By Jay Swanson, BSN, RN, OCN
Within a nurse’s career there are many opportunities for advancement, new jobs, or a change in shift. Most startling is the move from “working the floor” to “desk job.” When I left the floor to work in a job more focused on patient education, I was treated differently. I had worked on the same unit for five years; I was an informal leader on the floor and the chairperson of the floor management council, an elected position. I am not saying that I was well liked, but I was at least trusted.
During the first few months in the new job I felt that the coworkers I had known and worked alongside wouldn’t talk to me or look at me. Had I sold out? Was I less of a nurse?
It’s true, I no longer work 12-hour shifts, or weekends or holidays. I spend most of my time gathering resources and providing educational support for our oncology patients, and I get to leave work more or less when I want (usually after 5 pm).
Yes, all that’s true . . . but what I really blame is the lab coat. I believe the lab coat suddenly put me in a different category from those who wore scrubs. How do I know? When I did wear scrubs to work one day, I was treated differently, as if all of a sudden I was “one of them” again.
So what is it about the coat? Too close to physicians or other mid-level types? Most of them now wear scrubs at my facility. So then, what is it?
(Editor’s note: Swanson, a cancer nurse navigator at a facility in Nebraska, is also the author of the Reflections essay, “Read Your Card, Mary Sue,” in the November issue of AJN.)