There are plenty of stereotypes about nurses, but which ones are true? There are a few predominantly positive stereotypes that really have a grain of truth to them. Here are some of them.
Male nurses have it easier.
This one might be slightly true. US Census data indicates that in nursing occupations, men tend to make more than women. There are many reasons for this, including differences in men’s and women’s willingness to negotiate salaries, women’s higher likelihood of taking time off from work to raise children, and other factors. But in terms of salaries alone, male nurses do “have it easier” to some extent.
Psych nursing is a pretty cushy job.
This one is true in some ways, but not in others. Psychiatric nurses work just as hard as any other nurse, but their jobs are somewhat different. The hours are often less demanding than those for other types of nurses, such as medical-surgical nurses. There’s also much less risk of exposure to pathogens, and less daily exposure to death and severe illness.
But psych nursing can also be quite challenging, and many of the patients are difficult to work with. Working with severely distraught people with mood disorders can be emotionally taxing, and psych nurses must develop skills they don’t teach in nursing school. Things like picking up on whether someone is truly suicidal, or is being manipulative and malingering, aren’t something that can be taught in a classroom.
Psych nurses may not have to triage an endless stream of patients with stuffy noses and contagious colds, or tend to patients who are at death’s door, but their job is just as valid as any other.
Nurses are sticklers about privacy.
In healthcare, privacy and confidentiality are a serious business. Nurses play an important role in helping to protect patients’ privacy, as mandated by HIPAA. Privacy breaches could be a career killer. The American Nurses’ Association provides privacy recommendations about the patient’s’ rights to confidentiality regarding individually identifiable health information. This includes not only health records, but also things like imaging, genetic information, mental health therapy notes, and clinical research records. New technological developments, from electronic health records to social media, have created new challenges for patient privacy.
Nurses are caring, compassionate people.
Nursing isn’t a profession you go into if you don’t care about helping people. One of the oldest stereotypes about nursing is the portrayal of a nurse as an angelic figure, selflessly ministering to the poor and sick. This stereotype extends back to historical Catholic saints like Saint Agatha of Sicily, but was also popularized in the late 19th century by figures like Florence Nightingale. At that time, the “angelic nurse” stereotype was a welcome antithesis to the unpleasant stereotypes about Victorian nurses that were prevalent before the profession was standardized and reformed. Such negative stereotypes are embodied in the character of Sarah Gamp, a drunk and incompetent nurse character from Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit.