To Men in Nursing: Consider Your Privilege


I want to talk about men in nursing and privilege. I expect it will be a difficult, nuanced dialogue, but it’s an important one, and one particularly relevant to nursing, a profession so entwined with the ideals of egalitarianism, advocacy and feminism.

Before I begin, I want to clarify: I do not want to challenge the presence of men in our profession, their growth in numbers, their competency, or their intentions. I do want to challenge men in our profession to challenge themselves to analyze their privilege, and I want to challenge men in our profession who have already done this work to challenge others to do the same. Specifically, I want to challenge male nursing groups, particularly NYC Men in Nursing and the American Association of Men in Nursing, that provide networking and career opportunities for their mostly male members. Broadly, I want to challenge all male nurses who use their privilege, inadvertently or purposefully, to get higher positions and higher pay.

I identify as an intersectional feminist. Intersectionality is a term used by modern feminists to define the multiple identities that are subject to systems of oppression. An intersectional feminist holds that arguing against sexism is logically and ethically invalid if you do not also rally against racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia, ableism, ageism and religious discrimination in our society. Intersectional feminists work hard to examine their own identities of privilege (I, for example, am white, able-bodied, cisgendered and educated) and how they have benefitted us, and work to dismantle the systems that bolster that privilege. Intersectional feminists “call people in” instead of calling them out.

I often discuss experiences of discrimination in the workplace with other non-male identifying feminists, and through these conversations, I learned I am very lucky to be a nurse. Compared to tech or the restaurant service industry, for example, nursing is a feminist dreamland. Most men I have met in nursing have been respectful and compassionate. Disappointingly, however, only a few have demonstrated a deep understanding of the privilege they enjoy, both in our profession and society at large, due to their gender. Male nurses have great capacity to be intersectional feminists, but because they do not bear the brunt of gender inequality, it takes more work for them to recognize it than it does for women, and because it’s hard to say no to a leg up, it takes more self-sacrifice to shun its benefits.

As an intersectional feminist, I empathize with the position of men as a minority in an industry. They comprise only about 10% of nurses. Male nurses have historically been made fun of for being feminine (I’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents), which I’m sure can be hard for some men. Male-identifying nurses who are gay or queer suffer homophobia in the workplace. Our black male nurses come from identities that have higher rates of imprisonment, police brutality and death by homicide. Men are also more likely to be mistaken for doctors, according to one male classmate of mine, for whom I played my well-worn miniature violin. Seriously, though, I empathize with all of this and readily acknowledge that some identities men have (race, disability, sexuality) put them at higher risk for discrimination than some women. I even empathize with the doctor comment, but mostly just because I am proud to be a nurse. 

But we must remember, a minority population is not always a victimized one. Male nurses are more likely to hold advanced practice positions, and they earn more money than female nurses in comparable positions with comparable accreditation and experience. Men are less likely to be the recipient of sexual harassment from a patient or coworker. Men are less likely to be demeaned and ignored as professionals by MDs and other team members. Men are promoted faster and more often. Ultimately, the privilege men, particularly white men, still have within our profession is difficult to reconcile, and to me, despite my empathy, trumps their minority status.

As a student at NYU, the most active group at my school was Men Entering Nursing. Despite their good intentions, I could not shake my philosophical argument with the group. I keep coming back to one analogy:

Imagine that we had a student interest group for white students. Imagine that the group for white students became the most active group in the school. The group hosted events with all white presenters. The professor leading the group was friendly and available and helped you find jobs and study for tests. The group had a strong affiliation with the citywide white group, which provided excellent career guidance and networking opportunities. Of course, non-white students would be allowed as well, if they wanted to join the group and enjoy its networking and academic benefits. Some non-white students even sat on the e-board, but most avoided joining because they had enough on their plate trying to address non-white issues. To top it all off, one month after the election of Donald Trump, all the white students in the school (even if they weren’t Whites in Nursing members) were asked to gather after the last exam before graduation in their scrubs and take a group photo, and no one questioned it at all.

Even if white people only comprised 10% of the student and professional population, this would be inappropriate. I am a white person, and I would do everything I could to reduce this group’s influence at the university, or I would try to funnel the momentum of the group toward events and dialogue focused on privilege analysis. This is what I suggest men in nursing do in the future. 

This is my perspective, but I am open to others. I am open to being called wrong and being corrected. I am open to dialogue. Please share your ideas.

Jillian Primiano, RN, BSN, recently graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, where as a student, she worked with the Hartford Institute of Geriatric Nursing to develop education for geriatric care providers and improve health outcomes for older adults. Before earning her nursing degree, she studied History and Journalism at Boston University with a focus on Cold War anti-war activism, feminism and the Civil Rights Movement. After her first stint in college, she spent three years teaching English, American Studies and International Relations at An Giang University in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where she learned about her privilege in ways she could never have imagined.

Stand with the ANA


Today, within hours of the US House of Representative acting against the health and well-being of all Americans, the American Nurses Association issued a strong statement opposing this action. While many nurses do not belong to the ANA, it is an important organization with a strong voice for nursing. Here is the press release:

For Immediate Release
May 4, 2017
Contact: Veronica Byrd
301-628-5057
veronica.byrd@ana.org

David L. Allen
301-628-5391
david.allen@ana.org

American Nurses Association Disappointed with the

Passage of the American Health Care Act  

 

SILVER SPRING, MD – The American Nurses Association (ANA) strongly opposed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and is deeply disappointed with the passage of this legislation by the United States House of Representatives.

ANA, which represents the interests of more than 3.6 million registered nurses, has expressed serious concerns throughout negotiations about the critical impact the AHCA would have on the 24 million people who stand to lose insurance coverage if the bill becomes law.

“Over the past several weeks, nurses from across the country expressed their strong disapproval of this bill which would negatively impact the health of the nation,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “Today, Congress not only ignored the voice of the nation’s most honest and ethical profession and largest group of health care professionals, it also ignored the almost 15 million people in the United States with pre-existing conditions who will now have no protection from insurer discrimination.”

As it is currently written, the AHCA would cut Medicaid funding by $880 billion over 10 years, dramatically increase premiums on seniors, restrict millions of women from access to health care, weaken the sustainability of Medicare, and repeal income-based subsidies that have made it possible for millions of families to buy health insurance. In addition, states would have the option to waive essential health benefit protections that prevent insurance companies from charging individuals with pre-existing conditions significantly more for coverage. Even worse, insurers could decline coverage for substance abuse treatment, maternity care, and preventive services. Late efforts to stabilize the bill’s risk pools for more than 15 million people with pre-existing conditions were wholly inadequate and will leave the nation’s sickest vulnerable.

As this legislation moves to the United States Senate, ANA urges the Senate to allow for opportunities for thoughtful, public feedback in the face of reforms that would have such a far-reaching and personal impact across the nation.

ANA asks the Senate to oppose AHCA in its current form, and stands ready to work with Senators to protect and improve health care access, quality and affordability for all.

# # #

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 3.6 million registered nurses. ANA advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. For more information, visit www.nursingworld.org.

If you would rather not receive future communications from American Nurses Association (ANA), let us know by clicking here.
American Nurses Association (ANA), 8515 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910 United States

Calling All Critical Feminist Nurse Action Researchers!


Greetings from Nancy Murphy. I am on a quest to bring together Critical Feminist Nurse Action Researchers and others who are interested in Critically Focused Action Research and Health Care.  After attending the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) Conference (its 4th) last year in Knoxville, TN and speaking with people in leadership, I decided to initiate and facilitate a Health Care – Action Research Community within ARNA.  Action Research Communities (ARCs) are ways for members to create small but active groups of people who want to share resources, strategies, practices and ideas around a specific topic.  They are established as the needs and interests of ARNA members evolve.

I have long been interested in action research and I am hoping the Health Care ARC will become a resource for nurses and others who are doing/who are interested in health care related critical participatory research.  Over the years, I have found it challenging to locate and network with nursing action researchers.   I attended the Critical and Feminist Perspectives in Nursing Conferences back in the ’90s & early ’00s and more recently the, In Sickness and in Health Conference, where I have had opportunities to meet with critical nursing scholars and researchers, some of whom are doing various kinds of action research.  However, there is an absence of a central resource in North America for Nursing/Health Care action researchers and I am hoping the ARNA Health Care ARC will serve to fill this void.

Since September 2016, I have slowly been contacting nursing  faculty at various universities who I know conduct critical participatory research or who may know others who are doing health care related action research, to see if they might be interested in learning more about the Health Care ARC.  It is slow going, but very rewarding to reach out and begin to make connections.  To date I have been in touch with about a dozen nursing researchers in the US and Canada, to share information about ARNA, the Health Care ARC, the upcoming ARNA conference and the exciting possibility of developing this ARC further.  Several folks have expressed great interest.

I will be heading for Cartagena, Columbia in June to the 5th ARNA conference “Democratization of Knowledge: New Convergences for Reconciliation.”  I am very much looking forward to this wonderful opportunity to meet new folks, connect with those I met last year, and make future plans.  I am hopeful that over time the Health Care ARC will bloom and will become a community of ideas, strategies and action to support social justice work and improve the health of all beings!  Will be back to report post conference and keep you updated on the ARNA Health Care ARC.  Please email me and be in touch if you would like to hear more.

Nurses Take DC for Safe Nurse:Patient Ratios on May 5!


For a number of years, nurses have marched on DC to call for changes in nursing and healthcare that the conditions under which nurses care for patients.  This year the specific issue is safe nurse:patient ratios, calling for passage of bills that are already in both the House and the Senate that set national standards for nurse:patient ratios.  This event promises to be an invigorating event with inspiring speakers and the opportunity to be part of a strong, non-partisan event focusing on issues of great concern for all nurses.  The march also coincides with the following week designated as “nurses week” – a U.S. tradition highlighting tokenism at its best (full disclosure – my personal opinion!).  The march has the potential to energize nurses across the country to bring the activism home, and during nurses week take local action calling for safe ratios at home – in place of roses!

For more information, visit the Nurses Take DC website.  You can also follow the Nurses Take DC Facebook page, or follow #NursesTakeDC on Twitter.

What is “best nursing care?” Deconstructing the business model driving healthcare


The current feature on the AJN blog “Off the Charts” is a post titled “The Limitations of Rating Nursing Care by Customer Surveys.”  Since I have, for many long years, decried the practice of basing the evaluation of nursing care on patient satisfaction surveys, I jumped at the opportunity to read this post!  Of course we need and want to know how patients perceive the care we provide, but how we obtain this information, and what we do with this, is a key factor.  Since this approach derives fundamentally from the corporate business model, and is now practiced in the context of this model, the substance, use and outcomes of this practice are deeply flawed when examined from a NurseManifest perspective.  The example the author, Juliana Paradisi gives as an example of her best safe and compassionate nursing care involves a woman in extreme distress who “fired” her as her nurse –  a situation in which she could not break through the barriers inherent in the patient’s distress, but provided a level of care that was exemplary.

Even though the overarching business model that governs healthcare now is probably not going to go away soon (Ha!) – we can raise awareness of the limitations that this imposes on our practice, select specific actions to take to place these practices into context, and work to achieve whatever changes we can make.  We can start with addressing the question: “What is best nursing care” from the perspective of the values in the Nursing Manifesto.  There is no single answer to this question – but there are insights to be gained by thinking, talking and writing the ideas that arise from it. Once we have expressed our ideas, we can examine new and better ways to document our care, and continue to address the limitations of the existing practices that fail to document and support our best practices.

We welcome your ideas here – and stories about the times you provided what you think is the best nursing care!

off the charts