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Nurses Do Not Discriminate – What Happens When Our Leaders Do?

Cover image for article: Nurses Do Not Discriminate – What Happens When Our Leaders Do?

I have been basically apolitical since I was a teenage Trotskyist marching through the streets of Scotland with a red banner.

My political norm has been utter cynicism and contempt for politics, politicians and their machinations.

I have watched too many episodes of ‘The Thick of It’ and fumed at too many pocket-lining, tinpot dictators further exploiting and impoverishing the poorest of their people for their own enrichment to be otherwise.

When US President Donald Trump was elected, I elected to switch off. No news feeds, no twitter, no TV. This was a train-wreck that I had no interest in watching.

No longer.

This is a world event of such importance and a leader of such malevolence and indecency that there are no sidelines left for nurses to stand on.

The fact that none of the last weeks have been surprising has not made them any less appalling. Many of us in Australia have been watching the SBS series ‘Hitler’s Secrets’ wondering how an entire country could fall under the sway of such stupidity and evil. The terrifying conclusion is that it was not that difficult, given enough smoke and mirrors, PR spin and a fertile soil of disenchantment.

If ever international nursing and all of the world’s Nursing Organisations needed a catalyst to galvanise their united actions, it is this US president and this presidency.

Why is This a Resistance Battle for all Nurses?

Evidence and Data

For decades, nursing has been promoting the need for data, knowledge, evidence – and yes – some facts that don’t need irony quotes draped around them.

Trump’s every utterance has disparaged research, knowledge, experts and anything that does not fit with his bizarre personal opinions. We are now in the twilight zone of ‘alternative facts‘, tweets as policy and ‘Fake News‘. The people who thought that the Sandy Hook school killings was a fake conspiracy readily believe that the Bowling Green Massacre was real. Toto, we are absolutely not in Kansas anymore.

Women’s Health

Nursing and midwifery have spent years promoting women’s rights, reproductive rights and women’s health measures that would strengthen women and families all over the world.

At a stroke we recently saw the obscenity of seven men in suits signing legislation that would regulate women’s reproduction, not only in the USA but in some of the poorest countries in the world. As The Guardian’s Martin Belam noted, we will never live long enough to see a photo of seven women signing legislation to dictate how men can use their reproductive organs (2017).

Nurses Do Not Discriminate

Executive Orders

Nursing prides itself on caring for people, for human beings. We do not discriminate or differentiate between religions, races or creeds; between the deserving and the undeserving, between the guilty and the innocent, between the legal or illegal. We care for people. Full stop.

Yet Trump has sought to demonise, criminalise and exclude some people from certain countries and of certain religions. Watching the impact of his ‘executive order’ on the lives of those who sought to come to or pass through the USA has been nothing short of nauseating. And this, in the country that has the Statue of Liberty, with its galvanising inscription, standing in New York harbor:

‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

(Lazarus 1883)

All of this is before we even consider healthcare and the millions who may find themselves without health insurance or access to healthcare.

There is No Politically Neutral Place

For nurses anywhere in the world. Everything that we have seen so far and every future attack that has been mooted from the Trump presidency is antithetical to any nursing value that you can imagine.

There are around 19 million nurses and midwives in the world Mr Trump. You have no idea what you could be dealing with. We have a history and a value system that your transient temper could never even begin to threaten. We are resisting and saying the clearest and strongest possible NO to you. Get used to it.

Philip Darbyshire
Follow Philip on twitter @PDarbyshire
Philip is a Director of Philip Darbyshire Consulting Pty Ltd
and a Professor of Nursing at Monash University School of Nursing & Midwifery

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Portrait of Philip Darbyshire
Philip Darbyshire Visit

Professor Philip Darbyshire is internationally recognised as a leader in nursing and healthcare research and service development. The Australasian College of Health Service Management called Philip: “the ‘go-to’ person for hospitals and healthcare organisations who want research and evidence-based practice demystified and moved out of the ‘too-hard basket’ and into the hearts and minds of clinicians who will use it make a real difference”. For 13 years, he led one of Australia’s most successful practice-based research departments at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, described by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards as, an “example of excellence in research leadership”. Philip is a professor of Nursing at Monash University and an adjunct professor at the University of Western Sydney.