The nurses fired for mocking patients on TikTok exemplify our culture of narcissism
We’re told we shouldn’t reward bad behavior, but we routinely do on social media by clicking the like button for the most dysfunctional entertainment, retweeting reprehensible messages and subscribing to consume more narcissism.
The thirst for social-media attention is generally accompanied by a mentality that rationalizes it’s acceptable to hydrate the ego at any cost, cheapening the value of decency, decorum and professionalism. Every grievance, no matter how small or destructive, is considered permissible within our culture of narcissism — and it has a convenient shield from criticisms because we’ve pedestalized self-expression over self-respect.
Participating in the TikTok #IckChallenge, four Emory University Hospital Midtown employees recorded a one-minute TikTok video discussing their “icks” about being nurses who deal primarily with labor and delivery.
“When we’ve already told you to push your call light but every 5 minutes your family member coming up to the front desk asking for something else,” said one nurse mockingly.
“It’s the unlimited trips to the nursing station for me,” said another bemoaning nurse.
In response to the rightful outrage from social-media users, the Atlanta hospital fired the four nurses over the weekend for, it said, filming “a TikTok video that included disrespectful and unprofessional comments about maternity patients at Emory University Hospital Midtown.”
Every profession, including nursing, features aspects we find unpleasant, and it’s normal to manufacture your own grievances. But the lack of professionalism and empathy these nurses expressed to publicly mock their patients is inexcusable — their terminations were warranted.
The egotistical monsters we complain about exist because we’ve encouraged these people to incubate in an algorithmically curated narcissism ecosystem. Our culture of narcissism has no occupational boundaries, and the honorable position of being a nurse has been tainted over the past couple of years by the public indecency of the narcissistic monsters within the profession.
As we were all told to applaud the nurses who were risking their health to support the sick during the pandemic, monsters in select hospitals nationwide thought it appropriate to choreograph dance routines for likes and shares.
When you couldn’t visit your sick loved one in the hospital, they were practicing their dance moves — because an endorphin hit matters more to a narcissistic monster than showing empathy for your personal sorrows.
Much like their dance routines, empathy is also performative, and they’ll even exploit the death of a patient to display their supposed struggle after managing to lose another one or highlight their strength to constantly overcome this commonplace occurrence in their profession. A nurse’s viral TikTok video did exactly this as she recorded herself melodramatically acting shaken with the caption “Lost a patient today. Shake [it] off, you have 5 more hours.”
I hold high expectations for the nursing profession because of my mother, who spent decades being a nurse to eventually teach and prepare nurses in a nursing school. They say that nursing is a calling, and my mother was called to the field. I rarely heard her complain even in private, and she had a love for the profession and her patients.
I could never imagine my mother using a hospital floor as her dance floor to garner attention from random people on the Internet. It would be unfathomable for my mother to record herself feigning emotion after watching someone die, as it would put her nursing ethics into question.
We now, however, have in some hospitals a generation of nurses who discard normal ethical nursing behavior to chase after adulation from strangers. We have nurses like the ones from Emory University Hospital Midtown who believe your tribulations are trivial and act as if your presence as a patient is an annoyance.
Nurses like this stain the honorable image of the profession that nurses like my mother helped to shape. Recently, I lost my father-in-law, and as unexpected as his death was, he did not die in discomfort because of the amazing nurses who cared for him until he passed. Those nurses empathized with us until the moment he left this earth and chose to mourn his passing alongside us.
Nurses are in the compassion industry, and their decision to record, verbalize and publish their grievances publicly portrays compassionless behavior we should not reward or excuse.
If they are that thirsty for attention, they should quench their thirst in another profession.
Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim to Black Victor” and founder of Wrong Speak Publishing. Follow him on Substack: adambcoleman.substack.com.