How are nurses supposed to be culturally sensitive if people are not towards them!

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    I graduate in may. My nursing program is really strict. We have to wear all white, no piercings, no tattoos, hair up, white shoes, white socks. You know.

    I'm all about helping people and nursing and I love it! But I hate that I can't be my own person.

    I have been advised that I will not be allowed to keep a nose piercing in if I do it, which I accept. But I also want dreadlocks terribly, and the community that I was raised in would throw a fit if I had them! I fear even suggesting it to my instructors would cause immediate rejection.

    Is this discrimination? If I were to have a piercing and dreads at a job interview and were declined, there would be no definitive proof that I was being discriminated against for my hair or facial piercings. I would wait until I established a job, but I don't plan on staying in one place for too long, what happens after that?

    And I feel that I must say this, because my uncultured co-students have mentioned that they are dirty and "not even black people can work at a hospital with dreads", I am white, and I would wash my hair more often than I do now to keep the oils of my hair from ruining the dreads. And also, I could pull them back and they would not get in my way.

    How am I supposed to be culturally sensitive to my patients if students, staff, and other nurses can't show the same respect to me?

    I also want to add that I'm the youngest person ever to complete this nursing program, and they tend to treat me like that and say that I am "immature" "unprofessional" and I will "learn that people don't liked to be judged, but impressions are all that matter". Forgive my naivety, really..
    Last edit by roomtogrow on Jan 26, '08
  2. 19 Comments so far...

  3. 3
    Many nurses and assistants I know wear dreadlocks. They are African American, though, but they do. Most of them are neatly cared for and clean. I think that it is because we do work in an area that employs mostly minorities and is accepted there. I think it depends on the area employed.
  4. 1
    Quote from PatchouliPaige
    I graduate in may. My nursing program is really strict. We have to wear all white, no piercings, no tattoos, hair up, white shoes, white socks. You know.

    I'm all about helping people and nursing and I love it! But I hate that I can't be my own person.

    I have been advised that I will not be allowed to keep a nose piercing in if I do it, which I accept. But I also want dreadlocks terribly, and the community that I was raised in would throw a fit if I had them! I fear even suggesting it to my instructors would cause immediate rejection.

    Is this discrimination? If I were to have a piercing and dreads at a job interview and were declined, there would be no definitive proof that I was being discriminated against for my hair or facial piercings. I would wait until I established a job, but I don't plan on staying in one place for too long, what happens after that?

    And I feel that I must say this, because my uncultured co-students have mentioned that they are dirty and "not even black people can work at a hospital with dreads", I am white, and I would wash my hair more often than I do now to keep the oils of my hair from ruining the dreads. And also, I could pull them back and they would not get in my way.

    How am I supposed to be culturally sensitive to my patients if students, staff, and other nurses can't show the same respect to me?

    I also want to add that I'm the youngest person ever to complete this nursing program, and they tend to treat me like that and say that I am "immature" "unprofessional" and I will "learn that people don't liked to be judged, but impressions are all that matter". Forgive my naivety, really..
    i don't think it's discrimination... i think people are just scared of others that look different then them. the public as a whole has their "stigmas" of what people should look like, and anyone who looks alot different, on first glance, may be thought "homeless" "drug dealer" "thug" "hippie" "trashy", etc. i don't know anyone who hasn't mentally labeled someone just by looking at them.

    i truly believe that looking professional is not as important as acting professional. if you are an excellent nurse, do your job professionally and efficiently and keep the patients best interest in mind, i dont care if you have your face pierced 72 times.

    i guess the hospital i worked in was more liberal, because i have worked with nurses/techs and even a doctor with visible tattoos, facial peircings, gold and silver teeth and/or dread locks. sure they got funny looks from some of the more old-fashioned patients, but they were no less of a kick-butt nurse because they looked outside the norm.

    good luck in your career!
    SKM-NURSIEPOOH likes this.
  5. 1
    I would love to have a nose stud, but it could affect patient care, could hurt me if a pt. hit me in the face, or I pulled off my mask the wrong way. So I go with the "fake" nose ring when I want, just not at work. I have gone to the Christmas party(at the hosp.) with it with no problem, because I am not there for pt. care.

    As a new employee, it is important to not cause undue attention to yourself. You want to be known for your skills, expertise, willingness to learn, being a team player, being dependable and flexible. After these objectives are met, you (and anyone else) will have a bit more freedom in exploring what is acceptable in dress and hair...as we push the envelope a bit. Right now it should really not be an issue...imo.

    So wear your hair in dreadlocks on your time off...you may decide they are too heavy, too much work to care for or you don't like the look/feel. Enjoy your time as a new graduate nurse, and good luck with your N-CLEX.
    Last edit by sirI on Jan 27, '08 : Reason: referred to deleted post
    SKM-NURSIEPOOH likes this.
  6. 7
    We live in a world where people are judged by their looks. It's sad but true.

    Know this and be prepared.

    People who hire nurses have in their mind what a professional nurse should look like, and it pretty close to the discription your school requires you to be.

    In a way it's true if they take one look at the dreadlocks and nose peircings and whatever and turn you down on looks, it's discrimination. However, if they have policies and written dress codes it might not be.

    If there is a way, I would find out dress code policies prior to you interviewing. Such as is there a policy that says no nose peircings or visible tattoos. Because if that's their policy for staff it's not discrimination. I've worked with several nurses with nose peircings. It's unattractive to me, but why should they care.

    I've also seen dreadlocks, long braids, and all kinds of hairstyles of nurses. Hair in our facility must be pulled back and off the shoulder. So if you can do this with dreads, go for it.

    Best of luck to you. It might not be as bad as you think. School is a bit strict. But know that people do judge by looks because they have an image of what constitutes "professional appearance". So don't be surprised and disappointed. It definately isn't right by no means. But things are changing. There's a student doing his final clinicals with us that has a mohawk type haircut, but his hair isn't completely shaved on the sides, but it's taller down the middle. Making it a cultural issue might be a bit weak because as a white persson, presumably North American, it's not really your culture to wear dreads.
    Last edit by Tweety on Jan 27, '08
    sharpeimom, HouTx, Meriwhen, and 4 others like this.
  7. 2
    If you are neat an clean and do good work, that's all that matters where I work.
    SKM-NURSIEPOOH and NRSKarenRN like this.
  8. 1
    I'm not a nurse, but I do know that when you are a new employee or an interviewee at many jobs, you want to "fit in" appearance-wise. If you were in an area where dreads and facial piercings were common and expected, you having them might not draw any extra attention; however, since it seems that you might offend some sensibilities, perhaps you should hold off for now.

    Once you've established yourself as a competent, hardworking nurse, unless there is a dress code in place preventing you from wearing your hair in dreads, you would probably be more likely to get away with it, so long as they were clean and neat.

    Edit: The title of your post brings up a good point. I have my B.A. in anthropology, and I've done fieldwork in other countries. I've been laughed at TONS of times for anything from the way I talked (American accent and slang) to having short hair, to my crazy obsession with showers and hand-washing... It can be tough! A sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself goes a long way.

    Also, remember that not everyone has the same education and/or life experience that you do. You may know to be understanding towards other cultures, but some people might not be able to do the same to you because you don't fit into their idea of the norm, whether that be your teachers, a patient, the little old lady down the street, or your boss.
    Last edit by mouse_42 on Jan 27, '08 : Reason: add
    SKM-NURSIEPOOH likes this.
  9. 6
    You can debate the unfairness of having an employer place limitations on your appearance, but in the end, you still might have to choose between getting the job and dressing or doing your hair the way you want to. This is called "counting the cost," and we all do it all the time on a variety of subjects.

    Things are changing. Even ten years ago there were many more restrictions regarding dress and hair style in the workplace. Flexibility may not be arriving as quickly as you'd like, but it is coming.

    My suggestion: Do what an employer wants until you have a couple of years of experience under your belt. Once you have solid skills and credentials, you'll be in a better bargaining position.

    I wish you well.
    sharpeimom, Meriwhen, Jules A, and 3 others like this.
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    Personally, I am not against dreads or a nose ring. However, I think they are more an expression of fashion, rather than culture in your case. Many hospitals now have huge appearance standards in place which can be cumbersome for employees, but I think what others have suggested is appropriate, if you want to wear these items/style your hair in such a way, it will really be necessary to establish yourself firmly in a job, or possibly move to an area where it's acceptable. I am currently a traveller and have seen some things that would be considered incredibly unacceptable anywhere else accepted in some smaller out of the way places (full, not well kept beard on a guy...bleeech, give me a neat nose ring or clean dreadlocks any day...)....
    HouTx, Meriwhen, imanedrn, and 2 others like this.
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    Keep in mind, employers are ALLOWED to discriminate. They just aren't allowed to discriminate for certain reasons. If a hospital didn't want to hire anyone who went to school in the SEC, it would be stupid, but it wouldn't be illegal. Likewise, if they don't want to hire someone with dreadlocks and a nose ring, like it or not, that's their prerogative. They don't have to hire you, and you don't have to work there. The Walt Disney company used to prohibit (and still may, for all I know) any male employees from having any facial hair - which was especially ironic, given that Walt Disney himself had a mustache his entire adult life.

    They can't discriminate for race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, veteran's status, religion and probably a few others that I don't remember off the top of my head. But if they want to have a policy that they won't hire anyone whose first name is more than three syllables long, they would be within their rights. It would be asinine of course, but Maximillian, Alexander, Olivia, and Maryellen are still SOL.
    sharpeimom, HouTx, Meriwhen, and 4 others like this.


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