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Mocking Patients' Race and Class in Animated Videos

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By Jill—Unnecesarean

A series of YouTube videos paints a picture of the beliefs and frustrations that a handful of labor and delivery nurses harbor about patients.

While I appreciate the parody, the funny animated format, the need to vent about work and the humor of hearing an epidural called and “epidermal” and amniotic fluid referred to as “atomic fluid”, I’m discouraged by how unapologetically racist and classist these examples are.

The first two videos take on the harmful stereotype of the poor black woman who has no control over her reproduction, doesn’t know who fathered her baby, is uneducated, uses drugs and has a chaotic home life. 


Here is a similar class stereotype with a visibly white character used. One underlying theme of all of the videos is that these patients are annoying because they don’t understand that they’re not actually in labor.


Another class assessment shows white women who are intended to appear opulent with champagne and pearls. These women are portrayed as annoying because they have a birth plan and want a natural birth. The second video shows a nurse giving well-timed but patronizing responses to a patient’s laundry list of wants. The creator of the video apparently believes:

  1. that patients with birth plans are so annoying that the staff wants to punish them with a cesarean.
  2. that birth plans will fail because women don’t know that they actually want pharmaceutical pain relief.
  3. that if you walk in with a birth plan, it’s your fault if your baby ends up in the NICU.



What would a “good” patient look like? Thoughts?



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Reader Comments (27)

Ugh. This is unfortunately common. There are MANY good L&D nurses out there but there are also many who believe this classist, racist crap.

And hey, one positive - at least the "natural birth" gals for once aren't patchouli-smelling hippie girls with bandannas in their hair and an unshaven lanky permaculture-teaching boyfriend with a doula any more! Woot! Natural birth is becoming glamorous!

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Unfortunately, it's the NURSES who call it an epidermal and don't seem to know what the heck they're talking about. Sheesh.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

That first video was one of the most racist things I have ever seen. The second one was pretty despicable and classist, too. I can't bring myself to watch any more of them.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMomTFH

Patients who ask a lot of questions, or who come to the hospital before they are in labor are looking for emotional support.
Nurses are only prepared to deal with hospital routine, which treats patients as a a revenue stream. Somehow, nurses have deluded themselves into believing that testing and surgery are beneficial to patient health. The emotional comfort is expected to come from faithfully following directions and fitting into that routine.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPriss

What does a 'good' patient look like? One who follows the staff instrutcions without question and doesn't ask questions? One who doesn't have high expectations fo their birth? LOL.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

I am a L&D RN, a doula, and a homebirthing mom. To me these are hilarious, but maybe that is just a bit of macabre humor from being a nurse at the county hospital! The last 2 videos are both about women coming to the hospital too soon. The longer that women stay home, the better that their labor goes. That should be a no brainer for the readers of this blog. The first few are about drug seeking behavior and the frustrations that a nurse has dealing with it. I have actually been the nurse for patients like the ones in the first videos. A lot. To take care of a patient who comes in at 30+ weeks drunk and high with no prenatal care.... Yeah, well it happens. One of the biggest frustrations that I experience is women who have no desire to learn anything about their pregnancy. These videos highlight that common nursing frustration and make light of it.

Look people, in the medical profession we see a lot of crap. This is meant to be funny and a way to relieve some of the stress. It's for us, not for the consumer.

The readers of this blog are informed, are proactive in their care, and make great decisions for themselves and their babies. Most women aren't any of those things which is extremely frustrating. These videos play on that frustration. I would love it if every mom to be cared about her birth and her pregnancy, but in reality it just hasn't happened yet in this society.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDairy Queen

There was some funny stuff in there (the computer generated voices make everything sound funny) but I couldn't get past the bigotry.

July 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill

I was a lot more pro-birth plan before I was a labor nurse. I still think moms should be prepared for birth and do as they wish, but at the same time when something goes wrong and the plan needs to deviate from the birth plan, I always get sad for moms who feel like failures. Nobody is a failure for changing their mind about pain control options. They're not a failure for needing an IV for treatment of pre-eclampsia. Women are powerful amazing creatures.

Mostly I've figured out that I'm just for people keeping open minds. That's wound up making me have a super simple birth plan for my baby- I want a healthy baby. I want a natural birth but if something goes wrong, I want whatever necessary done to keep my baby healthy. Ultimately the choices are mine to make and I'm giving myself freedom ahead of time to be completely open to change.

I would never ever say that anyone deserved a c-section or a sick baby. Ever. I just know that sometimes people (not even just labor patients but all patients) do their own thing and don't go along with what's suggested. Sometimes it goes fine and sometimes it's awful. That's absolutely not to say that anyone deserves to have things go wrong though. I would never say that.

I'm a nurse at a VERY diverse hospital. I work there because I love the diversity of both my patients and my staff. I've seen the above videos and think they're funny. I don't see them as racist only because I've had such similar experiences from ALL races and moms of every age. We do our very very best to educate. Some people just don't get it or don't listen. It makes me think of a time where I had a patient completely furious with the staff of my hospital because we refused to induce her at 24 weeks because she was "sick of being pregnant". No amount of teaching was getting through.

I provide the exact same TLC to a mom coming in from jail as I do from a mom with a swanky career. Ultimately I went into nursing to be a patient advocate. I just think some people write a birth plan and get so focused on it that they aren't able to cope if the plan has to change.

I think nurses have a lot of dark senses of humor. It's a way to cope. We have a weird job. Regular people aren't put in positions we are. There is much much joy in all parts of nursing but there is also a level of tragedy that I don't think most people would want to deal with. Hold a beautiful dead 37 week baby in your arms sometime and attempt to ignore your complete heartbreak so you can take care of the mother. Comfort a family when they find out their 22 year old son is braindead. Hold back the tears for 5 hours after a traumatic patient death so you can care for your other 5 patients. You put yourself, your feelings, and your sanity last and you give it all to those you're caring for. Deal with things like that on a regular basis for years and see if you too wind up with an off sense of humor. Sometimes all you can do is laugh off some of the frustrations of the job.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKitty

I have a dark sense of humor, too, but, again, the first two in particular are undeniably racist. How are they not?

July 19, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill

Nothing like stereotypes--on both sides. That last one got my blood pressure up! I can't believe I just wasted six minutes of my time listening to that crap.

July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonkey Mama
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