Nursing Image


[color=#cc9966]the article below was reprinted from a uva nursing publication and was dated december 2001 . [color=#cc9966]

[color=#cc9966]i found it very interesting and thought it had some good thoughts. :up:

__________________________________ nurses to voice concerns at first-time congress

by matt kelly

nurses need to change their image, journalist suzanne gordon stressed at the

health system’s first-ever nursing congress dec. 7.

gordon, who has written several books about health care and nurses, gave the keynote address at the meeting, held at the rotunda. in her remarks she railed against stereotypes and insisted nurses should be seen as knowledge workers in the health care industry.

the 64-member congress, elected from among the 1,600 nurses at the medical center, met to brainstorm its concerns, which will be presented to the nurses cabinet in the coming year. the congress was formed to give nurses a greater voice and foster communication among nurses at the medical center.

included in the issues the nurses outlined in their afternoon session were promoting a realistic view of bedside nursing, expanding nurses’ voices in budgetary and care decisions and improving communication procedures, as well as calling for greater rewards and recognition.

in her remarks, gordon blamed the historical structure of health care, in which nurses were allowed power and knowledge only if they pretended they did not have it. nurses were supposed to describe their work altruistically, say it was a calling, not a job. she ripped persistent advertisements, many of them commissioned by hospitals, that refer to nurses as angels.

gordon said there are two shortages in nursing — a shortage of people willing to work under the current conditions and people unwilling to be nurses when there are many other career opportunities open to them.

people still consider nurses second class, thinking they are not as smart as doctors or not willing to put in the time doctors do, she said.

nurses need to be proactive and work to change their image — with the press, the public, the medical profession and with themselves.

nurses sometimes sabotage themselves, according to gordon. a nurse who identifies herself only by her first name, or in language that makes her sound like the property of a doctor or a hospital, is sending the wrong message.

“they act like they don’t have their own knowledge, like they are borrowing it from the doctor,” gordon said.

she insisted that nurses use their first and last names when introducing themselves and she urged the nurses to call doctors by their first names, if the doctors persist in referring to them by their first names only.

they also need to change the conditions at work, gordon urged, including authority to make decisions, appropriate staffing levels and case loads, so nurses can spend more time with patients and attending on-going education.

nurses need to communicate with the public, to remind people their work is important. hospital public relations departments should promote them as well, she said, to give a better picture of what nurses do.

to perform theair jobs, nurses have to be good communicators, but they don’t tell their own stories because they are afraid of breaching confidentiality. they could talk about their work in general terms, but using specific details to express the difficulty and tragedy they face daily.

“you deal with illness, suffering and death,” she said. “people are not at their best when you see them.”

she gave the nurses an exercise to think about the experiences that show what they do and how they would describe and illustrate it. two nurses then got up and told their stories. once the tales were told, gordon and other nurses complimented and criticized them. after the critique, gordon urged them to hone their stories to help explain their jobs. she said they should used terms like “consult” when describing their interaction with doctors.

“nurses don’t talk about what they do” she said, but they should take opportunities to explain their jobs to family and friends. “they need real rewards, like raises and social respect.”

gonzo1, ASN, RN

1,739 Posts

Specializes in ED, ICU, PSYCH, PP, CEN. Has 20 years experience.

I've read several of her books. Made me appreciate the knowledge and education I have a lot more. I definately changed the way I dress at work and the way I interact with others. No more second citizen for me.

Specializes in Maternal-Fetal. Has 3 years experience.

I'll have to check those out. When I decided to go into nursing, one of the topics that became dear to me was that of nursing advocacy and improving our profession.

I hope that when I'm a nurse, I'll be able to help that cause. :)


150 Posts

A dear friend of mine was an inspector for OSHA for a few years. It was not a female-friendly environment, expecially when she had to go to places like construction sites and meat packing plants. (Not to imply that all nurses are women...but in her situation her gender was definitely a factor.) She always introduced herself as "Mrs. H" and would nicely remind people that her name was Mrs. H if anyone refered to her by her first name. She swears that by insisting that people call her Mrs. H people treated her better. Whether out of respect or belief that she was a little old-fashioned (or nuts ;-)), the result was the same.

Interesting concept.


28 Posts

Yes, I've just read most of Suzanne Gordon's book Nursing Against the Odds and I have to say I have become radicalized. I'm a mid-50's student in a BSN program and I can tell you I had no idea what nurses did before I started back to school to learn to be one. I'm just finishing up my junior year now but last year when I was a sophomore (which seems like ages ago) I was very confused about what doctors did vs. what nurses did. Unfortunately the faculty didn't help to make the distinction and it took me most of this year to understand enough to a.) know what to do when I entered a patient's room and b.) get my head around nursing diagnoses.

When I am a nurse, I hope I will act more professional as regards my name: not hide my name by turning my badge around, introducing myself as either Ms. Prince or Nurse Prince and insisting on name parity. Patients are a different matter: I will always invite them to call me by my first name, but after introducing myself as above.

The uniform issue is another one I've been thinking about. I absolutely think it is imperative that nurses be distinguished from other employees and not look like they are wearing pajamas. I think I will likely settle on one for myself and just wear that all the time, no variety. I'm considering a light-colored (blue?) lab coat as part of the garb, but I'm not even sure they exist in colors other than white.

jjjoy, LPN

2,801 Posts

I was very confused about what doctors did vs. what nurses did. Unfortunately the faculty didn't help to make the distinction and it took me most of this year to understand enough to a.) know what to do when I entered a patient's room and b.) get my head around nursing diagnoses.

I hear ya. Nurses aren't just "MD helpers" - they don't just administer meds, change bandages, and monitor vitals. Nurses aren't just personal aides - they don't just empty bedpans & bathe and feed patients. Nurses aren't just waitresses - they don't just get water and fluf pillows. Nurses have their own independent practice and expertise!

If a nursing student focuses on the medical diagnoses or treatment, the instructor will often chastise them and remind them they are NURSES and what NURSING INTERVENTIONS are appropriate... skin care, mouth care, encouraging incentive spirometry, assisting with feeding... all important stuff, but pretty basic - one shouldn't need two years to pick those up & understand the rationales.

Meanwhile, on the floor, the student sees that the nurses spend maybe 10% of their time on those nursing interventions and the rest of the time administering meds, changing bandages, taking off new orders, calling the MD for orders, calling dietary for a missing food tray, making sure the patient has fresh water, documenting, documenting, documenting, and ignoring the canned nursing care plan shoved in the back of the medical record.

And in regard to what to do upon entering a patient room... why not just DEMONSTRATE? I say that because my instructors rarely did that very simple thing (realistic demonstration) that could've quickly clarified many things.

RN Power Ohio

285 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg/Tele, Hem/Onc, BMT. Has 15 years experience.

Suzanne's books are required reading for ALL nurses! IMHO!

She recently presented in Cleveland and discussed her new book. Safety In Numbers.

Silence to Voice is my second Gordon favorite.


28 Posts

Can anyone who has heard Suzanne Gordon speak describe her style? Is she dynamic?

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 17,702 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 46 years experience.

I met Suzzane at PASNAP lecture in 2005. What was most impressive was she had nurses tell their story about the work they performed, then she suggested ways to translate their story into ACTION language that lay public would understand.

See my previous post.

Don't miss any presentation by her or Bernice Burrell

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