Throughout history, nursing was regarded as a female dominated profession. From the works of Florence Nightingale to that of Jean Calista Roy, the pioneers were female and that along, yields a problematic history of misogyny and sexism. Women who were primarily caretakers and nurturers were responsible in taking care of the aged, sick, children and disabled; that was the expectation. When healing roles such as nursing became lucrative and technical, it was met with resistance since it promoted departure from women’s roles but it was viewed as a competition to men who were in the work force. In 2019, 91% of regulated nurses in Canada are female according to Canadian Nurses Association.
To date, we’re still fighting for our wages and fair treatment as a work force and profession. Male dominated professions are still paid higher compared to nurses which I find reprehensible, to say the least. In late 2019, the controversial Bill 124 in Ontario was passed and set a cap of 1% on registered nurses’ wage, which definitely was a slap in the face. In fact, male dominated professions are exempted from this wage cap such as the police. To add, they’ve reached an arbitrated settlement that guarantees up to 3.5 percent for 4 years. What is wrong with this equation?
I suppose the obvious reason of the above predicament is gender bias. It baffles me that up to this modern day and age, nursing is poorly represented politically and rarely have a voice in changes that not only affects them professionally but undermines their gender.
With the onslaught of the pandemic and as nurses continue to work harder in unsafe work conditions, institutional sexism is insidious and deeply ingrained in the profession. It remains a lost cause. Moreover, as Nursing remains stoic and powerless over proving its capacity to develop, adapt and innovate, the dynamic didn’t change over decades since Nursing doesn’t confront and remains busy proving how capable of a profession it is. In the public eye, nursing is still subservient to the physician and one a patient can call and ask, “Nurse, can you get me a warm blanket?”
Contrary to some popular belief, nurses don’t just get you a warm blanket when you’re cold, or get you some water when you’re thirsty or make you toast when you’re hungry. Or worse, nurses are not a physician’s assistant. We’re already in the 21st century where nurses are the glue to your health care journey. Nurses work tirelessly to protect and advocate for the individual in our care. Beyond this reputation for compassion lies a highly specialized profession that continues to evolve to cater the needs of the society. From ensuring standardized care to continuous education of the public’s health issues, nurses are indispensable. They deserve all the credit and that starts with revamping the wage cap, but one can only dream.
Nursing and its attempt to prove its worth to society is still an issue. Unfortunately, nurses are hailed as heroes, treated like dung. More importantly, nurses are continually to be belittled, and disrespected even as they provide the most compassionate and exceptional care to the society. In fact, the wage caps just proves how nursing doesn’t have a voice and still yet to be hailed as heroes, to say the least.