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Overcoming Social Stigma In Nursing Profession

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As I mentioned in my previous article “Nursing and Social Stigma” dated 02 December 2017 about the not so good image of the profession of nursing, Nurses/Nursing officers don’t get the respect they deserve and the profession is ridden with a plethora of stereotypes. The core problem is that nursing isn’t valued in line with its worth, because so many don’t understand what nursing is all about.

The good thing is public perception is gradually shifting as qualified nurses are becoming a demand.

The Bureau of labour statistics predicts that employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22% from 2008 to 2018.



Recalling my previous article, “Nursing and Social Stigma”, media plays a huge role in shaping how people think about nursing. It’s the media’s portrayal of nursing officers that had a great impact how public thinks about this profession.


One of the barriers I perceive in helping to change this is our strict standard of privacy and anonymity. Yes, you read that right. We as nurses are some of the staunchest defenders of confidentiality – and we can’t easily brag about the details of our daily examples of nursing interventions that make a difference to patients and families across the breadth of the continuum of care. Our challenge is to convey the essence of our complex professional roles through composite stories and scenarios, while abiding by our Code of Ethics.

Stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions often arise out of mystery. They fill in knowledge gaps where they exist. For many people, it is still a mystery what nurses do in our modern health care settings. If we were more intentional and less anonymous about our contributions to patient care and safety (while protecting patient confidentiality), we might remove some of the mystery and prompt more accurate appraisals of nursing’s value and the key roles we play as part of the health care system. I think, there are many things that nurses can do to balance and counteract the stereotypes and portrayals. We can enhance the public’s trust in us by standing together for safe client care in all situations, advocate for responsible stewardship of our publicly funded healthcare resources, use our knowledge to educate clients at every suitable opportunity and ensure that the profession stays strong long into the future by developing and fostering leaders.

We must help people understand what we really do for the sick and the well. Try to give your family, friends, relative etc. an accurate impression of nursing. Speak to everyone about the value of nursing and explain it to those you meet, whenever and wherever. When you read, view or hear anything that undervalues or disrespects nursing, speak and raise your voice so that people get aware about it. As nursing officers we need to know how to present ourselves as smart, well-educated, competent and skilled professionals. Rather than whispering and blaming to one another, let’s start an open discussion about deep rooted stereotypes that are prevalent in our society. We need to think whether these portrayals are damaging relationships. We as professionals bind with public, clients and with other professionals. If such portrayals exist, we need to change about how we present our profession to the world. Each nurse needs to explore how his/her actions affect the image of profession. Nursing faculty need to work with students to promote the image of nursing. We need to recognize the effect of our behaviour outside the workplace. We need to educate patients by nursing out loud- articulating their assessment and verbalizing what they are thinking, for example while ambulating a patient explain him/her that ambulation strengthens muscle tone, improves circulation, gastrointestinal and excretory functions.


I have heard nurses emphatically state that they don’t want their children to go into nursing profession, as they have to work in an environment where they are not respected, are underpaid and have to work for thankless people, who have unrealistic expectations. Obviously these kind of nursing officers are deteriorating our image. When an old friend or relative asks about your profession or work, don’t roll your eyes or shrug your shoulders. Try responding by putting your shoulders back, looking into the persons eyes and say confidently with pride, “I am a registered nurse, a nursing officer and I work in ABC hospital”. Be proud that the care you give is exemplary, ethical and safe. Such everyday actions will improve the image of profession definitely. And remember despite of stupid stereotypes, we are the most dedicated, hardworking, competent and caring professionals.

Part of changing our image is growing as a profession and such growth requires a nurturing process. Our nurse leaders need to guide this process by cultivating a professional image by speaking to community and civic groups about what nursing is and what it does. We are the frontline caregivers available 24*7, with individuals from birth, throughout their lifespan and at the end of life. Changing the way the media presents nursing could change societal views, but we as nursing officers need to work too for reducing the prevailing stereotypes.
(Feedback at: cuteulfat@gmail.com)

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Don not get stuck at the well of argument. Let God be your vindicator. Let Him fight your battles. He will vindicate you better than you can vindicate yourself.

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