I am a fan of social media because through it I am introduced to people and ideas that I would not otherwise encounter. It can be heartbreaking and humorous at the same time. However, there are those that have no sense of humor and sue cows. Fortunately, the vast majority of people with whom I interact are amazing and share an interest in nursing, social justice, Catholicism, disaster preparedness, or a vast number of other topics as silly as cats. Sadly, there are a few that spoil conversations. They troll topics and people and dig into their lives outside of social media. It becomes a personal attack rather than a productive or fun conversation.
I first experienced ocial media trolls at the University of Missouri – St. Louis when I publically supported a student who protested after Michael Brown was killed. I was grateful to a not-for-profit that reached out to me and advised me how to get rid of trolls and offered their help. It worked and in a few weeks, they were gone. For the most part, they were people that were angry and tinged their anger with racial comments. It was easy to dismiss them because I have zero tolerance for racism or those that infringe on the free speech of students.
A couple of weeks ago I responded to a former graduate student’s post on twitter. The post linked to a video that she implied was misleading about nurse practitioners. She was clearly annoyed as many of us are when we see such attacks on our profession. However, the post highlighted a common problem with the arguments against full practice authority for nurse practitioners. Many arguments against full practice authority are not accurate and others appear to be intentionally deceptive and/or false. For example, it is true that nurses lobby for change, but the reality is that policy is not changed because pockets are being lined. That, in my opinion, is intentionally deceptive.
Like Devin Nunes’ Cow, my sense of humor offends some. Saying that there are liars everywhere and that there is a reason that nurses are the most trusted profession and “well” physicians aren’t wasn’t well received by a group that seems to detest nurse practitioners. They found no humor in my words and instead interpreted as all physicians are liars. I never said all physicians are liars or though it. It is a leap to draw that conclusion. I did think that the post and whoever produced it was intentionally deceptive which by definition that is a lie. This was followed by over a week of an ever-growing list of comments from people who identified as physicians that could be perceived as threatening and intimidating. One brave physician stood up to these people. She pointed out that she stayed anonymous on Twitter because she had been attacked a group before and that one physician had been the recipient of attacks merely for being married to a nurse practitioner. As I blocked an ever-growing number of them (some I’m pretty sure not real people and only troll accounts) the physician trying to be supportive would screenshot my original post and share in an attempt to defend me. It further enraged them. I’m not sure when but they then started copying places I’ve worked and spamming them. Having successfully ended such behavior before I used the tactics I was taught by the not-for-profit and I blocked more people in the last week than I have in 8 years using Twitter. I also tried to get them to stop tagging me and tried to redirect the conversation to something kinder in approach. I failed.
Nasty conversations are counterproductive. When people are only slinging insults no opinions will change. Likewise, if evidence is produced and no one is willing to accept it then there is no point in the conversation. We must present the evidence in a way that will be heard. It can’t be a gotcha or I know more than you approach. We must engage those with whom we disagree, but we can do that with respect. Equally as important is exploring our biases, letting go of misunderstandings, and not taking ourselves too seriously.
In an era where political adds deceive us, the justice system is biased, the Church covers up abuse, and “Prince Harry” follows and then unfollows me on Twitter it is important that the health professions be trusted. People need to know that when we say something it is true and accurate. Nurse practitioners are not buying policy change. We are using the evidence to support the case for full practice authority within our scope of practice. There was a time when registered nurses could not take blood pressures because it was believed that it was practicing medicine? I cannot remember the last time a physician or even an RN took my blood pressure. It is usually a technician using an automated machine. The scope of practice changed because we realized that it could be done by others that were clearly qualified.
I have worked with amazing physicians and as a rule think they are highly intelligent, compassionate, and talented leaders. In fact, we couldn’t train nurse practitioners without them. In my 28 year career, I have never known physicians like the ones I’ve encountered the last week on Twitter. It is harder to dismiss this group because I admire and respect physicians as a profession and it saddens me to see some so disrespectful and threatening. However, I will never stand by and let people mislead the public about my profession. If one backs down from a bully the bully wins, which is not meant to imply that all physicians are bullies, but some of the ones I encountered last week seem to meet the definition.
I want to end with a cow joke, but…
For more information on the quality of care of nurse practitioners see Quality of Nurse Practitioner Practice.