Dealing with Discrimination from Patients
It's official - my first semester as a nursing student is over. I finished up with finals last Thursday, and now I have nearly one month off to relax and recharge.
I'm already in the midst of planning things to do with all my extra time. In addition to holiday festivities, I'll be taking two trips to the Poconos, and my wife and I have decided to finally dive into The Wire, which almost all of my friends tell me is the best TV show ever made. I'm midway through the first season, and I'm pretty much hooked.
Obviously, the nursing-side of my life is firmly on the back-burner. As a result, I thought it might be interesting to ruminate a little on a discussion that occurred during one of my last sessions in Introduction to Nursing. The hot topic: how to respond if a patient refuses help from a specific nurse because of their religion, sex, race, or sexual orientation.
The conversation started simply enough. Initially, my instructor was discussing how some cultures tend to refuse certain treatments, which eventually led to talk of religious women who refuse care from men due to issues of modesty. Most in the class just nodded along as if agreeing, "Yes, of course, we must be culturally sensitive, after all."
This then led my instructor to tell a story about a white man and his pregnant wife refusing the care of a black female nurse. Everyone in the class stopped nodding along, as if to say "Seriously? In the 21st century?" Students began offering verbal opinions, many of which indicated the "racists" would have to deal with reality and get help from whoever was available. Others said that it wasn't really any different than the cultural issues touched on earlier, but were countered by students who drew a line in the sand between prejudiced reasons and cultural/religious ones (to some that boils down to "toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe," but that's a discussion for a different day).
Ultimately, my opinion became fully formed. While I detest bigotry and any sort of hate in general, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn't really bother me if someone refused my treatment, which is really all I can speak on, since the idea of "right" and "wrong" seems a little cloudy here. I've come up with a few reasons for this:
- 1. Being white, male and heterosexual, I have experienced significantly less hate than my racially diverse, female and/or gay compatriots, and so it's just not the same for me. The lack of constant prejudice in my life may make it easier for me to say I'd be fine with being refused.
- 2. A main goal of every nurse should be to make sure every patient gets comfortable care.
- 3. Just because someone refuses a certain kind of nurse, doesn't make them a bad person. There's a whole lot about peoples' lives and histories I know very little about. And even if someone is a "bad person," they still have a right to high quality nursing care.
In the end, if it was at all possible, I'd encourage getting a nurse with whom the patient would feel comfortable. My reason is simple: morally and politically I am against all forms of discrimination, but all that matters to me when I'm in "nurse mode" is ensuring the best level of care possible whether it's for the friendliest patient or for the most prejudiced one.
If anyone has any other viewpoints on the issue, I'd love to read some in our comments section, because it's certainly an interesting issue that, at least in my class, led to a worthwhile conversation.