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Lack of Respect for Nursing Profession

Lack of respect for the Nursing profession?


Do you feel that you are valued as a nurse and that your profession is highly regarded? Can you back up your claim? When you are in the company of other professions (accountants, lawyers, marketing managers, etc) do you feel that your profession holds equal status to theirs?

Finally, do this small exercise. Go to GOOGLE and type in the search field the words ‘nurse costume’. Filter the search results by clicking on ‘images’ below the search bar. Did you find something similar to the result below?




How do you feel about this result? Does it surprise you? If you will, do the same exercise but type in the word ‘lawyer’. Are there similarities? I did not see any. In fact, the results could not be further apart. The question is why are these results so disappointing? Both are regulated professions requiring at least a university degree. I would say this is a stereotypical image of a nurse. Am I comfortable with this image? NO! In this article we will explore some of the reasons why. When you read this, think in global terms. Nursing faces many universal issues regardless of location.


In the pre-modern western society the care of the sick and infirm was the duty (amongst others) of nuns (sisters) and subsequently the nursing professional (still ‘sister’) took over this role as nursing became non-secular in the 20th century. Over time, the role of nurses has evolved from a subordinate role to an independent stakeholder in healthcare delivery. However, old mindsets still persist and there may be a poor public perception of the nursing profession, and as such they are grossly undervalued as professionals. Nurses become easy targets for shaming and blaming for poor practice by a failing and dysfunctional system. Further, hard physical and emotional work coupled with inadequate financial rewards now makes nursing an unattractive profession. As a result, few motivated and caring individuals are attracted by the profession. Subsequently, the health care system, whether government or private is faced by a serious nursing shortages. Globally, communities are challenged with growing healthcare needs driven amongst other factors an ageing population with diminishing numbers of nurses. It is projected that by the year 2020 the nursing shortage will be a staggering 20 percent below requirements.

Some of the challenges facing the profession currently are low prestige, poor public perception, financial constraints, lack of professional gratification and stressful working conditions among others. Lets discuss some of them.


Low prestige – Although nursing as a profession belongs to an intellectual class, insecurities related to status or being pushed to a working class status, they are forced to display an excessively professional attitude, devoid of any emotional content which stunts both their professional and emotional growth. Thus, nursing remains a profession where extreme discipline remains almost like a religious order.

Poor public perception – poor media representation, which is not truly reflective of current practice contributes to lack of public confidence and the perception of nursing professionals. Also, perceived apathy and poor delivery of care in some instances may contribute significantly to poor perception of nursing.

Financial constraints – the monetary compensation for nurses are often meager. Financial constraints within the health care system also limit the resources available for achieving standards of care due to increasing pressure to cut costs. These financial constraints may also impact opportunities for nurse’s training and development.

Lack of professional gratification – The nursing profession may be actively conditioned towards blind compliance of orders and actively discouraged from displaying foresight, initiative, imagination and autonomy, thus regulating them to a position of a sub-professional rather than a professional on equal footing. An even increasing workload, due to shortages, increasing numbers of patients who are acutely ill or suffer from chronic diseases and an ageing population creates higher levels of dependency. From an administrative point, there is a prevailing culture of blaming and fear of litigation with an escalation in the amount of documentation which primarily falls on the nursing professional.

Stressful working conditions – At present, nursing may be one of the most stressful occupations for several reasons. Nurses are required to constantly update their knowledge and skills to meet demands of new and complex treatment modalities and procedures. A lack of adequate leadership and management, with many hospital administrators with no clinical background and as such unable to understand the requirements and needs of nurses leading to bullying instead of a culture of nurturing and developing. Lateral violence in the workplace is another contributing factor to high levels of stress among nurses. In an information age, patients are better informed and often challenge the rationale of nursing actions.

What can be done to get better recognition as a profession? – Engaging the media to improve the public perception by focusing on positive achievements and create respect for the profession. Doing our best at all times to patients, to understand their needs and treat them with respect and dignity and make them and their families feel special. By doing this we actively promote the values and importance of our profession to the public. Word of mouth is a powerful tool to promote our services and value to society. Other methods are to improve education for nurses and to provide better opportunities for nurses for self and personal development. This will also include maintaining or increasing standards of the profession, to attract bright young people to become part of the nursing profession of the future. At a time when patient centered care has become a major focus, it is really up to us as a profession to represent ourselves as an essential part of this process. Patients spend most of their time in hospital interacting with us. We should seize every opportunity to promote the profession based on sound knowledge. We should work collectively, develop our leadership skills to guide the nursing workforce of the future.

In our previous blog article titled ‘migration’ we saw many of the reasons nurses leave their countries to find better working conditions, better remuneration and a better standard of living for themselves to name but a few. At MMA, we are aware of your goals and ambitions. All our UK clients offer exceptional working conditions, respect, development opportunities and a working culture that helps you to identify with your profession and provide the tools you need to practice it the best you can and develop your hidden talents.

Source: Other Side of the Moon – Respect for nursing professionals: the silence must be heard, Elsevier, Science Direct, Indian Heart Journal, 2015