The Changing Image of Australian Nursing Essay

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The Changing Image of Australian Nursing Jacqueline Bloomfield RN, CM, Dip App.Sci (Nur), BN, Grad Cert Onc Nur, Grad Dip Midwifery, MN, MCN (NSW). ABSTRACT The way in which the public perceives nursing significantly influences nurse�s role performance, job satisfaction and occupational expectations. The public image of Australian nursing has been subject to a plethora of influencing factors since health-care services were first established in this country over two centuries ago, Since its colonial origins, when considered an occupation suitable only for the socially outcast, nursing has evolved through decades of changes and reform. From a position of significant oppression and medical subservience, generations of Australian…show more content…
Schultz (1991) reports that magistrates when sentencing convicts, often sent them to work in the hospital as punishment for their crimes. Nursing was therefore widely considered to be a role suitable only for those of social and moral disrepute. Such low public recognition may have had a significant and long lasting influence on the ongoing struggle by contemporary nurses to gain professional respect and acknowledgement both within the health care system and the wider community. As the convicts of the lowest class were selected to work in the hospitals, it is of little surprise that standards of care relected the capabilities of the carers. Nurses often came on duty intoxicated and the basic nursing care of patients was frequently overlooked. It was not uncommon for patients to lie unwashed in dirty beds for weeks and the presence of vemin, and inadequate sanitation combined with a disregard for compassion and empathy on behalf of the caregivers, characterised the poor nursing standards of this time (Cushing, 1993). This period in Australian nursing history is widely referred to as the "Dark Age of Nursing", a term which effectively reflects the negative image with which nurses were tainted (Schultz, 1991, Cushing, 1993). The Need for Change In 1868 the arrival of Lucy Osburn, a Nightingale protégé, to Sydney marked the beginning of significant nursing reform. In response to the ongoing problems and the appalling low standards of nursing that existed within the
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