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.

The Call for Community, Art, and Artists in the Resistance Movement


This week, members of the Nurse Manifest Team gathered together by the warmth of our computer screens for engaging video conference. We took the time to welcome some new members and talk about the future of the movement. I have to say for me, being with like minded #NurseResisters was so energizing (even though I have been suffering through a bout of the flu this week!) and also very comforting.

It’s important for #NurseResisters to remember we are not alone and to gather those around us during these challenging times: when change seems to be happening at a rapid pace, when social media pages are filled with what resisters might find to be concerning or bad governmental news, when there are 10 things you would like to take action on, but you can’t be on the phone all day….it can become easy to become discouraged, overwhelmed, or burned out. This is where truly being with a like minded community can lift your spirits and buoy your endurance.

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And endurance is what we will need. I know right now it sometimes feel like a sprint…get out there and get things done now, get to this march, make your signs, write your emails and postcards, get on the phone….because the administration has been creating changes at a rapid pace, the media and social media have been bumping up our energy, and we feel drawn to create change now.

The thing is, this is not a sprint and it’s not a solo race…it’s more like a team based marathon or ultra-marathon, and it is going to take teams of like minded community members to both participate in and complete the race.

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Individual Sprint

Versus

Team Marathon

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We need to carry lights, march together through the dark night with our nightingale lamps, and strive toward unity. There is no clear finish line, and no medals for winners, second, and third place. There is a beautiful planet and population of people that need caring for and this endurance test is in part about not giving up that vision of a caring, compassionate, kind, peaceful, unified, and spirit filled world.

I suggest other #NurseResisters start gathering with your communities in real life or as we did last week, in real time via video or phone conferencing. Set aside thoughtful, meaningful time to be together, to discuss future actions, and also to just support one another, to laugh together, to share your stories. Communities can rejuvenate and recharge us, and they are a must for folks who plan to run the long race.

I also did want to share that part of our discussion last week focused on the use of humor, satire, parody, art, and music to support and gather people together. Saturday Night live is becoming a great example of the power of humor, parody, and satire to help us lighten our load, to help us rejuvenate, to connect us across time and space.

 

 

While there are many older political songs we can use (Carol King just re-released One Small Voice with free download!: https://soundcloud.com/user-844282824/one-small-voice), it remains imperative that we also create new art and new music that reflects our current siutation here, now in 2017. Until then, let’s be strong together:

“One small voice speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice speaking with the values
we were taught as children
Tell the truth
You can change the world
But you’d better be strong”

(Carole King/ copyright Rockingdale Records).

 

Nurses Declaration of Solidarity and Resistance


The 2017 U.S. Executive Branch is taking steps that will have an effect on the health and well-being of all who reside within the borders of the United States, and of all people worldwide.  At this moment in history, we call upon nurses to stand together, act to resist that which harms health and well-being, protect those who are harmed, and build coalitions that move toward the ideals we seek.  We stand on a long legacy of political activism by nurses that arises from our moral imperative to actively promote public policy to assure social/health equity. Our actions are grounded in the premise that health and well-being depends on healthy environments and  just communities. We pledge to join with others to engage in determined action to protect health and justice for all, regardless of age, social/economic circumstance, religion, skin color, race, sexual orientation or gender identity.

1. We believe that health and well-being of mind, body and spirit is a fundamental human right.

As nurses, we are committed to provide care for all people – care that promotes and supports high level wellness, prevention and treatment of injury and disease, and restoration of health when it is compromised.  

2. We believe the integrity of our environment is integral to human health and well-being.

We oppose all actions that contribute to damage and erosion of the earth’s ecosystem and the physical structures which we inhabit. We will promote, protect, and support actions toward healthy and sustainable structural and natural environments for all the earth’s inhabitants.   

3. We believe that all people deserve access to affordable quality care.

As nurses, we are committed to caring for all patients and families, regardless of economic status, sexual orientation/gender Identities, current immigration status, age, ability to pay, or spiritual/religious beliefs/practices (or lack thereof).

4. We oppose all forms of oppression and discrimination.

We commit to protect and care for those whose safety and well-being is threatened based on gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity, physical ability, economic status, or any other attribute seen as “difference.”  We will take public stands opposing any attempt to weaken public policies and programs designed to protect health and well-being of those who are disadvantaged. We will fight for policies and programs that assure equality and justice.

5. We oppose intimidation and violence in our homes and communities.

We will act to protect any who are victims of intimidation and violence, particularly those who are vulnerable because of skin color, race, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.  As nurses, we nurture peaceful resolution of conflict and support those who step up to intervene peacefully in situations of threat and danger.

6. We believe that the health of women must be protected.

We will act to assure that all women receive the full range of care that assures their right to control their own reproductive choices as well as all women’s healthcare services needed to maintain their own health and the health of their families.

7. We trust scientific knowledge that supports a wholistic approach to nursing care

We examine all sources of evidence to inform the choices we make in caring for those we serve. We can assure the public that we practice from a firm foundation of sound and reliable scientific evidence. We will take all steps needed to inform the public of the science that supports our practices.

We invite all nurses, and our colleagues who support our values, to join us in declaring these  values and actions by signing this declaration. You can add your signature to this document here.  We invite you to use this declaration as you wish, and revise to suit your own purposes.  Let us know of your actions, follow #nursesresist, and join our Facebook group.

Contributing authors:

Carey S. Clark, PhD, RN, AHN-BC
Peggy Chinn, RN, PhD, FAAN
Elizabeth Berrey, PhD, RN
Lisa Sundean, RN, MS, PhD Candidate
Adeline Falk-Rafael, PhD, FAAN
Leslie Nicoll, PhD, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN
Sue Hagedorn, RN, PhD, FAAN

Thank you to the Cambridge Health Alliance for inspiration!

If you would like to co-sign your name to this declaration, please provide your information using this formThe list of co-signatories will be updated as frequently as possible.

SEE THE DECLARATION AND LIST OF SIGNATORIES HERE

Making a list – of ways to support health, equality and justice for all


A couple of days ago I received an email from Elizabeth Berrey, who is one of this project’s leaders, in response to my post of November 15, “Grieving for my country.” Her message inspired me to think quite specifically about the list of things that I will do over the coming months to participate in action to resist the dangers that are becoming more and more clear in the US and world-wide, threatening the health and well-being of world citizens everywhere.  After all, his is the time of year that our children are making lists in anticipation of the December holidays,  At the same time, the notion of “lists” in and of itself raises a specter of danger for many – for example, there is now a website recruiting names of “liberal professors” (see report here and here).

So let’s be clear – making a list of ways we can act and be involved can serve to inspire others, particularly those who are tempted to give up in despair given what is happening around us.  But the list must also lead to action – and this is what is so inspiring about Elizabeth’s message.  We may not agree about the specific ways to act, and we can certainly have a discussion about the race, class and economic implications of any action we choose to raise awareness in the quest for finding the best and most effective avenues.  But unless we act, and support those who are choosing different paths than our own, we in fact support the forces of injustice.

Elizabeth has given me permission to post her message here – so here it is, lightly edited, in the hope that the actions she is taking will inspire you to go beyond a mere list – to find your own ways to get involved!

Hi Peggy,
I have now read your post & sent it to my kids, some nurses, & other non-nurses.  I especially like that youEB-Photo-250 said that we must be ready at a moment’s notice. I also read the replies to date. Thx so much for clarifying to the person who wrote that we should stand with Trump & give him a chance.
I have been wearing, & will continue to wear, my safety pin – a large one in the top hole of my left ear. I brought safety pins to our NMOLOC  (New Mexico Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) Gathering this month, & explained what it means to the old Lesbians gathered. Our Unitarian church handed them out the 2 Sundays after the elections, with explanations for the whole congregation & especially the children.
As I think that I told you, I am working here in NM to get our state legislatures to sign onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Nurses across the country could do this, too! They could certainly activate their nursing associations to lobby their state legislators to sign onto this compact. This is the 2nd time that the electoral college has overturned the majority vote in this country since the turn of this century, for heavenssakes! As someone on the Laurence O’Donnell show said a couple of wks ago, “What we call the popular vote here in the US is called the vote in the rest of the world!”
We are organizing our NMOLOC chapter to show up in Santa Fe for the Million Women March (our state’s version). We’ll have our old Lesbian banner, of course!
We are planning training in resistance in our NMOLOC chapter for the coming yr — reminding us all of what we learned, and practiced, so many yrs ago. As you say, we must be ready!

Sociopolitical Knowing: Connecting with hearts, minds, guts, and groins


[Edited 8/6/16] At a time when many are celebrating the official nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton I am also acutely aware that many are not. While there are many valid concerns that have been raised, what troubles me most is to hear the contempt and disbelief that anyone could support Trump. It concerns me because it reflects a de-humanizing and de-valuing of many in the white working class.

We expect that our students and coworkers will be sensitive to the values and personal goals our patients and their families. We expect nurses to be non-judgemental towards patients who are living in poverty, suffering from addictions, or making decisions that do not seem based in upper-middle class norms and values. Can we also expect nurses to develop an understanding of how to be respectful and understand what is important to people with different political views. 

Sociopolitical Knowing is a core strength of professional nursing. Conceptualized by Jill White in 1995, sociopolitical knowing occurs on two levels:

1) the sociopolitical context of the persons (nurse and patient), and 2) the sociopolitical context of nursing as a practice profession, including both society’s understanding of nursing and nursing’s understanding of society and its politics. [emphasis added]

To start the dialogue, I am circling back to the Spiral Dynamics model that was used to organize the sociopolitical context of nursing in the published Results from the Nurse Manifest 2003 Study: Nurses’ Perspectives on Nursing.

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Basics principles of leadership and motivation according to Spiral Dynamics:

  1. identify the specific needs and capacities of individuals and groups, and
  2. calibrate the precise developmental messages that fit each unique situation.

Sociopolitical knowing requires an understanding of how to connect with and motivate people where they are. It means developing an understanding of what messages will be most effective in “pushing someone’s buttons” or eliciting a strong emotional response. The table below highlights the most prevalent value memes in modern society – defined through worldview, core values, and value-based reasons for violence and war. 

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How Trump connects: From sexual innuendos and vulgar speech to stoking conspiracy theories and racist viewpoints, Trump often makes his connection with people’s minds, guts, and testicles. He has effectively tapped into pent-up frustrations and fears, justifying aggression and intolerance to make America “great again” (red and orange) and “safe again” (blue and green). 

How Clinton connects: From It Takes a Village to Hard Choices, Clinton has a long history of speaking to people’s hearts, minds, and ovaries. She has effectively tapped into national pride and hope, focusing on accomplishments that make America “great right now” (red and orange) and safer through unity and tolerance (blue and green). 

Both campaigns employ messaging that is strategically targeted at different audiences. The point of this blog entry was not to start a political debate — this is not the place for that. Rather, I am hoping to start a conversation about understanding how we might apply sociopolitical knowing to strengthen our ability to communicate with others. I hope that through application of sociopolitical knowing we can better connect with different communities about the work of nursing, and issues that impact the patient populations and communities we serve.

Please help build the dialogue around sociopolitical knowing, through comments here, and conversations with your coworkers, family, and friends. 

References for further reading:

Beck, D. E. Human Capacities in the Integral Age: How Value Systems Shape Organizational Productivity, National Prosperity and Global Transformation

Charen, M. What Hillbilly Elegy Reveals About Trump and America: A harrowing portrait of the plight of the white working class. National Review, July 28, 2016.

Harryman, W. Is Hillary Clinton the First Integral Politician? Integral Options Cafe, November 6, 2005.

Jarrín, O. F. Results from the Nurse Manifest 2003 Study: Nurses’ Perspectives on Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 29(2), E74-E85.

Pew Research Center. Few Clinton, Trump Supporters Have Close Friends on the Other Side. August 3, 2016.

Schwartzbach, S. M. Drowned: Nurses Under Water. The Nurse Sonja. July 27, 2016.

Vance, J. D. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. 2016; HarperCollins: New York, NY. 

White, J. Patterns of knowing: review, critique, and update. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 1995 Jun;17(4):73-86.