Triage! A Nursing Cabaret // Zuleika Khan

Love your nurse. 

Fight for your nurse. 

Support your nurse’s selfcare.

Respect your nurse’s training and intelligence.

Recognise your nurse’s incredible emotional labour.

Make sure your nurse gets a raise. 

Stop buying ‘Sexy Nurse’ outfits (Zuli can, and does look awesome, but most y’all should not until stereotypes of nurses are destroyed)

Prioritise your nurse every once in a while so you say ‘Nurses and Doctors’, because it’s fucked up that it’s ALWAYS ‘Doctors and Nurses’.

Talk honestly with your nurse – they can see right through you.

Help nurses resist burnout – physically and emotionally.

Strike in solidarity with your nurse.

Learn from your nurse.

Laugh with your nurse.

Obey your nurse.

Zuleika Khan has much to teach the world about nursing and the attitudes, stereotypes, conscious and unconscious biases and politics which affect how the profession of nursing is discussed, funded, berated, demeaned and looked over inside the medicine/health care hierarchy. But despite the mistreatment, the lack of time for selfcare, and the emotional labor which comes from such intensive patient experience, Khan’s world is one which seems motivated and inspired by her profession. Underneath each comedic portrayal of a patient or jibe about a doctor’s patronizing glances, is a dedication to a cause, a commitment to her family’s healthcare lineage (Khan grew up in her family’s medical surgery) and a love for patients. 

The UK (alongisde much of the world) has a crisis in nursing, as caused by NHS cuts, public sector pay freezes, Brexit on the horizon, and a general lack of care for some of our society’s most essential first responders. When Khan first appears in a ‘sexy nurse’ costume – and reveals the very-believable fact that ‘nurse’ is the number one sexual fantasy/fetish – there is a stark reminder of how casual sexism and deeply embedded misogyny prevent the development of a truly non-hierarchical or holistic healthcare system. If nursing is gendered as female, and we still underpay, under-respect and under-acknowledge so many professions gendered as female… well, how can we expect our nurses to have time for the critical work of selfcare, to feel pride in their work, to feel as part of a team helping the whole community. 

Khan uses her Triage! cabaret as medicine: sometimes it burns going down, sometimes it makes you woozy, sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes it makes you emotional.  Khan uses Triage! to collect her allies (the nurses in the audience nodded with vigor throughout), humorously shame those who don’t know what a speculum does (or looks like), and inspire new, more radical perspectives on nursing, a profession which – whether we engage with it everyday or only in a crisis – remains critically important and critically under-supported.  

- Brian Lobel


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Triage! A Nursing Cabaret - Zuleika Khan

Brexit and Nursing - Guardian

No Show - Gender Stereotypes in Circus

Nursing and Striking - Independent

Selina Thompson on Self-Care at the Fringe - Exeunt

On Nursing and Burnout - National Nurses United