10 Common Nursing Misconceptions That Are Simply Not True

10 misconceptions about nursing profession

Written by Maryam Saleh

Maryam Saleh is a final year nursing student in Ahmadu Bello University, who is based in Zaria. She believes in helping others and putting a smile on their faces. She has a passion in writing to make awareness, spread the word and clear misconceptions and doubts especially about health. Her goals are to prevent illness, promote health and spreading knowledge. She likes spending most of her time readind, volunteering, sleeping and watching TV.

February 10, 2021

Nursing is one of the oldest and most popular professions. It is termed as an angelic profession but the public still holds misconceptions and some negative perceptions about this growing field. We must recognize the work nurses do, respect their judgment and expertise in their field. Speaking up against these misconceptions is an important first step.

If you are considering a medical career, don’t let these false misconceptions about nursing turn you off from a rewarding career. The world needs more good nurses. Below are some common misconceptions the public holds about the nursing profession and the truths behind them.

10 Common Misconceptions the Public Holds Against The Nursing Profession

1. The Nursing Profession is Only for Females

Since the start of the profession, there have been more women than men in the field. This gave rise to the number one misconception the public holds against nursing; that nursing is only for females.

Recently however, more men are entering the profession and many institutions are looking forward to recruiting qualified male students who are well suited to the nursing profession. Men in the field are highly competent at their jobs, just like their female counterparts.

The assumption that a nurse’s work is feminine has not only hold back many men from pursuing what might have been a fulfilling career but also makes the nursing profession less important in the eyes of the public.

2. Advancing Your Nursing Career Means You Have to Leave The Profession

Many believe that to advance in their nursing career, they must leave the profession entirely to go back to school full-time. This is simply not true as there are countless paths you can take for a successful nursing career. Once you earn your registered nurse license (RN), you may choose to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing or pursue an advanced degree to become a nurse practitioner.

Additionally, there are many specialty degrees and certificate programs. In many instances, degree and certificate programs offer options for part-time or online nursing classes. So if you are currently in the nursing profession, you can enhance your education and skill set while keeping your job.

3. Nurses Work Only in Hospitals

Surprising right? One of the most common public misconceptions about nursing is that nurses only work in hospitals. This is not true. Registered nurses may also work in physicians’ offices, home health care services, nursing and residential care facilities, and government organizations.

Furthermore, not all nurses treat patients. Some may manage a facility and oversee the nursing staff, while others may work in a customer service role at a health care corporation.

And others many enter the teaching or lecturing profession. There are many career possibilities for a nurse.

4. Nurses Are Not Intelligent

Many people incorrectly assume that nurses are people who aren’t quite smart enough for a medical degree. This simply isn’t true. Almost all nurses purposefully chose nursing as a career and go through a rigorous degree program to qualify.

An associate’s degree is the entry-level education for a registered nurse, but a nurse may also have a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate. Nowadays, many nurses hold a bachelor’s or higher degree. As the career and health care field continues to develop, the role of a nurse and the various parts within the profession continues to evolve.

Nurses teach, research, publish papers in journals, diagnose patients, participate in surgeries, treat illness, administer medication, and much more. Beyond varying educational levels, nurses may also choose to focus on a specialty such as a pediatrics, oncology, dermatology, or cardiovascular, or pursue a certification. This further differentiates them and provides an enhanced earning potential.

5. Nursing Is a Dirty Job

Nurses are complex and highly skilled workers. Many of them save lives daily. The nurse’s actions, such as taking a patient’s blood pressure or adjusting an IV, cleaning bandages, and changing bedpans, might appear menial. However, a careless observer won’t know about the intellectual activity, regarding observation, assessment, and problem-solving, associated with these tasks. This is the part of the professional nurse’s work that requires many years of intensive study.

Related: What to Do in Case of an Accident or Emergency

And sure, some of the nurse’s work can be described as ‘dirty’ but this is only a small part of what a nurse does.

These activities are essential functions to do for patients what they are unable to do for themselves, like assisting with personal care and helping to maintain the dignity and respect of your patients.

6. Getting a Nursing Job is Easy

A common public misconception about nursing is that it is easy to get a job. Although a nursing shortage indeed offers a great deal of potential for those looking to start a career or make a change, this doesn’t mean that hospitals readily nurses.

Hiring managers still look for a strong educational background from an accredited school. The more experience you have —including internships — the more qualified you become. Besides, skills such as compassion and the ability to work well with others can help you land a great job.

Also, More and more organizations now require a BNSc (Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing) instead of an Associate’s Degree which means five years of training rather than three. Being a nurse is more than just putting on scrubs and showing up for work. You have to be tough, have excellent attention to detail, be a great communicator, an outstanding problem-solver, have a sense of humor, and most importantly, can demonstrate compassion and empathy for patients consistently.

7. Nurses are Doctors’ Helpers

This is also a common public misconception about the nursing profession. Healthcare is a team-oriented industry. While nurses may help doctors from time-to-time, the majority of a nurse’s time is spent working independently taking care of patients. Nurses typically answer to other nurses who are higher up in leadership positions. They are in charge of patient advocacy and education, which means that they will make sure you know how to care for yourself after leaving the hospital.

Sometimes, following a doctor’s orders could get a nurse in trouble. For example; if the patient is going to be harmed. Nurses have the ethical responsibility to do what is best for their patients, and it is optimally their call on how to proceed. Nurses save lives, so downgrading them to the position of ‘doctor’s helpers’ is not only unfair but also plainly inaccurate.

However, the doctor works largely based on the nurse’s observations, interventions, and feedback regarding their patients.

8. All Nurses Are The Same

Nursing is not a homogeneous field. Like in other medical professions, many nurses have specializations and a variety of skill sets. Pediatric nurses are specially trained to work with children, while some forensic nurses evaluate people in police custody. Oncology nurses who work with patients with cancer.

Some nurses even work independently or have their own nurse practitioner practices. Other nurses take management roles and manage the nursing staff at a hospital or clinic. Each nurse has individual skills used in different ways. Even within a big hospital, nurses don’t just ‘do it all.’ Each nurse has a specific role that they are passionate about. Not all nurses are the same, it is just a common public misconception.

9. Nurses Are Not Nice

How many times have you heard the saying that nurses are rude and are not nice? This is just another public misconception about the nursing profession.

Nursing is a challenging career at times because of the complicated, highly skilled work they must carry out in a high-pressure environment where lives can be on the line. Nurses are not wicked, unsympathetic, do not gossip all the time, and do not yell or utter offensive words all the time to the patients. Sometimes, it might be due to the pressure, and the much work needed to be done.

Also, most of the time patients might be at fault, even though I don’t condone such behaviors, but some of the things are for the patient’s wellbeing and recovery. One of the qualities of a nurse is being empathetic, not sympathetic.

Nursing requires accomplishing many complex activities during a shift, from performing difficult, life-saving tasks to doing more mundane paperwork. Like most professions, nursing includes some thankless and unpleasant tasks, but this is only a fraction of a nurse’s work.

10. Nurses Are Sexual Fantasies

Nursing is the job that is sexually fantasized about the most as we are all painfully aware of the sexualized images of nurses in the media. This public misconception about nursing is connected to the caring and service role they provide. It is also linked to the close contact with our patients and the sometimes very personal functions we have to perform for them.

However, we seek the consent and permission of the patient and they must have a chaperone, who might be a nurse or a relative. There are rules we ought not to break and penalties exist for dishonoring them.

The reinforcement of the nurse as a sexual object in many television series, movies, and advertisements does nothing to promote an accurate image of the profession.

Lastly, nursing is a remarkable profession that provides an indispensable service. We are highly educated and skilled in what we do. We are decision-makers and problem solvers who take responsibility for our patients’ needs 24 hours a day. Without nurses, health services will not function efficiently.

Lastly, nursing is an important profession that provides an indispensable service. Nurses are educated and highly skilled at what they do. Their job requires complex decision making as well as problem-solving skills. The services they provide are indispensable to the healthcare system.

Nurses save lives regularly and without them, it is unlikely that many of us would get the quality treatment at hospitals and clinics.

Every nurse should therefore help to counteract these common public misconceptions about nursing and communicate what and who a nurse is.

Hold your head up high and be proud of what you do!

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