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Are Nurses Oppressed?

Nurses Article   (2,037 Views 42 Comments 722 Words)
by katherinebrewer7 katherinebrewer7 (Member)

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Nurses have a rewarding profession, but face many challenges in their work. Could oppression be one of them, and what are the solutions? You are reading page 3 of Are Nurses Oppressed?. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

30 Likes; 1 Follower; 1 Article; 274 Visitors; 22 Posts

On 1/23/2019 at 10:48 PM, nutella said:

For years, I rejected the idea that nurses are oppressed. It was based on my own experience (did not feel oppressed) and my understanding. I thought that oppression is something that only applies to the well known marginalized groups that have been experiencing oppression. 

It was not until I started to work in a community setting and now in a community acute care place that I changed my opinion. I was used to academic centers and never felt powerless. I was mentored by strong clinical nurses who felt as equal partners in care when dealing with providers. A lot has changed in nursing. And what I am seeing now prompted me to re-think. 

I do think that nurses as a group are oppressed, behave like oppressed groups do, and often oppress fellow oppressed nurses. Ever witnessed report where nurses are afraid of giving report because the next nurse is highly critical and tries to exert passive-aggressive power? 

This is not an oppression competition where the most oppressed group in the country or world is the only one that can be oppressed or legit oppressed. It is good to understand those dynamics that lead to oppression so we can understand how we are being treated and also how we treat other nurses or people. 

Thanks for these comments, very informative and yes, unfortunately I do know that feeling...

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Hoosier_RN has 20 years experience as a MSN and works as a Dialysis.

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On 1/23/2019 at 2:34 PM, katherinebrewer7 said:

Freire postulates that oppression can be subtle. It can be violent, but also can be subvert. The hallmark of the construct are that the group is made to feel devalued by a means of the social, economic, and political environment. However one can certainly argue that an economic workgroup such as nurses cannot claim the mantle of supreme systematic oppression as can other groups such as those you mention. 

Again, by this definition, any group of workers could be considered oppressed.  It would not just be limited to nurses.  Sorry, I'm just not biting the line.  Definitely a knock to those who are truly oppressed

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10 minutes ago, Hoosier_RN said:

Again, by this definition, any group of workers could be considered oppressed.  It would not just be limited to nurses.  Sorry, I'm just not biting the line.  Definitely a knock to those who are truly oppressed

Thank you, and I agree - no one is trying to make light of the fact that certain racial, ethnic, or other socio-political oppression exists and is a serious problem for certain groups. Nor am I trying to diminish the terrible physical and psychological consequences of intense, visible, blatant oppression in other groups. However the more I studied the theory, it appears that oppressive forces, wherever or whoever they are, can happen anywhere, however, the behavior that results is often similar - intergroup hostility being a big one. This is how many nursing scholars have come to define the reason bullying persists in nursing, more so than in other professions or workplaces. In my grappling with this theory in nursing, I certainly agree that I struggled with the equating nursing to, say, systemic racism or ethnic cleansing. But at the same time, there do not have to only be extreme examples in order for other groups to experience oppressive environments. 

Thanks for commenting and challenging the theory - challenges are most definitely welcome!!

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hawaiicarl has 28 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a Charge Nurse.

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I prefer to think of nursing as "Golden Handcuffs", or if you prefer a golden birdcage.  Research shows I will live 10 years less in this captivity, because I work nights, but it pays enough to support a family on.  Let alone my increased risk of cancer from my exposure to all the hospital chemicals, and radiation.  How many of our coworkers have died from cancer, but have no other risk factors?

C'est la Vie

Cheers

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llg has 40 years experience as a PhD, RN and works as a Nursing Professional Development + Academic Facult.

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Back in the olden days, when I was in my PhD program, we studied Freire and Critical Theory, too.   It's fashionable among some academic circles.   But I had a problem with it then and continue to have a problem with it now.  As other posters have pointed out -- everyone can claim "victimhood" for some reason.  

No one is totally free from the influence of others.  We are connected to society and those connections bring power disparities.  There will always be some people influencing the behavior or possibilities of others.

The nurses feel oppressed by the doctors and administrators.  The administrators feel oppressed by the society's financial conditions, laws, the health system in general. The physicians feel oppressed by the nurses, the administrators, and the health system, the demanding patients, etc.   The nursing assistants feel oppressed by the nurses and everyone else.   The pharmacists feel oppressed by many of the same people.  etc. etc. etc.  I could go on and on.

Another aspect of Critical Theory (i.e. the work of Freire and others) ... it is often used to justify rebellion and retribution.  In other words, people use it as a justification to "pay back," "punish," or otherwise "settle the score" with the people they perceive to have oppressed them.   Historically, a lot of the world's worst violence and bloody revolutions have used Critical Theory as its justification.  

I decided then that I did not want to use Critical Theory as my framework for viewing the world.  It too often inflames situations, leads to exaggerated feelings of victimization, justifies violent revenge/restitution/etc.   And I don't want to work in an environment where my co-workers (of all disciplines) view ourselves as victims and our co-workers (who are usually struggling with similar issues) as oppressors.

So I (and many of my classmates) rejected the Critical Theory approach and decided to use it only in special circumstances and with the greatest of care to avoid its common pitfalls.

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brandy1017 works as a RN.

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On 1/23/2019 at 11:11 AM, offlabel said:

"Oppression" is a little dramatic, isn't it?  What is evidenced based about acknowledgement of the existence of oppression in nursing? That would just an idea of one group imposed on another. In the culture of identity politics, it has become very chic and profitable for groups to claim victim status, thereby avoiding meaningful introspection for the problems they experience that they may have the greater share of responsibility for. 

Instead of claiming such status, nurses would do well to first separate from the narcissistic culture that has been created by notions of entitlement. Gossiping, backbiting, sick calls for superfluous reasons, conspiratorial thinking when feeling overworked and under appreciated. There is no group in any hospital, from physicians to  nurses to house keepers that don't feel under appreciated and over worked. There does seem to be one group that complains more than any other though...

Speaking the truth about the abusive conditions many bedside nurses work under doesn't mean we are victims.  Why did it take an act of Congress to get safe needles in hospitals that were available for 10 years!  Why did it take a state law to get safe staffing ratios passed in California!  Because hospitals don't care about nurses safety nor do they really care about patient safety, they mainly care about how much they can get away with to save money.  They have risk managers and lawyers to protect them if someone files a lawsuit because they were harmed.  In that way they are like Ford when it decided not to fix the Ford Pinto and let people burn to death rather than recall the car because it was cheaper.  Eventually after the infamous Pinto memo was exposed they were forced to recall the cars. 

Ok that is a dramatic example, but we all know that the constant short staffing and high patient ratios endanger patient safety and even increase the risk of death.  If money were not more important hospitals wouldn't be fighting against a no lift environment and safe staffing ratios!  It really is all about the money.

I believe unions are the real answer, but not just any union.  I would like to see the National Nurses United expand across the country and give nurses a true voice.  Shared governance is more like a pat on the head and from what I've seen myself and heard from others; it really doesn't empower nurses because money seems to always get in the way when nurses speak up for improvements.

As to nurses complain too much and all workers are treated poorly, nurses are the one with the ultimate responsibility for their patients' safety.  Also, nurses are the only worker expected to do every other staff members job besides their own. They have a right to speak out and fight for better working conditions.  When they are successful, patients benefit the most!

 

Edited by brandy1017

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Spadeforce has 1 years experience.

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9 hours ago, brandy1017 said:

Speaking the truth about the abusive conditions many bedside nurses work under doesn't mean we are victims.  Why did it take an act of Congress to get safe needles in hospitals that were available for 10 years!  Why did it take a state law to get safe staffing ratios passed in California!  Because hospitals don't care about nurses safety nor do they really care about patient safety, they mainly care about how much they can get away with to save money.  They have risk managers and lawyers to protect them if someone files a lawsuit because they were harmed.  In that way they are like Ford when it decided not to fix the Ford Pinto and let people burn to death rather than recall the car because it was cheaper.  Eventually after the infamous Pinto memo was exposed they were forced to recall the cars. 

Ok that is a dramatic example, but we all know that the constant short staffing and high patient ratios endanger patient safety and even increase the risk of death.  If money were not more important hospitals wouldn't be fighting against a no lift environment and safe staffing ratios!  It really is all about the money.

I believe unions are the real answer, but not just any union.  I would like to see the National Nurses United expand across the country and give nurses a true voice.  Shared governance is more like a pat on the head and from what I've seen myself and heard from others; it really doesn't empower nurses because money seems to always get in the way when nurses speak up for improvements.

As to nurses complain too much and all workers are treated poorly, nurses are the one with the ultimate responsibility for their patients' safety.  Also, nurses are the only worker expected to do every other staff members job besides their own. They have a right to speak out and fight for better working conditions.  When they are successful, patients benefit the most!

 

too bad large clumps of nurses are too busy biting each other's throats to unionize

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14 hours ago, llg said:

Back in the olden days, when I was in my PhD program, we studied Freire and Critical Theory, too.   It's fashionable among some academic circles.   But I had a problem with it then and continue to have a problem with it now.  As other posters have pointed out -- everyone can claim "victimhood" for some reason.  

No one is totally free from the influence of others.  We are connected to society and those connections bring power disparities.  There will always be some people influencing the behavior or possibilities of others.

The nurses feel oppressed by the doctors and administrators.  The administrators feel oppressed by the society's financial conditions, laws, the health system in general. The physicians feel oppressed by the nurses, the administrators, and the health system, the demanding patients, etc.   The nursing assistants feel oppressed by the nurses and everyone else.   The pharmacists feel oppressed by many of the same people.  etc. etc. etc.  I could go on and on.

Another aspect of Critical Theory (i.e. the work of Freire and others) ... it is often used to justify rebellion and retribution.  In other words, people use it as a justification to "pay back," "punish," or otherwise "settle the score" with the people they perceive to have oppressed them.   Historically, a lot of the world's worst violence and bloody revolutions have used Critical Theory as its justification.  

I decided then that I did not want to use Critical Theory as my framework for viewing the world.  It too often inflames situations, leads to exaggerated feelings of victimization, justifies violent revenge/restitution/etc.   And I don't want to work in an environment where my co-workers (of all disciplines) view ourselves as victims and our co-workers (who are usually struggling with similar issues) as oppressors.

So I (and many of my classmates) rejected the Critical Theory approach and decided to use it only in special circumstances and with the greatest of care to avoid its common pitfalls.

I love all these comments!! 

Thank you, I'm glad you reviewed these theories in school. We only reviewed Kuhn's manifesto on normal science so we didn't get into this one much. In the book,Freire rejects violence by oppressed groups in order to achieve equality - he calls that the emulation of the oppressor. Freire was also a post-modernist philosophical thinker, and articulated his pedagogy in that way, meaning that there are many ways of viewing the same object. 

Again, thank you for such a stimulating comment!

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15 hours ago, hawaiicarl said:

I prefer to think of nursing as "Golden Handcuffs", or if you prefer a golden birdcage.  Research shows I will live 10 years less in this captivity, because I work nights, but it pays enough to support a family on.  Let alone my increased risk of cancer from my exposure to all the hospital chemicals, and radiation.  How many of our coworkers have died from cancer, but have no other risk factors?

C'est la Vie

Cheers

Interesting analogy, thank you

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NICU Guy has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a NICU RN.

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11 hours ago, brandy1017 said:

I believe unions are the real answer, but not just any union.  I would like to see the National Nurses United expand across the country and give nurses a true voice.  Shared governance is more like a pat on the head and from what I've seen myself and heard from others; it really doesn't empower nurses because money seems to always get in the way when nurses speak up for improvements.

Nice little plug for your union.

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Emergent has 25 years experience and works as a Emergency Room RN.

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This thread reinforces my thinking regarding nursing education at the higher levels. My impression has always been that it involves a lot of clinically irrelevant material such as this Friere's theory, which sounds like the foundation for a lot of liberal sociological ideologies. 

Is nursing PhD coursework ideological preparation for future policymakers to implement the philosophical outlook of academia?

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anewsns has 8 years experience.

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I worked this one job where we we had this policy that you were supposed to smile at everyone you came across- “buy in” to new initiatives (those were the words in the rules) and if we talked about being understaffed we were told we would lose our jobs. We were grossly understaffed. We had to bargain for our vacations and were made to feel guilty for going on vacation. Someone was given a “smile award” every month for following this strict Set of rules that were supposed to promote positivity and boost morale. It makes me furious just to think about it. It was hard to leave because 1.) they “needed” us and 2.) It was a nursing home, sorta hard to get another job after that. I had to do some fighting to get out. We weren’t allowed to have alarms on residents (or psychotropics, no staff for 1:1, no restraints) and one day I was working with a new grad and trying to help her and we had multiple falls and injuries that day amongst our residents. We had this one new white collar lady who said a lot of judgmental things to us that day and me and the other nurse both had to leave the floor crying in frustration while the white collars (including the creator and enforcer of the smile policy) looked on passively smiling (I’m not even exaggerating or being dramatic they were all standing there in a circle watching.) This job is probably why Office Space is my favorite movie and 1984 is my favorite book. “Must step up smile game today!. “ (Read: GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE !) 

I feel like we aren’t oppressed as a group, we have a lot of freedom to move around and make good money- and we can just leave!. However, at certain jobs- perhaps LTC in particular, yes, it certainly does feel oppressive at times! 

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