Center for Nursing Advocacy: Get a sense of humor

On CNN (warning: popup video) is a story about a burger joint that sells the ‘bypass burger’ or somesuch, and their shtick is that the owner wears a lab coat and calls himself the doc, and the waitresses wear ‘naughty-nurse’ outfits (pretty tame by any account, don’t watch the video looking for skin).

It’s a pretty silly idea, but decent marketing to a certain crowd (think Hooters) .

Of course, they found someone from “The Center for Nursing Advocacy” to denounce the waitress-nurse connection on the grounds that it ‘sexualizes’ nurses, that ‘on some level, it implies that nurses do in fact provide sexual services’, and goes on to say it’s no wonder people don’t want to be nurses these days in such an environment, where nurses are thought of as possible sex objects.

Get a grip, Center for Nursing Advocacy.  I work with nurses every day, and have had discussions with them about the declining numbers of new nurses, etc; not one has said “if we could just get rid of the Naughty Nurse imagery our profession would be doing great”.  I do, however, have an idea why younger people aren’t champing at the bit to be nurses: Advocates who sound a lot like a disapproving, fault-finding, joyless people.  Wow, motivating!  Can I be on their team?

Nursing demographics have problems (I’ve written about it before), but the Naughty Nurse Outfit is not to blame.


In looking for their link, I found an entire, longgg page of angst about this place on their site.  It defies parody it’s so strange:

October 2006 — We hear that a fine new ¬®establishment in Tempe, Arizona, one Heart Attack Grill, has been the subject of complaints by those battleaxes at the Arizona State Board of Nursing. And it’s all because the Grill uses scantily dressed “naughty nurse” wait staff to sell burgers and beer! Last month, the real nurses (or “Terrorists & FemiNazis,” as the Grill describes them) even got the Arizona attorney general’s office to ask the Grill to stop suggesting that its employees are real nurses, in alleged violation of the state’s protected title statute. The Center is outraged at this assault on the free speech rights of scrubs-clad Grill owner “Dr. Jon” Basso. But we will explore what those scary Arizona nurses might be getting at, when they aren’t busy killing millions of Jews or crashing jets into buildings.

I added the emphases, but just admire the bizarreness: ?battleaxes?  To describe their colleagues in nursing?  Then the ‘outraged’  BUT and then more bizarreness about killing Jews?  I will assume this is just ham-handed writing meant as some insider’s joke (?), but as a tool to persuade the neutral to your side this is not the way to start.  More:

The nurses might be upset because the Grill is exploiting nursing’s long-standing position as the most sexually-fantasized-about job on the planet. That reinforces stereotypes that discourage practicing and potential nurses (especially men), foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect that weakens nurses’ claims to adequate resources. Those stereotypes exacerbate the global nursing shortage, a public health crisis that is killing thousands of people. It would even be killing those whose poor diets help lead to heart attacks, if the link between food and cardiac conditions were not just another silly lie in a world in which, as the Grill says, “insane political correctness stands as a barrier between the average man and his pursuit of happiness.”

Read more below, or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

So, I went to the letter writing campaign, and, heh:

…Those stereotypes discourage practicing and potential nurses (especially men), foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect that weakens nurses’ claims to adequate resources.   …

Someone draw the line for me that connects all those dots.  French curves are not allowed.


Update: I asked some nurses at work in the ED tonight if the Naughty Nurse outfit was the problem with recruiting nurses.  Their unanimous answer?  “No”.

What did they think was the biggest barrier?  “Shifts, pee and poo” would be the paraphrased answer.


  1. Hi Allen

    This site has been a constant source of pleasure to me since I first came across their fight against the Nurse Quacktitioner doll.

    I did fear that Americans might take the site seriously.

    I am much releived.


  2. I have my own theories for why there are fewer people entering the nursing profession. I am going to refrain from harping on them, though, because it’s been a long day and I don’t want to rant, heh heh…

  3. Please believe me when I say we are not all that flippin’ uptight.

    Those who cannot do, teach. Those who cannot teach, find windmills to charge at.

  4. It is a good thing The Center For Nursing Advocacy isn’t effectively helping nurses with collective barganing, nurse-patient ratios, or enabling more student nurses. I am glad they are using press time to “Jerry Springer-ize” them selves with issues like burgers and dolls.

    Who will protect us from our “advocates?”

  5. Please tell me that the reason those excerpts make no sense is that it’s 0432.

    Thank you.

  6. Haha – Glad that Dr. Crippen chimed in, because I clicked on comments just to ponder if this was the same group that very outwardly opposed the Nurse Quacktitioner doll. My grandma gave me that doll for Christmas a couple of years ago because I am working towards becoming a nurse practitioner – but she didn’t do it as any condescending thing!

    They do need to remove the proverbial stick from a certain place – so it seems!

    I believe the nursing shortage to be largely due to a lack of nurse educators. Plenty are willing to sign on for the job, but the schools turn them away due to lack of places for them. After I graduated, one of the teachers at my university gave me a number for how many they had to turn away that year – it was pretty shocking! So I would strongly encourage any nurses who are interested in teaching to go for it, since that’s a large part of the nursing shortage! :)

    Take care,
    Carrie :)

  7. Are these people the reason I have to push my own propofol and then shimmy up to the top of the bed to reduce a shoulder?

    My polling of the night nurses, including the men, noted that they themselves would actually the wear “naughty nurse” outfits in exchange for decent coffee…

  8. It may be hard to see how one apparently minor “naughty nurse” depiction can affect the real world. But the Heart Attack Grill is just one example of a relentless wave of nurses-are-female-sexbots images from the global entertainment, advertising, hospitality, and apparel industries, from Fortune 500 companies to isolated sandwich shops, which has been going on for decades. In the aggregate, it’s just common sense that this kind of broad societal disrespect does have an impact. Of course, it’s not the only thing that has an effect, and the Center never claimed that it was. The shortage is due to a number of factors–for instance, the handmaiden stereotype is probably more damaging because it’s more credible and widespread–and of course it’s true that nursing would be a difficult, stressful job even if it was well understood.

    But to argue that the abysmal understanding of nursing has nothing to do with the nursing crisis, because it’s really all about poor working conditions and inadequate faculty resources, is like arguing that cancer death has nothing to do with cigarettes, because it’s really all about cancer. Many things cause cancer, but cigarettes are one of them. For nursing, the lack of resources was not handed down from some divine place. It was the result of human decisions. Those decisions were made on the basis of what the decision-makers (government, hospital executives, the public) thought about how important nursing was relative to other things they might do with the resources available.

    It’s common to see suggestions that objections to the constant association of nursing with workplace sex are just an indication of joylessness or lack of humor. But the group has not objected to sexual images generally–it urged the Grill to consider just making the wait staff naughty. Research shows that nurses suffer an inordinate amount of sexual and other abuse at work. Although it’s difficult to prove the extent to which that is caused by naughty nursing stereotyping, I’m guessing few skeptics would require extensive evidence if the world’s media stopped “jokingly” suggesting that nurses were bimbos and started in on the female members of skeptics’ families. After all, that would just be a “joke,” and we all know jokes never affect the real world. That must be why no one’s talking about that obscure Borat movie.

    The idea that pointing out what amounts to hate speech is turning people against nurses is also not unusual. But if that were the standard, nothing would ever change, because there would always be the chance that those who liked the status quo would regard the objecting group as all uppity and actually hurting their cause. Those who advocate for women are often told they have to shut up because they’re alienating people–FemiNazi! Nurses in particular must not deviate from the virtue script, or else they’re shrill witches in need of anatomical adjustments.

  9. I’m with y’all until the “those who cannot do, teach” comment.

    Nurses – all of ’em – have to treat each other with respect and collegiality. We’re doing such a great job of getting rid of nursing faculty that we have thousands of qualified nursing candidates just hanging in the breeze and denied entry into programs. And having taught, I remember well the poverty-like salary of the junior faculty tenure track that had me working an every weekend twenty four hours clinical position to stay clinically competent and to make ends meet. That on top of designing and teaching (clinical and didactic courses)in a new curriculum a full course load, taking on 15 more students for academic advisement, running the nursing labs voluntarily about 10 hours per week so that students could get in evening practice time, and working on my doctorate full time. Oh – I forgot – I had to publish, too.

    Maybe a good time to walk a mile in their mocs. to get a better handle on just what the faculty do, and how nurses benfit from it.

    Best to everyone.

    Come visit me over at my blog to read a different take on nursing issues and some very different approaches to solutions.

  10. Oops – might help to include the URL.
    Universal Health

    Hope to see you there.

  11. Oh puhlease.

    I don’t know about you all, but I have never been sexualized, or sexually harrassed, and the only sexual innuendos thrown my way have been from intoxicated men with bad eyesight.

    Given enough time, this burger joint will go away and find a new gimmick. Now that they have all this publicity, why change? Tick off some nurses and watch the profits fly.

    Get a grip.

    It takes a lot for me to lose my sense of humor and that happened with the BBC America show “No Angels” and that was basically because it showed nurses acting dispicably with an elderly woman’s dead body (throwing it in a tub to warm it up) and not because of the inordinate amount of sex they seem to have.

    Heck, if nurses had anywhere near the sex depicted on the various medical shows you’d have them lining up, both men and women!

    So, the Center for Nursing Advocacy is not advocating for this nurse. I’ll do my own advocating for my profession, and it will be by highlighting what nurses ARE and not focusing attention on what they are NOT.

    Dang, I feel a post coming on……..

  12. This exact topic is just about to be on 20/20 or whatever the heck show I have on ABC at 9pm here in the east. John Stosel (sp?) is covering it on his section called “Give me a break.” They did a preview in which he asked the woman (who I presume is representing the advocacy group?), “So you’re telling me that this is giving the impression that nurses have sex in the workplace?” And they immediately cut to, “Next on ‘Give me a break.'” It was perfect! I busted out laughing. And rushed to post it here!