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The struggle for legitimacy: nursing in Australia

At the recent ACN National Nursing Forum Georgina Willetts gave the key note speech on nursing’s past, present and future.

Willetts joined the profession aged 17 because she “didn’t want to go to university,” and had no aspirations of leadership or pursuing a career in academia.

Now the associate professor and head of the nursing discipline at Swinburne university, she spoke to the audience about the importance of nurse leadership and the never-ending battle for nurses to have their voices heard.

She says the common thread that weaves through the past, present and future of nursing is the dearth of understanding that surrounds the profession and the lack of nurse voices being heard. The stereotypes that doggedly follow nurses “frequently stigmatise nursing practice”.

Willetts argues that nursing is often associated with the body and “dirty” or “menial” work, and as nurses debrief among themselves, the myths that surround the job are often left to grow.

To take nursing into the future successfully, nurses need to be heard, be involved in research, go into politics and break down these stereotypes, she says.

Willetts spoke with Aged Care Insite about the profession’s fight for legitimacy and her links to Florence Nightingale and Sir Henry Parkes.

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One comment

  1. I frequently read and hear of academic nurses advocating for the need for “nurses to be heard” and for the progression of the profesion etc. Such nurses are usually far removed from the coal-face, sequented in universities. However, the barriers that exist between nurses themselves need to be addressed. Despite nursing education being moved to universities, the bullying and elitism remains, especially in the public health system. New nurses can easily be driven from the profession once out of university due to the ingrained attitudes that exist in hospitals. Nurses can be their own worst enemies; that is one of the reasons I (and many others) left the profession. The assumption that new nurses “know nothing” and the attitude of “my way or the highway” lives and breaths. Change needs to come from the top. When senior nurses start to treat juniors fairly, change will occur.

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