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Nurses are not heroes

22 July 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 14

Over the course of this pandemic, nurses across the globe have been celebrated and honoured as ‘heroes’ in mainstream and social media because of their selfless dedication to serve and protect their patients from the novel coronavirus. However, this characterisation is problematic as it distracts attention from the enduring social issues affecting the profession.

The ‘nurses as heroes’ tribute sounds uplifting, but it has a degree of ambivalence. The heroism narrative has a problematic underlying character (Frisk, 2019), suggestive of accepting either physical danger or social sacrifice (Franco et al, 2011). Although the ‘hero’ tribute may be an acceptable societal reaction, it should be used cautiously because it distracts from the reality of nurses' concerns. These are:

The hero discourse can be seen as a tool to achieve various aims, such as the normalisation of the risk of exposure among nurses, advancing the discourse of nurses as model citizens and as a reward in itself (Mohammed et al, 2021). The ‘nurses as heroes’ tribute was rejected by nurses themselves, as revealed in a recently published ethnographic study because it connotes predefined characteristics of accepting physical risk, self-sacrifice and invincibility (Halberg et al, 2021).

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