Has anyone seen those Johnson & Johnson commercials that celebrate nursing? They were created several years ago. I remember seeing glimpses of them in passing as I hurried through my days. They are very well done; touching in just the right places and filled with nursing pride. The actors are genuine, the music is not too muzacky, and the messages are ones of hope and kindness. The nurse who sings with his pediatric oncology patient “emma, emma, bo bema, fe fi fo femma” as he gently gives an IV push sends chills. The ER nurse who works efficiently alongside her team to save another life, taking the time to place the trauma patient’s four-leaf clover keychain back into his hand is heartwarming. These messages are so compelling that if I weren’t a nurse already, I would be fighting for cuts to be first in line at the closest College of Nursing admission office.
But I was caught a bit off guard when I watched one in full length just last week. This one highlighted the hospice nurse. Hospice? Wait! This is my world! I am a palliative care and hospice NP. This commercial is for me!! I sat fully engaged. The nurse was kind. She was caring. She was gentle. Yes! Yes! This is who my colleagues are. The nurse said she spent hours making sure her charge, Bertie, was comfortable. OK, maybe not that as we had more than one patient to see in any given day. But the rest was definitely spot on.
That was until the window… In case you haven’t seen it yet let me fill you in. Bertie tells her devoted, professional, compassionate nurse that in Denmark when a person dies, someone opens a window so the soul can fly home. Lovely, right? So what does the nurse do upon hearing this? She gets up, closes the window, and turns to Bertie saying “not tonight, Bertie, not tonight.”
WHAT??? She closes the window?! Why? How is Bertie’s soul going to get home? Then the commercial cuts to the phrase “Nurses heal”. I know there have been times we have been good at what we do. There has even been a time or two where I have seen hospice nurses do brilliant things. But even on the most amazing day, I have never seen a nurse stop death, especially by closing a window. Besides, why would s/he?
Hospice nurses are there to provide support, comfort, caring, and a listening ear. And when it is time for that last breath, to be a witness to this sacred event. We are not there to CLOSE THE WINDOW!!
Johnson & Johnson, I applaud you for supporting nursing, for giving us a voice and a venue to highlight our many nursing roles. To see your advertisements fills our hearts with pride. But come on! Open the window for goodness sake. People die. They do. And maybe it’s time to be ok with that.