ED Nurse Katie Duke parlayed two seasons on ABC’s NY Med into an impressive internet soapbox. Now, with 76K social media followers and her Youtube channel, Duke is on a war path to change the public’s perception of emergency nursing.
EPM: What is the biggest misconception about ER nurses?
Katie Duke: That we just trail behind doctors with a clipboard, waiting to just do what they say without thinking or assessment. And that’s really not how it is once you get in there. It’s a very collaborative team.
EPM: You just got your Masters from Columbia. Do you advocate advanced education for other nurses?
Katie Duke: I feel that the biggest disservice that nurses do for not only their patients but themselves is once we finish school and start working as a nurse, education is never encouraged. We’re employed by hospitals in the nursing department. When hospitals bill patients for their visits, we’re included in the room charge. We only have to do in-services a few times a year, just to make sure that we can still clock in and out. Why I love physicians is that from the second that they finish their residency and start to work they are required to do research. They’re required to do quality and safety protocols and edit articles and attend conferences and conventions and actually author publications. And if they don’t, guess what? You don’t get to continue your license as a clinical provider and you’ll not maintain your credentials and privileges at your hospitals. The culture for nurses is different. It’s not encouraged and instilled in us from day one. Doctors are lifelong learners, and that’s why they complete life-changing new protocols while nurses are still talking hand-washing and patient safety.
EPM: What was it like being featured in the reality show NY Med and filming in the ED?
Katie Duke: The only way nurses got on TV is if we’re either a serial killer or stripper or some dumb idiot trailing behind a physician. Right? Name me any show within the last 20 years, other than ER, that has actually portrayed nurses for the pivotal, foundational role in healthcare that they actually play? It’s pretty slim to none. I remember one day I was charge nurse and we had this group of producers sort of walking around in their little scrubs that the hospital gave them and they were talking to everybody. And we had a really sick patient come in and I was in charge. We did what we had to do and stabilized him. And afterward the producer came up and he’s like: Hey, do you mind if I put a mic on you? And I was like: No, but I hope you don’t have a sensor button on that thing because I’m an ER nurse. I work in New York City. I don’t really need to say much else. He’s like: Nope, just be you. And at the end of the day they were like: We want you to be part of the show. We want to film nurses.
EPM: Given your social media presence, you clearly want more than 15 minutes of fame. What’s next?
Katie Duke: There were five million viewers per episode during season one; 36 million viewers the first season on ABC alone. And the response that I got from people was the first time that I realized that there is a true void in the industry. There’s no Kobe Bryant of nursing. There’s no Oprah of nursing. That’s called a public figure or a role model. I knew that I wanted to be that positive professional presence in the nursing industry. And I was like: Alright, I’m going to take this shit over. And so I kind of mixed my little bit of New York hustle with my St. Louis drive and I just started making social media a full-time job. You can’t give a person like me an opportunity to be on prime time national television, have millions of people watching you and me not like grab the bull by the horns and suck every ounce of juice out of that rock that I can.
EPM: Have you always been this ambitious?
Katie Duke: This is no diss to St. Louis, my home town, but St. Louis is a very complacent, comfortable Midwest place. You go to high school. Some people go to college, some people don’t. I decided to move to New York because I guess I just always had a feeling that there was something bigger out there. I’d just always felt like I had something that I wanted to share with a lot of people. I want to change things. I want to be a public figure. I want to be the first female nursing healthcare correspondent on a major news network. Because guess what? Oh, we don’t have any. But nurses are the number one patient educators in the healthcare system. Where do patients get their information from? Nurses. Who translates what the doctor tells you? Nurses. Who sits down with you after the physician leaves? Nurses!
EPM: How does it feel to be Instagram famous [Pop out the gallery above for examples from her Instagram]?
Katie Duke: Do you understand that Dough Donuts follows me on Twitter and Instagram? That’s like a big deal. It’s like the day that Velveeta followed me on Twitter. Do you understand what that means to a Midwest girl?
Interview by Logan Plaster
Photo by Lionel Cassini
Labcoat by Cherokee