelley to realize that she was so much more than “just a nurse”.  Joe may have had Alzheimer’s but he appreciated the fact that Kelley not only cared for his physical needs as a patient, but that she also respected him as a person who deserved to be treated with  respect and dignity, even if he happened to be dealing with “just a disease” known as Alzheimer’s.

As I’ve been witnessing the outpouring of support and acknowledgement for nurses all over social media the past two days, I want to add my applause for nurses everywhere.  I also want to bring attention to the  extremely difficult and diverse work that nurses do in support of immunization and public health.

In the immunization world, nurses are the critical link to disease prevention. Not only are they the most common administrators of vaccines, but some studies indicate that they’re also the most effective at administering vaccinations when compared to physicians or other non-physician personnel like pharmacists. This puts them in the perfect position to also be critical in delivering important immunization messages.

“Because nurses are often the ones administering vaccines, it makes their expertise, knowledge, and advice vital in creating a safe and trusted environment for discussing childhood immunizations,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “How you communicate with parents during routine pediatric visits is critical for fostering parental confidence in the decision to vaccinate their children.”

When it comes to addressing vaccination fears, nurses are in a unique position to refute myths and other misinformation.  They are able to show respect for varying opinions, while guiding patients who are leery about vaccinations toward evidenced-based data.  I’ve heard plenty of nurses comforting worried parents, reminding them that side effects are extremely rare, explaining that there’s no causal link between vaccines and autism, and warning them that in the absence of vaccination patients would have to worry about contracting very dangerous diseases.

Over the years, programs like Bringing Immunity to Every Community, that have been supported by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and Every Child BY Two, have helped to maximize the nurse’s role in immunization by increasing nurses’ knowledge and competency in immunization.  Various online resources offer practical knowledge on vaccines, continuing education credits, and enhance communication skills so nurses are prepared to answer difficult questions about vaccines.

Nurse are also comfort those who suffer from vaccine preventable diseases.  We are constantly hearing from nurses on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page who recall the anguish they experience when caring for patients who have had to suffer or die as a result of preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough, influenza or meningitis.

Nurses are also protecting our communities by being vaccinated themselves.  For instance, while the CDC urges all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against influenza, voluntary participation in immunization programs are encouraged by organizations like Nurses Who Vaccinate.  The importance of healthcare worker vaccination status has been well-studied and is well supported.  In fact, an article in Healthcare Traveler  references a study presented at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology’s 41st Annual Conference which revealed that for every 15 healthcare workers who are vaccinated, one less community member will fall ill with influenza-like illness.  This is why ANA President Rebecca Patton continues to encourage vaccination among her colleagues, saying,

“As nurses, we have an ethical obligation to protect ourselves, our patients, and our families from illness. Vaccination is one simple step we can take to do that.”

Today we stand with Melody Butler, founder of Nurses Who Vaccinate who posted the following message on social media:


“Contrary to what Joy Behar said on The View #NursingIsATalent. Nurses are the unsung heroes of health and her recent comments are a reminder of the disrespect & disregard #nurses face. Nurses are not just talented, they are multi-talented. They are advocates, protectors, mediators, carers, multi-taskers, professionals, communicators, managers and teachers. #Nurses are updating their skills and knowledge on a continuous basis and strive to protect patients and communities. Ms. Colorado and the nursing community deserve an apology from Mrs. Joy Behar. Perhaps it’s time for The View to devote an episode to educating its hosts and viewers on the many talents nurses have. #nursingschool #nursesrock #stethoscopesareforNURSEStoo #nursesunite

Nursing is not only a talent, but a demanding career that deserves a great deal of appreciation from us all.  So let’s hear from all the nurses out there.  Tell us what you do every day and why you do it.  Tell us how difficult it is and also how rewarding it can be.  Tell us your vaccination success stories and your horrible experiences with vaccine preventable diseases.  Tell us that you will continue to be there to help educate your patients on the value of vaccines.

And in return, let us thank you for all you do!

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