Linda D. Norman, DSN, RN, FAAN, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Dean, has been selected as a national ambassador for the Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research (FNINR). Norman was one of 15 nurse leaders selected from around the nation to advance public, health profession, and policy-maker awareness of the National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR).
FNINR is an independent nonprofit dedicated to advocating for nursing science and its role in promoting the health and wellbeing of Americans. Ambassadors are expected to work with congressional leaders and educate them on high-impact, cost-effective treatments and quality of life developments discovered by nursing science. Ultimately, ambassadors are working to expand funding that ensures the training of nurse scientists.
As an internationally recognized leader in nursing and health profession education, Norman is well known for her curricular innovations in blended learning, interprofessional education, quality improvement, and doctoral distance learning. In her role as Dean of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing, Norman is responsible for implementing new and improved nursing programs and helping the school rise as a top graduate nursing program.
You can learn more about Norman and her new role as a nursing research advocacy ambassador here.
Perhaps all professions have stereotypes. For instance, the Italian chef, the cocky policeman, or the disgruntled cashier are all possible types in these professions—and they do nothing for the people who actually work in those professions. Unfortunately, nursing is the same way, having a bevy full of stereotypes that describe different types of nurses. However, with nursing, the stereotypes are something different. They are skewed, insidious, and dangerous.
On the website, TruthAboutNursing.Org, Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, and her group help to dispel some of the myths surrounding the stereotypes that nurses must endure. The nurses that these stereotypes are supposed to represent are completely at odds with what nurses actually do. They are introduced and perpetuated by the media so that the general public thinks this is what nurses are. For nurses to be respected, though, we must overcome these stereotypes and show what nursing really is. Not only does our profession depend on it, but the lives of our patients may depend on it, as well.
All nurses are angels. We are sent from above to provide other worldly care and make our patients feel like they are in heaven. The angel is unassuming, flinches at the sight of blood, and usually needs help finding their way out of a paper bag. Not only is this a sexist idealization of nursing, it is completely misguided. Yes, nurses save lives, and yes, nurses are often called angels by their patients. However, nurses are professionals.
We are not ones to shrink from a situation, and we certainly don’t need to turn to anyone other than our fellow nurses when there is a problem with a patient. The angel stereotype assumes that the nurse is a shrinking violet, most likely a female, who fluffs pillows and hands out orange juice. This is not nursing. Nursing can be surprisingly violent and dirty. It isn’t angelic to clean a trach or to perform post-mortem care. However, performing these duties are part of the sacred trust of the nursing profession, they don’t fit the stereotype of the sweet, clean, perfect, and unsullied angel that the media would have you believe that nurses are.
The battle-axe is the nurse intimidator, so aptly portrayed by Nurse Ratched in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Surprisingly, this stereotype is seen in many different media outlets, and patients tend to believe that there are these super angry, sadistic nurses that are just waiting to pounce on them. Of course, the battle-axe runs in direct conflict with the angel. While one is sweet and kind, the other is the bitch. It should be noted that all of these stereotypes are distinctly female, keeping men from even considering nursing as a viable profession.
Nurses are not battle-axes any more than they are angels. Again, we are professionals, just trying to do a job. There are no angry, sadistic nurses who would treat patients poorly simply because they are having a bad day or because they’ve “been around the block.” The battle-axe stereotype is probably the most inexplicable. Who came up with this idea that nurses could be mean-spirited bitches? Nursing is hard work, and many of us are frustrated with the profession. However, that would never translate over into patient care. If it did, we shouldn’t be nurses.
3. Naughty nurse
Perhaps the most derogatory stereotype is the naughty nurse one. If you go into any Halloween store, you will find the costumes with the tight white dresses and the short white skirts. It is embarrassing to nurses and completely degrades the profession. The naughty nurse image turns nurses into a sexualized stereotype that is completely at odds with what nurses actually do in their job. Furthermore, it projects the image that female nurses are sex objects and can be treated as such by patients in the hospital setting.
Another byproduct of this issue is that men may not want to enter the profession because they don’t want to be a naughty nurse. They don’t want their own sexuality questioned because the general consensus is that a nurse is primarily a female sex object. This means that a great deal of male candidates would rule out nursing as a profession, and that can weaken nursing as a whole. You don’t need to be a feminist to see that the naughty nurse stereotype is dangerous. It is not just good clean fun. Nurses are put down by this view of them, but they can also be put in danger by men who think they are nothing more than sexualized, bed bath giving creatures of pleasure – not the medical professionals that they are.
A handmaiden is someone who is at the beck and call of someone else—in this case, the doctor. Nurses are sometimes seen as the ones who are commanded to do what the doctor says and run to fetch. The problem with this stereotype, besides being wrong, is that is sets up a situation in which nurses are seen as only doing work that is manual in nature. For instance, a nurse can give a bed bath, but not make a decision on holding a benzodiazepine on a confused patient. A handmaiden can fill water pitchers, but not listen for lung sounds and determine the difference between rales and rhonchi. Handmaidens do physical work, not mental.
The public doesn’t understand what nurses do when it comes to the real intellectual work of the profession. Nurses use critical thinking as much as doctors. They often have to make decisions on the spot. They have to determine when to involve the doctors, and then they have to decide what the salient points are to relate to the doctor. Nurses are far more than handmaidens because they are far more than people who do physical work. While the physical work will always be a part of nursing, it is only a small part in this changing profession. In the past, it had a far more prevalent role, but the media has not caught up to how nursing has changed. The public just doesn’t really know what it takes to be a nurse in today’s health care world.
Finally, the stereotype that ties all of them together is that nurses are generally unskilled. Everyone knows that doctors go through an intense amount of training and that they give orders. Everyone has this sense that there is a hierarchy in the medical system and that doctors head it. As a consequence, the public thinks that nurses are at the bottom, and they are therefore unskilled. As with any unskilled laborer, they would deserve less respect and would be replaceable. Of course, none of this is true because there is a marked difference in the skill set of a doctor and a nurse. It takes particular types of skills to work as a nurse, and saying a nurse is unskilled shows complete ignorance of what a nurse actually does.
Nurses assess, meaning that they look at a patient and determine health or disease. Nurses make independent diagnoses of their own and act on them, measuring the outcome of their actions. For instance, if a patient is suffering from chest congestion, in conjunction with the other health care professionals, nurses can implement treatments such as incentive spirometry and ambulation as allowable. They can also suggest to the health care team the possibility of starting albuterol treatments if they are not contraindicated. These are not the actions of an unskilled laborer. It takes a great deal of thought and skill to assess, diagnose, and treat these conditions, and this is only one example. Nurses are skilled in helping patients holistically, and this makes them vital cogs in the great machinery of health care.
In conclusion, nurse stereotypes are dangerous to nurses and the public alike. They are dangerous to nurses because they take away from the profession. People who may want to become nurses may not because they feel that nurses actually are this way. The media does nothing to change how nurses are portrayed and actually perpetuates these stereotypes. They do nothing to find out the truth. It is harmful to the public because nurses don’t get the funding, respect, or help they need to protect their profession. When nurses are degraded, patients suffer. Management sees nurses as expendable, and this means patients don’t get the best nurses or even enough nurses. In the end, stereotypes hurt patients, and it is time for the media to get it right. The health of millions literally hangs in the balance when nurses are disrespected.
In response to an executive order issued late last week by newly inaugurated President Donald Trump, nurses and nursing groups have started speaking up online to oppose a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Nurses understand the important role that foreign-born healthcare providers serve in treating isolated and vulnerable populations. Their contributions to the field of nursing are immensely valuable to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, university nursing and research programs, and their patients.
Trump’s controversial executive order titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’ issued a 90-day ban on the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen; a 120-day hold on refugees entering the US; and an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) was quick to issue a statement opposing the “unfair #MuslimBan” and taking a stance to stay committed to social justice as outlined in their Code of Ethics. ANA President Pamela Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN, issued the following statement to Twitter on Tuesday: “ANA OPPOSES ANY ACTION THAT ERODES HUMAN RIGHTS & strives to protect & preserve the rights of vulnerable groups such as the poor, homeless, elderly, mentally ill, prisoners, refugees, women, children, and socially stigmatized groups.” You can read her full statement here.
ANA CEO Marla Weston, PhD, RN, FAAN, also addressed nurses’ roles in listening to opposition and facilitating productive ways to move forward after attending President Trump’s Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington. Weston believes that, “Nurses are uniquely prepared to generate the important discussions we need to have as a nation. We are skilled, respectful, and trusted listeners – even when faced with people who have widely differing points of view.”
The nursing group NurseManifest took a stance on the travel ban by publishing a “Nurses Declaration of Solidarity and Resistance” earlier this week outlining their beliefs and how they feel that the travel ban infringes on the health and well-being of Americans. Their declaration opens with this:
“The 2017 US Executive Branch is taking steps that will have an effect on the health and well-being of all who reside within the borders of the United States, and of all people worldwide. At this moment in history, we call upon nurses to stand together, act to resist that which harms health and well-being, protect those who are harmed, and build coalitions that move toward the ideals we seek.”
Carey S. Clark, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, RYT, an administrator for NurseManifest, was kind enough to share her personal and professional thoughts on the travel ban. Like many university professors and administrators who have openly opposed the travel ban, Clark says, “I work with nursing students in the University setting, and many of the professors I work with from all disciplines are concerned about this impacting our students…I remain committed to supporting all of my students in successful completion of their studies.”
As to her thoughts on how nurses can fight back both professionally and in their personal time, Clark offers the following sentiments: “We are hopeful that our Nurse Manifest Declaration of Solidarity and Resistance helps to create a large community of like-minded nurses to work together in uniting against these kinds of discriminatory policies. Additionally, taking action such as calling our congressional representatives and uniting through attending protests, signing petitions, and taking local action through the development of networks and coalitions is key during this challenging time.”
NurseManifest is collecting signatures in support of their declaration which is being updated regularly. The list currently exceeds 550 nurses.
If you or any nurses you know have been affected by the travel ban, please send your stories to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After learning about cultural diversity by reading a nursing textbook, five nursing students from Pennsylvania College of Technology got to go out and experience diversity firsthand. Participating in a study abroad course, students traveled to the small town of Nueva Santa Rosa, Guatemala to treat patients in a medical clinic for seven days.
The Penn College students were led by Christine B. Kavanagh, the instructor of nursing programs, and accompanied by a larger volunteer group from Glens Falls Medical Mission. Glens Falls is based in New York and leads weekly trips to the small Guatemala community twice a year to help patients who live two hours away from the nearest hospital.
During their weeklong stint at the medical clinic, the group of volunteers saw over 1,300 patients by communicating through translators. They practiced in five clinical areas including triage, dental, pediatrics, women’s health, and general medicine, providing basic screenings, treatments, medical education, fluoride for dental care, and referrals to outside specialists when needed. Students were amazed by the positivity exuded by their patients who experience a wide variety of issues, not just medical.
Penn College offers a variety of study abroad courses, but this was the first time nursing students participated in a trip. After a successful mission, they hope to offer the course and service trip to nursing students every fall. In addition to the nursing trip, Penn College also offers a course in providing dental hygiene education in the Dominican Republic.
Statistics of violence against nurses over the last decade are shocking. According to NursingWorld.org, approximately one in four nurses have been physically assaulted at work in the last year. Although healthcare workers make up only 9 percent of the workforce, OSHA.gov reports that violent injuries in the healthcare industry account for almost as many violent injuries in all other industries combined.
The worst part is there aren’t currently any federal rules in place to mandate that hospitals and healthcare facilities protect nurses from the violence they might experience in the workplace. However, some states have passed protective regulations on their own, requiring the development of violence-prevention programs, teaching de-escalation techniques, and increasing the penalties for people convicted of assaulting healthcare workers. As violence against nurses continues to increase, the US Department of Labor is considering nationwide workplace-safety standards for hospitals to prevent abuse against their employees.
What has caused the spike in violence? A 2015 research study in the Journal of Emergency Nursing found that dementia or Alzheimer’s patients and patients on drugs are the most likely to hurt nurses. An increase in violence also correlates with the recession a few years ago, which led to public and private hospitals cutting budgets and laying off employees. With fewer nurses and security guards on duty at any given time, there is less help available when a patient gets out of control. Many states also cut billions in funding for mental health services while psychiatric patients are increasingly seeking emergency room treatment because they can’t be turned away at a hospital.
Bonnie Castillo, an RN and director of health and safety for National Nurses United, tells TheAtlantic.com that there’s a pervasive notion that dealing with unruly patients is part of a nurse’s job and therefore, “[Nurses] always feel discouraged from reporting it.” While the Department of Labor works toward establishing nationwide safety standards, individual hospitals are beginning to implement their own measures for ensuring employee safety (like offering self-defense classes to staff). However, while the nationwide nursing shortage persists and hospitals don’t have mandated safety regulations, patients and staff will continue suffering from workplace violence in hospitals.
A week from yesterday, 4,000 Allina Health nurses from five Twin Cities hospitals returned to work, ending what was almost a six-week-long strike. The strike began late in the summer during a period where nurse strikes were a hot topic and occurring all over the country. In an effort to fight for workplace safety measures, insurance benefits, and safe staffing ratios, thousands of Minnesota nurses prepared to leave their jobs indefinitely until Allina offered a new contract that they could agree to.
After a 17 hour negotiating session, a majority of the 4,800 nurses on strike under the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) voted to approve their latest contract offer. Allina Health and the MNA had been working on a new agreement since February which was followed by four failed contract proposals before the latest one was approved last week.
The approved contract was a win for the Minnesota nurses, earning them 24/7 security in emergency rooms, a 2 percent pay raise, and although the nurses will still be phased out of their health plans by 2018, Allina agreed to contribute to their health reimbursement and savings accounts.
Out of the 4,800 nurses who started the strike, 630 crossed the picket line to return to work before a new contract was reached and 200 left Allina Health completely, leaving 4,000 Minnesota nurses to return after agreeing to the new contract. An exact number for how much the six-week strike cost has not been released by Allina, but the weeklong strike that occurred in June cost $20 million to cover replacement workers.
Rose Roach, Executive Director of MNA, has said that, “The nurses left their jobs and their health benefits so they could win workplace safety guarantees…They won that for both themselves and their patients.” Many of the nurses are looking forward to returning to their patients but Allina will still have to work to repair relationships with their staff.