Last week’s news story about a community trust refusing funds raised by men dressed up as nurses provoked a mixed response from nurses.
The event, organised by the League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital, raised £2,500 for much-needed medical equipment but the Shropshire Community Health Trust suggested it was “sexualised, demeaning and insulting to the nursing profession”.
While some Nursing Times readers felt it was little more than harmless fun others found it insulting to the profession.
“The story does draw attention to the long-standing problem of casual sexism that nurses – both male and female – face in the workplace.”
June Girvin, an emeritus professor of nursing who voiced concerns about the story on Twitter, is crowd-funding to raise £1,500 to replace some of the lost funds. She posted on her Just Giving page that “The chief executive and chair have made the brave decision to refuse the financial donation” and “Many nurses are pleased to see senior leaders speaking out against this kind of lazy stereotyping”.
This may all seem like a trivial sideshow at a time when nurses are struggling with problems of recruitment and retention and, as we reported last week, a drop in recruits to nurse training.
However, the story does draw attention to the long-standing problem of casual sexism that nurses – both male and female – face in the workplace.
I’m sure many of you have been spoken to or touched inappropriately while at work. As an 18-year-old first-year student nurse, I had to fend off a patient who tried to kiss me. What happened was inappropriate, but at the time I was unsure whether I could or should tell anyone, and anxious about how I should respond to the perpetrator.
How many of us reported events like this or asked for help in dealing with these difficult and offensive situations? And if we did speak out, what response did we receive?
“How many of us reported events like this or asked for help in dealing with these difficult and offensive situations?”
I remember telling a third-year student about the patient and she suggested that sort of behaviour was to be expected and I would get used to it.
What really worries me is that 36 years after I started my training, nurses are still describing incidents where patients behave in verbally and physically inappropriate ways.
The Ludlow fundraising event has provided an opportunity to air our discomfort and irritation at the strange and distorted ways our profession is represented. As one nurse commented on the Nursing Times website:
“There are so many other ways these men could have raised money but they chose to use a tired old stereotype of the buxom, ‘sexy’ nurse, which I hoped had been consigned to the dustbin of history. Just because they have done this for years does not make it right”.