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Shock Trauma nurses honored for clinical hotness!

April 25, 2007 -- Today's Baltimore Sun featured a column by Laura Vozzella about a poll taken by Baltimore City firefighters on that asked which local hospital had the "hottest" nurses. Vozzella's bemused piece suggests that this is a curious way for at least 146 responding firefighters to be spending their time, given that the department has recently been criticized for a fatal training exercise and that unions are calling for its chief to resign. But she also explains why nurses might have a problem with the poll's implied suggestion that they are all about sexiness, relying heavily on comment from Truth executive director Sandy Summers. We thank Laura Vozzella for the column.

Vozzella's column is "Forget the chief--did you see that nurse?" She notes that the University of Maryland's esteemed Shock Trauma center won the hotness poll ("No wonder injured firefighters and police always seem to go to Shock Trauma! And I thought it was for the excellent medical care."). Vozzella goes on to note the irony that the site's figures indicated that far more firefighters were interested in the hot nurse poll than in no-confidence votes on their chief.

Vozzella then explores what the poll might mean for nurses. She relies on quotes from Summers, who notes that the enduring "naughty nurse" image the poll feeds suggests that nurses are "some sort of in-hospital prostitutes." Summers says the image "makes it hard for nurses to be taken seriously, which hurts recruitment and the quality of hospital care," since "[h]ospital administrators are all the more likely to replace nurses with technicians if RNs are viewed as 'frivolous.'" Vozzella also notes that Summers stresses this view is not anti-sex or even anti-sexy nurse; instead, "[i]t's the idea that we provide sex as part of our professional services."

Vozzella concludes by noting that Summers "was even willing to put the best possible spin on the poll: 'It could be they find clinical excellence to be very hot. I hope that's what they're referring to.'" (Shock Trauma nurses do have a reputation for clinical excellence.) Of course, it's not likely that's what poll respondents meant, but we are intrigued by the links between conventional hotness and what we might call "clinical hotness" (i.e. excellence). Since sexual markers are generally related to the apparent ability to pass on genes successfully, both types of hotness arguably come down to having the qualities necessary for long-term survival. Unfortunately, that parallel hasn't been enough for nursing to get the clinical, research and educational resources it needs. You can't build a health profession on perceived hotness.

It's ironic that the poll involved firefighters, and not just because it's not in their interest to annoy the nurses who might be called upon to save their lives (even if some of the Shock Trauma nurses are not annoyed, what about the ones at Hopkins and elsewhere?). In some ways, firefighting may be the traditionally male profession that corresponds most closely to nursing: both jobs often receive lip service for being noble and populated with "sexy" members overwhelmingly of one gender. Yet both have struggled for the resources that would indicate genuine respect for the skills and work they require.

The effect of the "sexy" image, however, does not work the same way on the two professions. We doubt many male candidates would reject firefighting because of the widespread idea that its members are hot. Traditionally male professions that are seen as sexy typically embody notions of social, economic, and/or physical power. This is obviously not the case with traditionally female jobs like nursing, in which "sexy" often goes hand in hand with suggestions of easy availability and limited intellect.

We thank Laura Vozzella and the Baltimore Sun.

Please send your letters of thanks to Laura.Vozzella at and please copy us at Thank you!


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