Gender Inequality in Nursing, USA

Gender Equality
Case Study Submitted by: Sandy Summer, Founder and Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing
Better understanding that nurses are autonomous, educated science professionals will strengthen nursing care, education and research, allowing nurses to save more lives.

The nursing profession has not been immune from gender inequality. Because the profession remains predominantly female, the way nurses are treated in a particular society often reflects how women are treated. Sadly, in the media, nurses are often portrayed as embodying feminine stereotypes: low-skilled handmaidens, sex objects, angels, or battle-axes. The news media still tends to focus on physicians’ work and to discount nurses’ clinical and research achievements. In many television dramas, physicians, who are often male characters, receive the credit for meaningful healthcare, whilst the mostly female nurse characters meekly assist, displaying no autonomy and little skill. Such characters may reflect creators’ attempts to provide comic relief or meet ethnic diversity goals with minimal effort. And of course, the male physician leads look more heroic when seen next to deferential female nurses. Even “progressive” programming that features female physician characters and may even include male nurses tends to reflect the same assumptions, with the added gender stereotype that men in nursing are gay or weak. Advertising still exploits the “naughty nurse” image, suggesting that nurses exist mainly to provide sex to patients or physicians. The media has often reinforced these misconceptions of nursing in global society.

Nursing should challenge these misconceptions. Nurse Sandy Summers is a leading advocate for nurses and is the founder and executive director of the international nonprofit organisation ‘The Truth About Nursing,’ which challenges stereotypes and educates the world about the value of nursing. Sandy has worked tirelessly since 2001 to encourage accurate presentations of the profession and to confront the media regarding misportrayals of nurses on many occasions. The Truth About Nursing also maintains a vast website with analyses of nursing in the media and it has engaged in many global advocacy campaigns. As a result of its work, numerous programmes and advertising campaigns have changed.

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