At first reflection, Charles Graeber’s 2013 book, The Good Nurse, might provoke dread in anyone who thinks they or their loved ones will depend at some time on the work of health care professionals. But my further thoughts about the story led me to affirm that, while anyone in Charles Cullen’s position could do what he did—kill dozens (maybe hundreds) of patients with random overdoses in order to satisfy his need for control—none of the nearly three million nurses currently working in the US has.
If I didn’t know any nurses and had never been a recipient of their care, Cullen’s chilling work might cause me to fear nurses or hospitals in general. But in the last few years I have depended on the care of some excellent nurses, and I currently hang around a lot of them as a volunteer. My relationship with genuinely good nurses protects me from such an irrational fear.
Indeed, irrational fears are often enabled by a lack of familiarity with their object:
- If I’d never known someone who has relocated to the United States from another country, I might fear them instead of understanding that immigrants benefit the economy and are generally more law-abiding than residents born in the US.
- If I’d never lived, worked or attended school with anyone of a different race or economic class, I might fear them rather than understanding that being around people who are different from us actually makes us smarter.
- If I’d never lived in an urban area, I might fear them instead of understanding that cities are statistically safer than rural areas in many ways and that living in them can make us smarter.
One of the most common abuses of power is generating irrational fear based on hate and mistrust. But we can choose not to be controlled and limited by irrational fears and resist the appeals to hate by taking control and overcoming those fears.