Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Nurses Rule (Doctors Still Suck)

Despite controversy, "the patient's concerns should be heeded," says an article on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) in the American Journal of Nursing. Carolyn Cooper is the author of the welcome paper, published in March's issue of the largest nursing journal. She advocates for protecting MCS patients from chemical exposures in the hospital--pretty much as they (we) see fit. She has compiled a list of specific accommodations and calls for more training of medical staff.

Poor Nurse Cooper gallantly strives to give what's considered a neutral report on the controversies surrounding MCS, including the one over its existence. However, it seems she hasn't felt the liberty, in practice, of sitting on the fence. She's had a job to do, namely taking care of a surgical patient, one Mr. Norris. Mr. Norris has brought a respirator mask to the hospital with him and his wife won't let anyone wearing perfume into his room.

Cooper consults the professional literature but finds little guidance there and, in the end, relies on instruction from Mr. Norris. What rare and admirable humility! She xeroxes a brochure he's got on MCS and places a copy in his chart. She bars her cologne-wearing nursing assistant from her patient's room. Perhaps she concludes that the professional literature is sorely in need of her contribution. (As she notes, "MCS afflicts millions of Americans.")

Why has Cooper become a champion for our side? She doesn't really say. No argument is made to justify her implicit recognition of MCS. She doesn't share her internal process in deciding to take Mr. Norris seriously. She does mention that in the absence of "evidence-based standards" she allows her "experience and clinical judgment" to inform her suggestions to the nursing community. That judgment apparently doesn't equate doing no harm with taking no action. Now we just need a few well-placed publishers with the M.D. cachet to listen to the nurses who are listening to the patients.


Stacie said...

Thanks Masked Avenger for bringing this article to our attention and way to go nurse Carolyn! It's so nice to hear about situations where we MCS-stricken aren't treated like freaks. My own doctor has Glade Plug-ins in her office...

Anonymous said...

zHello there and just to let you know that I am stumbling just a bit, since this is the first "Blog" I have been to.

My name is Rodger Norris and you may learn more about me at I found your comments regarding the ANJ article great. I have found that I am one of the lucky few, a person with MCS that has not only his main physician that understands, but an entire group of treating medical personnel that understand and accept my condition. I first started to show my symptoms in 1995 and it progressed from there. However, in 1996 a young doctor joined the staff of my main doctor and he told us all that he knew what was wrong with me. By that time everyone had been scratching their heads, to include the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. This young doctor farmed me out to other doctors in the community to rule out causes, and to point to MCS.

Also, I am lucky to live in New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson established the New Mexico MCS Task Force in 1996 as well. It is headed by Dr. Anne McCampbell who not only an authority, but has published as well.

To those that would just like to make contact with myself, please send your emails to

I have found out that even though I feel quite alone in isolation, there are many more just like I am.

The Masked Avenger said...

Below is an excerpt of an e-mail which came back from Carolyn Cooper in response to one I sent her. (Rodger Norris' comment was a pleasant, unsolicited surprise.) Wouldn't you guess that his good nature has something to do with the understanding and acceptance he has gotten? I bet all of us MCS-ers owe him thanks as well.

From Carolyn Cooper:
Thank you for your kind words. I must say that the editors of AJN deserve a lot of praise for supporting this piece over the past two years.

What made me advocate for my patient, you asked. It may be that I came to nursing as an adult who had already seen the world broadly and had experiences as a patient (and the daughter, wife, mother of patients) that were not always first class.

One role of a nurse that I learned before I put my hands on a patient in nursing school was that of the patient advocate. I take that very seriously. For a decade I was a U.S. Army soldier--not involved in health care. But a sense of professional responsiblity from my military experience likely influences all of my nursing and public health advocacy.