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Deal of the Fortnight: Angel Pendant Necklaces

Published 12 February 10 02:17 PM
What are your thoughts on the "nurse angel" stereotype?

Hope, healing, giving, compassion and love. Do those words describe a nurse or other healthcare professional in your life? If so, check out this fortnight's deal. It's a simple pendant necklace featuring an angel, and you can choose from five the five different themes listed above. To qualify as the deal of the fortnight, the price on the angel pendant necklaces had to be just right, and it is - you can score this angel pendant necklace as a gift or for yourself for just $3.99, one-third off of the original price. Each pendant comes in a package with a backing that emphasizes the theme of the angels. The compassion angel pendant necklace, for example, has on the package, "Compassion - You teach compassion so I know that through a smile new life can grow."

Now, I do like this deal item, these angel pendant necklaces; otherwise, I wouldn't have chosen them. However, the tremendous double blizzard, my inability to ever wear contacts again and a huge banking issue have me in a mood that's just a tad persnickety this afternoon. After I chose the angel pendant necklaces as the deal of the fortnight, one of the first things that hit me is that they might just be going along with a nursing stereotype. Of course you could buy the angel pendant necklace for anyone, not just nurses, but if purchased for a nurse, could it be offensive?

A few months ago, that thought wouldn't have crossed my mind. I have been keeping a pretty close eye on our ADVANCE Book Club for Nurses, however, and sat down to chat with one of the editors in charge of the book club a few months ago. She told me about an upcoming read, Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk. I asked some questions on it, and she ran me through the various nursing stereotypes covered in the book, and even showed me the art our design department prepared to complement the book club coverage (note: they've completed the book and moved on to other reads).

The one image, nurses as angels, flashed through my mind when I saw this pendant. Compared to the other stereotypes, the nurse angel is pretty tame, in my opinion, but I can see how it can reflect negatively on nurses. Authors Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, and Harry Jacobs Summers covered several stereotypes in a video interview with ADVANCE for Nurses for the book club coverage, including:

  • Unskilled (nurses portrayed doing simple tasks like pushing gurneys, standing around but not assisting)
  • Nurse Angel (simple but superhuman, and therefore set up with unrealistic expectations)
  • Naughty Nurse (well, this needs little explanation)
  • Handmaiden (just to serve the physician; do whatever the doctor commands and never questioning)
  • Battle Ax (nurses cause lots of red tape; impede physicians from saving lives)

In the video, the authors describe their beefs with each stereotype. For the nurse angel stereotype, Sandy Summers pointed out that while nurses need compassion, they're not going to be able to save everyone, as a true angel might. "It's not helpful for nurses to be depicted as angels because angels live in heaven," she said. "You don't need to pay rent or a mortgage. You can work a 12- or 16-hour shift without stopping for a lunch break and you don't need to go to the bathroom, either. Angels can take care of eight, 10, 16 patients without a flaw; no one ever dies. Real humans can't [do that]."

Author Harry Jacobs Summers noted another flaw with the nurses as angels stereotype - while angels are noble and virtuous, they're not really thought of for their critical thinking, social skills or high levels of education - all of which today's nurses must have. The image of nurses as angels may tarnish the true plethora of skills that nurses possess.

"[The angel image is] not really consistent with a serious modern profession like medicine and some others, so when people have the sense that nurses are angels, all of that important content is gone in the image of nursing, and so that's why, although angels of course are very positive, virtuous beings ... when that's your professional image, it has a mostly negative effect I think on people's view of you on their decisions about your resources and how they think about you," Harry Jacobs Summers explained.

All of a sudden, those angel pendants seem a lot deeper than I originally thought. This deal of the fortnight could actually lead to some interesting discussion. Do you think the image of nurses as angels dulls the true skills of nurses or sets unrealistic expectations? How do you see the media's portrayal of nurses affecting the profession? 

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Yes, I believe the nurse -as -angel image is not in keeping with the image that we want to portray. An angel usually does not speak, just hovers sweetly in th ebackground.....nope, not anymore! Let's let go of the cutsey  kittens, childlike and perfectly heavenly images and show some strong, intelligent nurses-that look like nurses.  

Sandra Buchanan, Emergency Dept - Manager, Detroit Medical Center February 25, 2010 4:55 PM
Detroit MI

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About Lynn Jusinski

After an internship at a home magazine where she wrote about media rooms and $500,000 pool renovations from the comfort of a teeny, cluttered dorm room, Lynn Jusinski graduated from a small college in Pennsylvania and then moved on to write for two weekly newspapers in suburban Philadelphia. A column she penned for the papers won an award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. In 2007, Lynn moved back to the magazine world, and worked full-time as an associate editor for ADVANCE for Health Information Professionals. Her work on the magazine led to “Rookie of the Year” honors and a second place feature award in the annual Editorial Excellence Awards presented by Merion Publications Inc. In her free time, Lynn is typically stuck in traffic, shopping, reading, constructing poorly made crafts and hanging out in and around her hometown.
You can reach Lynn at

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