Last night, while watching the Academy Awards at a friend's home (true confessions), I realized several things. First, I realized that there's no valid reason for me to watch the Oscars. I also realized that nurses need the kind of recognition that seems to only be reserved for movie stars, athletes and musicians. How can we change the reality of this poorly balanced equation?
While it's true that movies, art and music can impact consciousness and effect social change at the best of times, not all movies, art and music actually achieve that vision. In fact, a great deal of popular culture serves only to entertain our senses and nothing more, and those who manufacture those products are generally unapologetic about that fact. I personally see no harm in "mindless" entertainment, and I admittedly spend a fair amount of time watching movies and TV shows on DVD or over the internet.
Having said that, I also recognize that many of the people who save or improve lives every day (nurses, EMTs, teachers, librarians, union leaders, day care providers) receive relatively little remuneration for their efforts, while those who play teachers, nurses and doctors on TV or in the movies are given golden statues, multi-million dollar salaries and more accolades than they often deserve.
As I have pointed out on this blog before, nurses have been identified as the most trusted professionals in the United States for 12 of the last 13 Gallup polls evaluating and quantifying this particular aspect of American life. In the eyes of our fellow citizens, nurses are seen as the most honest profession, and we're simply seen as more trustworthy than any other professionals, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, Members of Congress, judges and police officers.
So, as we lavish praise, money and attention on the celebrities who populate our cultural cosmology, do we ever wonder in the back of our minds that there are plenty of other individuals who also deserve to be recognized, praised and rewarded for their untiring efforts to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place?
Of course, the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize are two high-profile events that recognize those who are making a difference for humanity in the arts and sciences. Meanwhile, the Purpose Prize awards recognition and funding to individuals over 60 who are working for the betterment of society. So, there's at least some justice and balance in the world.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that our fascination with popular culture is misguided or misplaced. Like most other people, I partake of the culture to some extent, and I enjoy the work of many artists, actors, writers and musicians who bring joy, insight, information and entertainment to my life.
I have no qualms with those who choose to be entertainers or athletes, and I don't begrudge them their success. However, I also feel the imbalance when nurses, teachers and others who serve society so selflessly are in a position of living on the economic edge despite their obvious dedication to their work. As the remuneration for celebrities (and CEOs) appears to know no bounds, the earning power of those of us on the front lines of society seems to have been permanently frozen.
The Oscars and Golden Globes are all well and good, and we can collectively lavish as much praise on our celebrities as we care to. However, if there's ever an Oscars-like ceremony for nurses, teachers and other dedicated public servants, you can rest assured that I'll be delightedly seated in the front row with popcorn in hand, ready to add my applause to the thunderous reception that these individuals truly deserve,