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Has working as a student nurse made you aware of prejudices that you never knew you had?

  • Comments (3)

As hard as we try to be objective, none of us can stop the instant spark of opinion that enters our head when we meet a new person or encounter a new situation.

But there are ways that you can learn to be less judegmental and be mindful of the signals that you might be giving off.

For example, if you are out in the community and you enter somebody’s house, it may not be up to your standard of cleanliness, or there may be a particular smell. But you can’t react, or show any reactions you might have on your face.

I find it helps to remind myself not to make judgements on first impressions, it’s hard but it helps to remind myself.

I knew of a nurse who was so repulsed by false teeth that she grimaced and turned her head every time the patient removed them to place them in the overnight pot. This couldn’t have made her patient feel at ease, or even human.

Another example might be when you arrive on a ward for the first time.

I would love to be able to say that we all live in a society that doesn’t judge people merely on their appearance but we have to be realistic.

We make judgements about everyone that we meet, and they probably make judgements about us. The way that you visually present yourself instantly creates an opinion of you in other’s minds. This may be an accurate opinion or it may not be but irrespective of that it can be incredibly hard to shake that image once it has become ingrained in people.

We can’t do anything about those snap judgements that we make when we see people or situations. Nor can we help the fact that others will be making similar judgements about us depending on our demeanour or appearance.

But we can be aware that it does happen - and give people the benefit of the doubt before writing them off all together. We can also control the way that we express ourselves and the way in which we act upon our internal monologue.

Do you struggle with your own prejudices? Has working as a student nurse made you aware of prejudices that you never knew you had? How do you deal with them?

Adam Roxby is Student Editor of Student Nursing Times. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRoxby

  • Comments (3)

Readers' comments (3)

  • Anonymous

    As a student nurse there are areas of care that I struggle with. We all have that particular thing we don't really like doing but as carers we have to get on with it. It is important to remain professional and remember this patient needs your help and for some of them its particularly difficult to accept help without the nurse in question virtually retching in their presence. I personally just get on with the job in hand and try to remain professional throughout. I feel its important how you respond to the task. I try to ensure if I am turned its well away from the patients view. I have found I have become quite good at controling my reactions in front of people but some things do take some effort. I find that sometimes its hard not to make a judgement on someone we are taught to view people holistically and consider all aspects of their life and this does lead to making assumptions about them.

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  • A little better than the last articles on prejudice Adam. It is essential to remember that although we as human beings have certain 'labelling prejudices' wired into our system (as you say, no one can help those 'snap judgements' as we both know) we will not necessarily act on them, and it is essential also that we do not assume that Nurses, or student Nurses will automatically be prejudiced as a result.

    At the end of the day, this all boils down to one word. Professionalism.

    We ALL have judgements, views, call them prejudices even if you like, based on our own personal experiences and so on. Some for example (and I include myself in this) may have an acute personal hatred of smoking, does that mean they will treat smokers with any less professionalism and dignity as the next patient? No. Others as you say will have a repulsion of putting in false teeth for example, or wiping a patients bum, or helping them to spit sputum into a pot, or cleaning up vomit, or whatever, they are not my favourite tasks in the world either, but it is easy to train yourself not to act on this distaste, not to show any outward signs of it, etc. That is called professionalism. Professionalism demands certain standards, it demands certain training, it demands certain codes of ethics and behaviour, these can easily overcome the initial snap judgements we all make, because we are not there to judge, we are there to help.

    The assumptions and judgements will always be there, we are human and hard wired that way, that does not in and of itself make us prejudiced. Only our ACTIONS do that. And a professional knows how to control those actions to be able to treat our patients with dignity, respect and care.

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Anonymous - I think you are right and for me the main point is to be aware of whats going on in order to control the messages you are sending.

    Mike - Im glad you think it's a little better. I aim to entertain and inform. I think you are right that we all have things we have to deal with and what sets students and trained staff alike apart is professionalism.

    Have a good weekend and I will see you all next Monday.

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