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Avoiding stereotypical nursing images.

Two letters in last month's issue raised some important issues for me as an educator and researcher.

Lisa Kenyon ("Wanting to bridge a communication gap", p4) writes passionately and a little wistfully, highlighting the vulnerability of students who are painfully aware that some nurses believe that current education is inadequate and does not equip students to be effective nurses. Lisa's concerns are also evident in Jeanette Robins' equally passionate letter about the need for care in nursing practice ("Pondering the real meaning of care", p3).

As a teacher of nursing, previously in an undergraduate programme and now in a new graduate setting, I am alarmed at the generalisations some nurses talk and write about, such as "generation Y's attitudes and ideas" and the apparently stereotypical image of our students and new graduates as "lacking in basic human emotion". In my recent research, I have come across many nurses who are traumatised by their colleagues. We are all familiar with the terms "horizontal violence", "eating our young" and "bullying", but when did we accept them into our nursing culture? When did we stop speaking out against them?

I agree there are issues the profession needs to address, including the consistency and quality of undergraduate education and the prevalence of task-oriented nursing. As individuals and members of organisations, we need to be vigorous in our efforts to ensure those issues are kept on the table until they are resolved. But I don't see a lack of human emotion in the many new and aspiring nurses I work with. Quite the contrary--I see embattled, passionate, exhausted and frightened people. Daily, I see the emotional and spiritual toll nursing takes on our students, yet they choose, over and over again, to persist in their attempts to become the nurses that we, their colleagues, seem to expect them to be. That we include the contradictions "caring" and "fast", "up-to-date documentation" and "time to sit and chat" in our expectations, doesn't seem to occur to us. No matter how clinically experienced the teacher is, it is only the nurses on the floor who can show new nurses how to combine those expectations in practice, so they understand how to be nurses, rather than merely knowing about nursing.

The perpetuation of stereotypes and stigmatising images are not always categorised as bullying, but they are as damaging as the colleague who throws equipment and swears. Silence in the face of such actions is also as damaging. It is time we stopped blaming our students for not receiving the education we believe they should have. It is time we recognised that the lack of a caring touch, whether from a student, new graduate or experienced nurse, is not usually a lack in that person, but is very often a transference of their personal experience among nurses into their nursing practice. It is time to extend our caring touch to our colleagues, especially our new nurses, and to show them what we believe nursing should be all about.

Jacquie Kidd, RN, PhD, Hamilton
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Author:Kidd, Jacquie
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Previous Article:Accessing nursing workforce information.
Next Article:Finding generalisations offensive.

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