Tools of the Trade, by Lori Campbell, RN

If Michelle Collins and Joy Behar of The View have learned anything in the last two days, I hope it’s that their flippant comments were misinformed and hurtful – not to mention targeted to a group of professionals who have committed their lives, passion, knowledge and skills to caring for people just like them.

If you haven’t seen it yet, these two hostesses of The View were commenting on Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson’s monologue in the talent portion of the Miss America contest. Kelley spoke from the heart and shared how the care she provided to one patient in particular stayed with her. She remarks that “Every nurse has that patient that reminds them why they became a nurse…” and she’s right. Over the last two days nurses have taken to social media to share, reminisce and reflect on our work because we have such deep understanding of the passion that Kelley speaks with. A passion she has stirred anew within each of us.

Collins and Behar have obviously never been under a nurses’ care, and they should be grateful for this. But I’m disappointed that they believe our profession is something to mock. Furthermore, Behar actually had the audacity to ask “Why does she have a Doctor’s stethoscope?”

Now, the cynical sardonic side of me would quip that Kelley’s stethoscope hasn’t yet become a doctor’s stethoscope, because a resident hasn’t yet lifted it unknowingly from the ward. But the more serious side of me fumes with the insinuation that a nurse would not need to use what we all view as a basic tool of patient care.

The first week of nursing school there are a few notable purchases in a nurses’ life. Among the giant pile of books like Anatomy & Physiology, Psychology, Pathophysiology, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology – one of the most exciting purchases is a stethoscope. This is a tool that nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, technologists and many others use every day to hear deep within our patients and perform repeated assessments of their condition. With a stethoscope a nurse listens to a fetal heartrate to hear if the rate is slowing as the mother’s uterus is contracting, to hear the progress of a resolving pneumonia, to listen for the effect of a cardiac medication that we need to assess whether to give or hold, to perform blood pressure readings that tell us if we need to administer fluids or intervene in cases of high blood pressure.

There are three basic tools in nursing practice - our brain, a caring heart and a stethoscope. It seems Behar and Collins are unfamiliar with all three.


Lori completed her BScN at McMaster University and started her career at VCH in 2005. She has had positions in surgical care, intensive care, harm reduction, and on Vancouver’s downtown east side. As a direct care nurse dealing with patients from every part of Vancouver’s complex social and ethnic structure, Lori has gained a passion for promoting strong, evidence-informed nursing practice.

Currently working to support direct care clinicians in the Vancouver Professional Practice department as Practice Initiatives Lead, Lori has an excellent vantage point to promote best practice, innovation and integration of technology within nursing practice. A strong team player, she is actively involved with interdisciplinary groups at VCH. In addition to working full-time Lori is also pursuing an MSN at UBC and maintains a strong presence on social media as @NurseNerdy.




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Patrick Chiu

Excellent response Lori. Couldn't agree more. Unfortunately this is just an example of how a lack of understanding of what nurses do, combined with the constant stereotyping of nurses through media has been damaging to the profession. "The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know, the less you know, the more you think you know." As nurses we have the opportunity to educate and challenge those who 'think they know', so that nurses get the respect they deserve.

Lori Campbell

Thanks Patrick! I agree - a big part of what we do is advocate and educate so I'm glad that we are taking those opportunities!

Melinda Cronk

Dearest Joy Behar,
I am a Registered Nurse...you know, just a nurse. I work oncall 5p-8a , 123 hours in a week. I work 7 on and 7 off.
My one piece of equipment that is vital to my job is that, you know, doctors stethoscope. You see Joy, I am a hospice nurse. I am the one in the middle of the night conducting visits on my hospice patients as they lay dying of some awful, devastating disease surrounded by their family and loved ones.

While you sleep away in your million dollar home with no cares on the world.....I am out all hours of the night keeping my patidnts comfortable, adjusting morphine dosages, administering ativan to my anxiety riddled patients dying of devastating lung diseases, and simply sitting next to my alzheimer patient, holding his hand and repeating the same answers over and over and reassuring him he is safe.
That doctors stethoscope I use tells me when my patient has started the active phases of dying by the sound of their heart and lungs. That doctors stethoscope is what I use when I have to check bowel sounds because my patient with ovarian cancer now has a bowel obstruction. That doctors stethoscope I use will tell me when my Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patient needs another breathing treatment because there is no airway exchange and they feel like they are suffocating !

And to the most important part of my job; that doctors stethoscope. ..yea, that one,....the one I carry around my neck that I OWN....I use to listen to an absent heartbeat only to look up at family members and loved ones and tell them how sorry I am that their loved one has just died. That stethoscope I use is used to pronounce death in my job everyday. It is a constant reminder to me how fragile life can be, how important our family and loved ones are to us; my stethoscope is not just a stethoscope. It's my life. It represents who I am to me, my family, and to my dying patients that I bring love, comfort, and a little bit of hope for just the moments in time I spend with them.
My stethoscope has seen more deaths than Joy Behar has done interviews.
So, at that 3:00am phone call I get from family saying "I think he's gone. He's not breathing"...I grab my stethoscope, drive to my patient's house, gently place my stethoscope on their lifeless and still chest, listen to an absent heart no longer beating, and look in the faces of his loved ones and tell them I am sorry as their tears fall....and my tears hit my weathered, old pink stethoscope as I, yet again, pronounce another patient.

No, it's not a doctor's stethoscope. It's my stethoscope; my life; the lifeline to my patients and their loved ones.

Lori Campbell

Palliative and hospice care is an area where the completeness and unique skills of a nurse have a deep and meaningful impact on the patient and family, so thank you for sharing those experiences.

Julia Baratto, RN

Initially, I enjoyed witnessing nurses from around North America posting photos of themselves with their stethoscopes and providing captions of what they use them for. Some even wrote thoughtful open letters aimed to educate the public about the full scope of nursing. Other professions joined in as well and I was pleased to see physicians posting comments about how they’re the ones frequently borrowing our stethoscopes. I even enjoyed some of the humorous memes. Then it went too far.
People went from using the opportunity to educate the public to publicly ridiculing the moderators of the show. I read numerous comments stating something along the lines of “I hope they don’t need a nurse anytime soon” because they had upset the wrong profession. What sort of message does that send to the public? I even noted some profanity. Facebook groups started emerging to support boycotting The View in the name of nursing. We went from self-advocacy to angry mob in a matter of a few days. Sadly, these sort of actions and comments do not represent nursing values. We do not withhold care because someone has offended us. We do not respond to a lack of education with ridicule. We do not threaten. Why are we sending out messages that nurses have been angered or the wrong beast has been poked? With our professional reputation on the line, I believe it is up to all of us to maintain our nursing values when we respond and interact on social media. We need to think about the message we send on the behalf of our profession. Clearly our voice can be heard loud and clear, so we need to think about what we want to say with it.
While I do believe it is good to respond to opportunities to educate the public about what we do, I wonder why we do not use the same gusto to talk about health. Where was the social media outcry when the health accord expired? Where is the spontaneous media campaign about poverty, Indigenous health, seniors care or lack of pharmacare? It seems there are endless health issues that we could be getting enraged about on social media. Our outcry about an uneducated comment quickly resulted in an apology from The View moderators, so I feel it is safe to assume a similar outcry on any health issue would get noticed as well.

Lori Campbell

Julia - since we met I've been so floored with your ability to put your finger right on an issue and speak it. You're right. Being mean, biting, disrespectful, and threatening is counterproductive to the message that we are trying to send and who we are as a profession!
i've been really glad to see so many nurses uniting for a message and a cause, and I'm hopeful that we can translate that passion into bigger issues that face healthcare and not just slip back to the sidelines.

Teresa McF

Thank you for your post. It brings forward a strong point that much of the general public is unaware of what nurses do on a day to day or night to night basis. Until people are in direct contact with needing a nurse (acute or chronic care, ) much of what we do goes unnoticed. I am OK with that.

I work on a busy oncology and a hospice unit. I am OK with holding the hands of a dying patient, comforting with a hug when the news of "no further treatment options" is given by the MRP, assuring a patient that I'm OK with helping them when they are incontinent. There are SO many things that I am OK with.

What I am not OK with is someone who knows little or nothing about what I do. I would no more comment on what a pilot, engineer, police, hairdresser or any other profession does, let alone do it on a national TV show. It is OK to ask me what I do in my 12 hr day or night shift. I am happy to share with you should I have the time when not helping my patients. At the end of the shift, it is all about my patients & their family, It has nothing to do with me, and I am OK with that.

Thank you again for you post and the engagement it creates 🙂

Linda von Tettenborn

Thank you, Lori, for initiating this well-written blog, and to all for their subsequent comments. I appreciate Julie's perspectives and respectful commentary, and agree with Lori's response.

I did not see this episode of "The View", although I did hear about some of the reactions to that monologue on the Miss America contest. Thanks for bringing the issue forward for BC nurses to engage in some heart-felt and important reflections about our profession and our practice, and what other important actions we might continue to voice and pursue.