Currently, nurses face a host of complex issues: a health care system hanging in the balance, negative media stereotypes, workplace bullying, and unsafe staffing ratios, to name a few and now the public castigation using the "O je wa ke eng" trend. The professionalization of nurses and the public image of the nursing profession has always been the subject of onesided news reports from the print media, radios and televion shows where the professional aspects of the work nurses perform remain invisible in the media, partly as a result of the dominant position of the medical profession.
As stated by Bridges 1990, Hallam 1998, Warner et al. 1998, the essence of nursing is not always clear and nurses still suffer from (gender) stereotypes and showed that the media often depict nurses working at the patient's bedside and performing repetitive and routine tasks, mostly as the doctor's handmaiden. Nurses are not depicted as autonomous professionals and the public is not aware that nowadays nursing is to a great extent a theory‐based and scholarly profession. Over the last 30 years of the 20th century and in the first decade of the 21st century, in particular, the nursing discipline has undergone tremendous developments with respect to professionalization. The professionalization of nursing is closely intertwined with a focus on the development of nursing theory, nursing research and nursing practice, which ideally are interrelated. Despite these developments towards professionalization, previous studies on this subject have shown that nurses are not given due recognition for the skills they have by the majority of the public. Painfully, even the most respected news media sources in Nigeria belittle the nursing profession, so readers and viewers do not get a sense that nurses are educated life‐saving professionals.
The idea of being subordinated to the medical profession is not the only factor that influences the self‐concept and professional identity of nurses. Other determinants include work environment, work values, education and culture. Professional identity and self‐concept can undergo changes due to interactions with colleagues, other healthcare professionals and patients. Work environment and work values can also play a role in this respect.
O je wa ke eng: Nigerian Nurse Version
First off, the words O je wa ke eng is sesotho and is the primary language of the Sotho-Tswana group in South Africa meaning what has been bothering you or in a direct translation would be - what has been eating you inside. It is all about sharing what has been bothering you for a long time, and you have nobody to talk to about the issue. However, the trend of using these words has taken various adaptations and on the 25th of March 2019 at 11.17pm a twitter User @Iam__fk created his own trend tagging Nigerian Nurses, though five days later with about 483 comments, 326 retweets and 1,010 likes it didnt exactly go according to his plan as most of the comments seem to be from nurses who are taking the time to set things straight on who and what a nurse is. Take a look below:
Picture Credits: @Twitter and Nursingworld Nigeria
Nurses' depiction in the media
The image of nursing is determined by how nurses themselves and others (the public) perceive nursing. This public image is predominantly based on misconceptions and stereotypes, which find their origins in distorted images of nurses in the media. The media plays a part in perpetuating the stereotype of the nurse as angels of mercy, the doctor's helper and sexy nurse. Due to such images, the public views nurses as feminine and caring, but not necessarily as autonomous healthcare providers. With respect to male nurses, men were either portrayed as the second sex in nursing care, as nurses with different work patterns who are not influenced by marriage, sometimes mistaken as doctors or mostly always as womanizers.
Although as nurses we see ourselves as well‐trained professionals, the public still sees nursing as a low‐status profession that is subordinate to the work of physicians, does not require any academic qualifications and lacks professional autonomy. If this was not true then the question remains: "Why would anyone think that just because soomeone puts on the white uniform, that individual is a nurse?"
We need to counteract the effects of nurse stereotyping and put an end to the menace of quackery to help improve our public image because as long as we do not feel responsible for the distorted images of the roles performed and are still being performed in health care and as long as we do not take a stand to correct these ailments, our invisibility across board in the nation will definitely continue.
Taking a cue from Nursingworld Nigeria and Nurses on Air amongst others, as Nurses we need to raise public awareness about the various roles and opportunities both basic and advanced nursing practice have to offer not to mention who and what exactly a nurse is, we need to stand up and make use of social media (Internet, TV, internal news, press) to inform the public and make a point.
Lets be honest with ourselves, the public image of nursing is, to a large extent, affected by the invisibility of nurses and the way we present themselves. Years ago, the menace of quackery was hiden, but now these hospitals owned by Medical Doctors, in collaboration with their wives who are trained, registered nurses have seen the easy money making endevour of mass producing these quacks and letting them out into the streets with the firm belive that the NMCN and NANNM are totally toothless in coming after them. And to an extent across the nation, this has been seen to be true.
We need to work harder to communicate our professionalism to the public and to make clear what we really do. As nurses see caring for patients as a core value in nursing practice, it is important to demonstrate to the public that this entails more than just sitting by the patient's bedside, gossiping or just waiting around for doctors "orders" as portrayals of nurses in the media would sometimes lead the public to believe.
The public should be able to identify with nurses and the work that we do. The problem with this is we all know that our jobs are defined as healthcare providers but in facilities we are seen as those that demand for payment before care is given (accountants), those who make sure patients do not abscond after care is given before payments are made (security), cleaners, errand boys/girls who can do nothing without being given directives and so much more. We all know that this isnt part of our job description, but we quitely do them and expect the public to know what exactly we do.
We also need to recognize the effect of our behavior outside of the workplace. For some nurses, nursing is just a job, and it shows in what they say and how they act at work and away from work.
We have all heard nurses emphatically state that they do not want their children to go into nursing and have to work in an environment where they are not respected, are underpaid, and have to deal with people who have unrealistic expectations. Obviously, these nurses are not helping to improve our image but we all know why these coments are made in the first place.
In the media, nurses are hardly seen as professional advisors or experts though once a while we get a token invitation/interview on "Breast Feeding...".
We are all needed to change the public opinion and as nurses can intervene with these steps:
. Getting organized, monitoring the media, reacting to the media, and fostering an improved image.
. Cultivating a professional image by the way they represent the profession
. Defining unacceptable workplace behaviors and holding the staff accountable
. Teaching nurses the benefits of scripting such as, “My name is Mike, and I am your registered nurse today.”
. Defining the appearance of the nursing staff in written guidelines and following through with consequences for those who don’t comply
. Involving the staff in developing the list of unacceptable behaviors and the specifics of a new dress code
. Posting, circulating, and advertising nursing’s accomplishments
. Using the newspapers/radios/tv for ongoing announcements
. Having staff contribute to the community by writing health-related articles in the newspaper
. Speaking to civic and community groups about what nursing is and does
. Listening to patients’ and their family members perceptions of nurses caring for them and making necessary changes if needed
. Surveying staff, patients, and caregivers about these perceptions
. Teaching and mentoring staff on how to validate all they do with appropriate documentation and active committee involvement
. Teaching communication skills, so staff nurses feel empowered to respond to negative colleagues in a manner that confronts and stops behaviors that affect our image
Unless we establish a public image and professional identity that recognizes the value of our professional and educational development, the problem of "QuackNotNurse" and inaccurate image will continue to exist. The time for us to redefine our image is now. By working together, we can help ourselves and the public see the nursing profession clearly.
Nursingworld Nigeria Contributor
Share this news with friends!!!