Saturday, March 28, 2009

Racism and stereotype

Nursing involves a lot of interpersonal interactions. In the multi-cultural world of nursing, racism and racial stereotype occasionally rears its ugly head. The following takes a look at the 4 major Singapore "official" races and their behaviour in the hospital setting. Will not cover about the foreign workers or clients here, that's another big topic altogether.


A colleague K of a particular minority race complains that some patients of the majority race tends to look down her race and that they would complain more when she is on-duty. On the other hand, this colleague practises racism herself.

For patients who are planned for discharge the following morning, K would not order lunch or dinner for the patients, which is standard hospital policy. If other staff orders lunch for the these patients, the other staff would get a earful from her. However, if the patients were of her own racial group, she would still order lunch, which is not the hospital policy. I close my eyes on such order because at times it is more convenient for us nurses to order ahead and allow the system to drop the patient off the list upon discharge. Although the NO would not be happy about the costs involved.

Just discovered yesterday, K has become more brazen in her racist meal ordering. She ordered companion meals FOC for an adult patient when the companion did not sign-off to pay for the extra meal. Fortunately, I had another colleague M who agreed that the extra meals should not be ordered and witness to the extra meal order cancellation.

Guess what? M is also from the same racial group as K. So far, I have not heard of M complaining about racism against her from patients of the majority race. Personally I occasionally face racism from patients of K's minority race. However, I would not be bothered too much by them. Most of the time, the patients are ok once the communication and rapport is established.


Here are some racial stereotypes of the typical hospital patients and their relatives. Guess which is which.

A: Relatives or patients who ask for more of whatever that is FOC. E.g. One grandma ever asked for 1 new tin of free milk powder for every day of a child's in-patient stay. We turned down that request, of course. The baby would be grotesquely fat if he can finish 1 tin of milk powder a day!

B: Relatives who come visit as a whole big group. This provides good psychological support for the patient. However it becomes a problem if it is not a single room, and the other patients are disturbed. E.g. A child was running around, chanting out loud in a 6-bedded ward. His huge group of relatives disregard the disturbances caused to the other patients, focusing on chatting with their elderly patient. Finally, a neighbouring patient complained to me. Thus I had to stop the child running around and chanting. The child started crying and only then did the mother intervene to chide the child.

C: Patients who regularly complain of pain++++++. E.g. At first I thought this is a myth, but my observations show that there is no smoke without fire. Not sure if it is the cultural environment that encourage such verbosity. Anyway, FYI, one will NOT get extra good care just because one complaints more.

D: Patients who are polite and smiley, but shoot complaint letter after discharge. Not citing example since it's not my personal experience. So far, my personal experience with this group is rather positive. Touch wood :-P

As I have mentioned, the above are stereotypes, aka, the black sheep of their group. Most are supportive.

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