Oppressed group behavior in nursing is not a new phenomenon. So on joining the profession, one was quite aware that one would be subject to such behavior. This was anticipated in two forms, one was vertical from the medical practitioners and the other was horizontal from one’s fellow nurses. However when there was a barrage from both ends, this was truly a revealing experience for me.
This experience occurred when placed on night duty in emergency surgery for a continuous period of one week. This was quite exceptional in the hospital where I was working and initially I took it as a challenge and decided to prove myself by excelling in emergency care to my patients. However after a lapse of just about two weeks when I was again placed on night watch in emergency surgery, I was taken aback and knew that something was amiss. So I walked up to the nursing head in charge of duties but was rudely rebuffed with the remarks that it was not my right to demand a duty of my choice. For the first time I recognized that I was probably becoming a victim of what Freire (1970) has said about oppression as a phenomenon when one person stops anthers quest for affirming himself as a responsible person.
The feeling of vertical oppression struck hard when during the course of this tour, the doctor in charge of surgery verbally abused me for inefficiency and incompetence bringing me close to tears.
However I went back to study the phenomenon of oppressed work groups, identified the pattern and then devised coping strategies. First and foremost was to avoid anger and go about fighting oppression systematically. So I collected information of the duty pattern of all my colleagues officially and presented it to the nursing head indicating that she had been unjust to me. Seeing solid evidence she relented and compensated me in duty hours at night over the entire year. Then I formally approached the surgery in charge in person and requested him to tell me my weaknesses. He was surprised and stated that he had been sniping at me merely to get over his own pressures. Soon word spread that I was not to be messed around and I could enjoy my passion for caring without any oppression.
1. Freire, Paulo. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.