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#NURSESHIFT: is nursing still a respected profession?


On 28 July 2012, nurses from around the country came together to discuss the topic: is nursing still a respected profession?

The chat suggested that patients can often be ruder, and show more frustration aggression towards nurses than to doctors. One possible reason for this is that patients hold doctors in higher regard due to their lengthy study time (seven years as opposed to a nurses’ three). You may have heard of the phrase ‘too posh to wash’, which applies predominantly to nurses who hold degree posts rather than a diploma.

@nicolejade6 tweeted: “I think whether you are a doctor, nurse or surgeon, the rules should be the same I.E.Washing a patient if they need it.”

The chat then progressed towards the main topic - whether nurses get enough respect from patients and the public.

@mrssocial said: “I think that respect is a two way thing, you have to be respectful to be respected.”

@CHD_UK added: “People don’t realize how much studying a nurse does. They still see nursing as a “lower” job.”

And David Foord: “I guess there are different attitudes towards nurses from different parts of society and professional colleagues”

@RannPatterson contributed with: “I have always regarded nurses as highly intelligent, that attitude must be coming from inside healthcare.”

Teresa Chinn (@agencynurse) stated that the main component of respect is good communication. She stated that if you communicate well with your patients, they tend to respond more positively and are more likely to show respect to your authority.

@agencynurse tweeted: “If you communicate well with your pts then you get to know each other and respect builds”.

David Foord then went on to ask the question of whether the levels of respect differ depending on what environment nurses work in?

@cherylwilson replied: “I have worked in both roles (hospital and community) and never found a difference personally”.

Interestingly, @DGFoord also added: “There are some elements of society who will disrespect anyone who represents ‘authority’ whether nurses or not.”

Lastly, the chat finished on the subject of whether nursing still has any stigmas attached.

Some issues were raised during the chat:

(Anonymous) tweeted: “My friend is a male nurse and people are constantly asking whether he is gay”.

@laura added: “I think we’re in a transitional period where people do not trust our newly qualified nurses”.

@bambinoboy said that: “As a male paediatric nurse, I feel uncomfortable at times caring for other people’s children, as I feel society has a stereotype of male child health nurses.”

In conclusion, nurses feel that they are respected by some areas of society perhaps more than others. A big part of a nurse’s job is dealing with people who may be sarcastic, rude or even aggressive towards them. It seems well-known that nurses are recognised for having advance people skills, and being terrifically patient and calming.

Is nursing still a respected profession then? The nurses of the UK seemed to answer ‘maybe’. Moreover, it seems that it doesn’t really matter. Nurses deal with human beings, whatever the mood they may be in, because that’s our job. That is how we contribute to the NHS being one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

Mikey Whitehead @STNNurse_Mikey


Readers' comments (31)

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  • is nursing as a profession being phased out?

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  • Why would you close this article stating that it 'doesn't really matter'.

    Of course it matters, patients and visitors can be horrible towards nurses, we are always taught to ignore it and think of a hundred reasons for it but sometimes people are just rude, ungracious, ungrateful and spiteful.

    I don't think it has anything at all to do with how long we train for or what 'qualifications' we hold.

    The media do not help, we are constantly criticised and there are stigma's attached to nursing even in this day and age.

    I still hear patients and visitors making snidey comments about overseas nurses, male nurses, older nurses, the list is pretty endless.

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  • "Respect is earned by deeds and actions and no one is obliged to tolerate rude and disrespectful behaviour."

    tricky one. does this now mean we don't have to treat patients even though they are very sick because they haven't earned our respect? what would they need to do to change this if they need our help?does it also mean that if we don't respect them, for whatever reason, we don't have to treat them either?

    respect and ill-manners are often highly subjective value judgements and how one treats somebody is often a reflection of how they are treated or the reactions of another. it may not even be personal but an issue with what has gone before. but negative reactions can be accumulative and sometimes one can be the butt of the anger without even knowing why.

    perhaps instead of trying to understand others with empathy and trying and put ourselves in the position of others in attempt to understand them we should just exercise zero tolerance full stop. it would certainly give a lot less work (although in many cases nobody ends up with what they need and proves not to be a solution to the problems and may even exacerbate them (causing dissatisfaction which may cause further trouble which has been seen by a number of reports in the media) and increase the level of very serious risk for some patients.

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  • Anonymous | 19-Aug-2012 1:50 pm


    furthermore, terrorists, dangerous criminals such as the Lockerbie bomber who surely earn no respect from anybody but still get the medical treatment and nursing care they need.

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  • Tiger Girl

    Anonymous | 19-Aug-2012 1:50 pm

    'perhaps instead of trying to understand others with empathy and trying and put ourselves in the position of others in attempt to understand them we should just exercise zero tolerance full stop.'

    If anyone believes anything involving humans can work well on a basis of not trying to understand why others hold different positions and views, then they have not thought about it hard enough.

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  • Tiger Girl | 20-Aug-2012 11:04 am

    i was actually being sarcastic as this seems to be the general mode at present.

    i am totally against this stance of zero tolerance as it can exacerbate any situation and I fully believe everyone should do their very best to understand where the other is coming from and more especially in a profession which claims it is caring or a service whose main focus is supposed to be on the customer.

    perhaps instead of taking one comment out of context, I would suggest you read the whole, before attempting to respond.

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  • Over the years I've been nursing I have tried very hard to accept others behaviour and thought long and hard about the problems our patients and their relatives are experiencing. In return I have heard them refer to nurses in a most awful discriminatory way and I cannot see any reason for it except that they are racist.

    I have had family members in hospital, some have died, some have been desperately ill, I too have been in hospital having had operations so I know how anxious people can get.

    I know that people all hold different views and have different values but some of the stuff that comes out of peoples mouths is dreadful and there really is no excuse for it.

    As nurses we have no choice but to tolerate this, we know how easily we can lose our jobs. Patients don't speak to doctors like this, they know that the doctors have more 'power' over their treatment than nurses do.

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  • Having had a relative in hospital I have found that many nurses are just as disrespectful as the patients/relatives you talk about. Patients and their family have a right to know what is going on and to question their care, we did this (being nurses/midwives my sister and I couldn't help but question) and were met by defensive and demeaning behaviours from nurses. Hard to stick up for my profession when I have come across this behaviour personally. My relative felt the nurses did not respond to her needs because we had annoyed the nurses by asking questions. How awful is that?

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  • what is this defensive behaviour?

    lack of knowledge
    low self esteem
    feelings of superiority
    power struggle
    something else


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