Why the nurses get no respect...

  1. Hello, everyone.

    I know this topic has been severely beaten, but its not dead yet because so many of us are still talking about it. I thought I would share my opinions and I invite everyone to comment, whether you agree with me or not.

    I'm working on a BSN degree, which I expect to complete by summer '04. After that I intend to work as an RN for a year and then apply to grad school to do the CRNA program. Yes, I'm one of 'those' people who went ahead and did a nursing degree despite all the MANY negative things I heard about nursing as a career. BUT... I've been working as a volunteer in a local hospital, and from what I have observed, it IS true that physicians and NPs look down on nurses. But, it is also true that a lot of what has happened to the nursing profession is due to the attitudes and behavior of some of the nurses themselves.

    First of all, I can tell from talking to some of the nurses at my hospital that they barely made it through nursing school and probably passed the NCLEX by less than a hair. Even as a student, I am shocked at some of the things I've seen some RNs do and at some of the questions they ask...stuff that any first year nursing student should know. If even I, as a nursing student, can observe these things, then surely the doctors also do. And, this is one of the reasons some of them think most nurses are idiots and little more than patient care techs. I've only been a volunteer in this hospital for 6 months and already I can tell the good nurses from the bad ones.

    Another thing I've observed is that many nurses complain, complain, complain...about everything and wherever they can find an audience. They complain about the pay, the patients, the doctors, the administration...you name it. I've always wondered why these people got into the profession in the first place. They always use the same cliches...Plumbers make more, landscapers make more, etc. Anyone who really loves nursing will agree that it takes a lot more to be a nurse than it does to be a plumber or a gardener. For one thing, to be a good nurse you have to care more about helping people than about making a buck. In fact, to be really good at any profession you have to care more about your competence and reputation than about making a lot of money. I think a lot of nurses don't understand this.

    I've seen some nurses who're so miserable when they come on the floor most times that I wonder why they bother. I've always believed that if you don't like what you're doing then you should find another way to make a living and stop creating more stress for yourself. I'm not yet an RN, and obviously as a volunteer I'm not making ANY money from helping take care of people in the hospital, but its experience that I'll need later and I don't get stressed out by it because I actually like helping people.

    Also, some nurses don't take themselves seriously but they expect doctors to respect them anyway. In the old days, nurses used to wear immaculate white uniforms that were ironed, and they also wore clean white shoes. They wore conservative and neatly groomed hair, short cut nails, and they were spotless all around. Nurses were in very much the same supporting role back then but doctors did not look down on them the way they do now. Everyone used to look up to that spotless white uniform as a symbol of health and authority, and nursing used to be one of the most highly respected careers.

    But look at what's happened. SCRUBS!!! In the ugliest and most shocking colors and prints, and with a pair of smelly, dirty sneakers to match. Not to mention the outrageous hairstyles and the long, acrylic fingernails to match. Compare the matronly-looking nurse from the 1950s in her glorious white uniform to today's nurse in his/her cheap cotton scrubs. Which one looks more like a circus act? Which one looks more like a healthcare professional? And we're wondering why people don't see nurses as professionals!!! Yes, appearance matters, and to prove it, put a lab coat on any nurse and throw a stethescope around his or her neck and see whether most patients won't assume that she/he is a doctor.

    Then there's attitude. I've seen nurses who flat out refuse to go back to school to learn new stuff, always holding on tight only to what they know. They resist change and complain when they have to learn new technology that comes into the hospital. Some of them love to stand around backstabbing each other and gossipping, and they say the nastiest things about other nurses who take their work seriously.

    I encourage anyone who's thinking about going into nursing to volunteer a few hours each week in a hospital and watch how the RNs and the LPNs do their stuff, just to get an idea of what to expect from the career. If after doing that you still feel like giving nursing a try, then just do it and stop paying attention to other people who say negative things about nursing. Every career has stress, and very few people you ask (no matter what profession they're in) will ever say they make "enough" money. I don't think nurses will ever be paid "enough" money for what they do, but one thing I've learned is that nursing is absolutely the wrong career choice if you're doing it just for the money.

    I think nursing can once again become a respected profession when some of us in the field start to respect ourselves and each other a lot more than we do now.
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  2. 138 Comments

  3. by   nicudaynurse
    Wow you have made quite a statement! First I will say that I am VERY PROUD to be a nurse. The majority of people I come in contact have a lot of respect for my chosen career. There are nurses that do hate their jobs and nursing in general. I feel that if you aren't proud to be a nurse then you aren't going to set a good example for the nursing profession.

    I have been a nurse for about five years now (time sure does fly), anyway I have been thinking a lot lately about the nursing profession. I do sometimes wonder what our expertise is. Physical Therapists have their own expertise as do Occupational Therapists, Dieticians, etc.... So what is nursing's expertise? I know that nurses specialize in certain areas such as cardiac, renal, etc...., but that isn't something we focus our studies on in nursing school. Nursing school is just a broad overview of everything. It is really up to the nurse after graduation to take the intitiative and become an expert in his/her particular area of interest. I do agree that sometimes nurses aren't very smart when it comes to disease process, pathology, etc.... and I think that it contributes to other professions not respecting us. I'm sure that all of us could go back to our units/areas and ask all the nurses what the reasons are for low and/or high platelets and a lot of them wouldn't really know unless they looked in their book. My point with that is that it is up to the nurses to keep of their knowledge base and to never stop learning and don't be afraid to ask the physicians questions.

    I do agree that nurses do tend to complain and gossip a lot, but usually the underlying issue is insecurity and it's just a way to make them feel better about themselves. This really is just human nature and I'm sure that it goes on in every profession.

    Wow I sure did ramble. I'm really not sure what the whole point of this response was, but I enjoyed typing it.

    Hope everyone has a good weekend!!!!
  4. by   Spidey's mom
    Ok Dave, you had me nodding my head in agreement until you got to the uniform issue. I hate white uniforms and caps!

    I don't want to paint all nurses with your broad brush however. Not everyone fits what you wrote. But you probably notice them as they are a bit "noisier".

    I will say that I was surprised by the lack of knowledge I did note from some nurses. Like you said, stuff a first year student should know. But then I realized that nursing school does not really prepare you for being a nurse. You have to work at it. I think there is a difference between true lack of knowledge, acknowledgement of that and the desire to learn more vs. people who spout off and you realize they don't know what they are talking about and don't care. That is embarrassing. I have had that experience hearing a nurse give a doctor an earful but she had the issue all wrong. So, yeah . .yikes. Gives the doc ammo against ALL nurses.

    There are wonderful, intelligent, knowledgable nurses out there though. Sift through the "noise" and you will find them. Aspire to be like them.

    Good luck. steph (truthfully - when I see a photo of a nurse in a white dress with her little cap perched "just so" I cannot help but think "bimbo" - I know, I'm bad)
  5. by   sbic56
    Geez, I think we are more respected now than we were years ago. I never want to go back to that place! Nurses were second rate citizens to doctors; anyone remember standing up and giving the doc your seat? Nurses cleaned ashtrays and scrubbed floors, urinals and bedpans and whatever else needed it.

    Those darned whites were the bane of my existance! My cap got caught up in the privacy curtain and kneeling on a bed with a dress when transferring a patient was, well, not exactly the professional picture I wanted to convey! Scrubs work just fine for me, thank you.

    Insulting the intelligence of the nurses you work with mostly reflects poorly on no one, but yourself. Most are capable; with the nursing shortage they may be inexperienced, but certainly not incompetant. I don't find at all that physicians look down on nurses. Most I know are quite aware they would be unable to run their practices without nurses. Sure there are exceptions, and being human, some docs are not nice people, but that is neither here nor there.

    I'd suggest you work as a nurse for a bit before you profess to know all the answers to the ills of the profession. It sounds like you have much to experience. That said, I do agree with your assessment that nurses complain way too much and that is counterproductive. Mainly, nurses need to learn to take care of themselves. Nurses are obviously caregivers, but they often put their own needs on a back burner, be it on the job or in their personal lives. The result is burnout, depression and general dissatifaction. As a group we need to continue to push for safer working conditions, adequate staffing and the compensation we deserve for our service. Acheiving those goals would make nursing the profession that most of us fell in love with in the first place.
  6. by   gwenith
    Interesting comments Dave and while I respect your right to hold this opinion I do not agree with it.

    ______________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    .........it IS true that physicians and NPs look down on nurses. But, it is also true that a lot of what has happened to the nursing profession is due to the attitudes and behavior of some of the nurses themselves.
    ___________________________________________

    Are you not, by this very post "looking down on nurses?" Your post is very negative and in some ways condescending. The term "lateral violence" which has been commonly applied to nurses was originally coined to describe the attitude and behaviour among certain minority and underprivileged members of American society. They too have traditionally been blamed for thier own diffictulties without recognition of the self - perpetuating cycle that is truly the engine of these problems.

    _________________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    First of all, I can tell from talking to some of the nurses at my hospital that they barely made it through nursing school and probably passed the NCLEX by less than a hair.
    ________________________________________

    Are you suggesting here that hospitals only employ nurses with HD's? Every bell curve has a bottom. When marking a paper particulalry one as widespread as the NCLEX the marks are spread across a statistical bell curve to negate the accident of the extremely difficult or the ridiculously easy paper. I have known many nurses, who, because of exam nerves or many many other reasons did not do well on thier initial examinations but have progressed to become some of the highest achieving and best nurses known.
    ____________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    Even as a student, I am shocked at some of the things I've seen some RNs do and at some of the questions they ask...stuff that any first year nursing student should know.
    ____________________________________

    Nursing is not scientifically based and many aspects of our profession are based on practice wisdome rather than clinical proof. In other words - there is often no "one right way of doing things" The reality/theory gap is and always has been a distinct difficulty in nursing. I would rather nurses ask "silly" questions than try to guess an answer that may be wrong and therby do harm to the patient. Nursing requires such a huge breadth of knowledge that it is impossible to learn it all. Flaming someone for asking just perpetuates the vicitm cycle. In stating this you have raised my ire.
    ______________________________
    QUote DaveFL
    If even I, as a nursing student, can observe these things, then surely the doctors also do. And, this is one of the reasons some of them think most nurses are idiots and little more than patient care techs. I've only been a volunteer in this hospital for 6 months and already I can tell the good nurses from the bad ones.
    __________________________________

    Given my above rebuttal I would be interested if you could supply specifics.

    __________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    Another thing I've observed is that many nurses complain, complain, complain...about everything and wherever they can find an audience. They complain about the pay, the patients, the doctors, the administration...you name it.
    ___________________________________

    This behaviour is the direct result of disempowerment and a feeling of helplessness. If you wish this to stop investigate ways in which you can empower nurses to correct the probelm for themselves.

    __________________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    . In the old days, nurses used to wear immaculate white uniforms that were ironed, and they also wore clean white shoes. They wore conservative and neatly groomed hair, short cut nails, and they were spotless all around.
    __________________________________________

    I do not date back to the '50's but I did start my training in the days when we not only wore white uniforms but had to wear caps and veils! ( I am an Australian) We lived in Nurses Quarters and our uniforms were laundered for us by the hospital. I remember getting those freshly pressed uniforms and beating them against the bedside table several times to get them soft enough to unbend!!! The skirt "clanked" as you walked and the belt always cut into your midrift. They WERE fresh looking until you had spent half the day over a pan boiler by which time they were pathetic. They showed EVERY stain. The all in one dress has been scientifically proven to be the cause of more back injuries than all the heavy pateints combined. (you bend differently in a dress than in pants)

    As for the dress code - we are talking about a time when it was perfectly acceptable to tear strips off of a nurse doing ECM because whe wasn't earing a petticoat!!!! Do you really want to return to those days???

    __________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    Nurses were in very much the same supporting role back then but doctors did not look down on them the way they do now.
    _________________________________

    :roll Check out the thread "Nursing in 1875"
    Where did you get this idea??? My mother was a nurse in the 1950's Respect? From Doctors? - you gotta be joking!!!!!
    ___________________________________
    Quote DaveFL
    Then there's attitude. I've seen nurses who flat out refuse to go back to school to learn new stuff, always holding on tight only to what they know.
    ____________________________________

    So you have seen nurses refuse to go back to school? If you had any insight into adult learning you would realise that this is not unique to our profession but a characteristc of adults in general. Going back to school is a huge committtment to people who are already committed to other things in life. It is also a huge threat and impact unpon self-esteem and self perception. Don't take my word for it - go look up some articles in ERIC under androgogy.

    Dave - with respect you have seen one hospital in one area. To quote a management axiom "the fish always goes rotten at the head first" . If things are so bad where you do volunteer work I would check out exactly how the staff are being treated by management. The complaints you hear may be about money but I will bet that the real problems are feelings of not being appreciated and listened to. Money is just a symbol of these problems.
    Last edit by gwenith on Jun 20, '03
  7. by   sjoe
    "First of all, I can tell from talking to some of the nurses at my hospital that they barely made it through nursing school and probably passed the NCLEX by less than a hair."

    Well, YOU certainly have an excellent attitude that promotes respect for nurses and nursing.

    Just think of all the money that NCLEX could save in creating, administering, and scoring tests if they would only hire you to pass judgment on prospective testees!

    And all the time and money that nursing schools (and would-be students) could save by hiring you to pass similar judgments on all their prospective students!

    You might as well quit nursing school right now and offer yourself as a highly-paid, and respected, consultant on these matters.
  8. by   funnygirl_rn
    Great post & observations Gwenith...whole-heartily agree!
  9. by   funnygirl_rn
    [QUOTE][i]Originally posted by sjoe [You might as well quit nursing school right now and offer yourself as a highly-paid, and respected, consultant on these matters. /QUOTE]

  10. by   sbic56
    sjoe, gwenith


    Good responses. I don't know daveFL, so decided to go easy this time, but you are both right...he had it coming.
  11. by   simtown
    So, Dave;

    How long did you say you were an RN? You want to be a CRNA?
    How many YEARS have you worked on the unit, CCU ICU MICU etc?
    Have you considered that you are looking at the situation from the outside? You work as a vol. Try supporting a family on your salary. And yes, I agree, there are a considerable number of morons in the field. But, Nursing has an inner structure of highly experienced, compassionate, and remarkably knowledgeable RN's who, rival even the most experienced MD's. You dont notice them, because they dont have time to notice you. But, if you venture further into the critical care and specialized areas you may have a different perspective. And when we speak of a critical shortage of RN's, were not talking about the Morons.
    Those can be easily replaced. Were talking about the specialists.
    The ones who, after many years of dedication, give up and go into related fields with 1/10th the responsibility and 5 times the pay.
    Think about it.
    Sim.
  12. by   funnygirl_rn
    [i]Originally posted by sbic56 . Mainly, nurses need to learn to take care of themselves. Nurses are obviously caregivers, but they often put their own needs on a back burner, be it on the job or in their personal lives. The result is burnout, depression and general dissatifaction. As a group we need to continue to push for safer working conditions, adequate staffing and the compensation we deserve for our service. Acheiving those goals would make nursing the profession that most of us fell in love with in the first place.
    ITA!!
  13. by   simtown
    Your absolutely RIGHT
    I have seen this in myself, and in so many others who give too much of themselves. I have thought that this would actually make a very interesting study. "Who's taking care of the Caregivers". Nuring is a very complex career. I just finished a paper for a Dimentions of Professional Practice course im taking through Jacksonville on the "role of the professional Nurse". I interviewed a number of MD's on what they understood the role of the Nurse to be? You would not believe the responses. Most of them were not exactly clear on what Nurses actually did, they just knew that RN's get it DONE. Many have this impression that were managers of this vast ancillary staff. Incredible. Usually the surgeons who work closely with the ER/ICU staff had a much better grasp of the complexities of the position. Needless to say, once I started defining the "Role" I found myself 10 pages into a five page paper and still not really revealing the scope of practice.
    Sim.
  14. by   funnygirl_rn
    Interesting Sim, when you get a chance would you please post some of their responses....now I am curious! Good luck on your paper!

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