Tall poppy syndrome …. Still rearing its ugly head in nursing

Tall poppy syndrome …. Still rearing its ugly head in nursing

Nearly 3000 years ago Heroditus told the story of how King Thrasybulus was asked by a fellow monarch about the best way to govern his kingdom. In response the King went to a nearby field and, walking through the rows, whacked the heads off the tallest, brightest ears of corn. The Romans continued the analogy in their literature, but changed the corn to poppies, and the term ‘tall poppy syndrome’ was coined (The Histories, 440 BC).

 

poppies

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“I worked really hard to get here.  I wouldn’t want to go back.”  Exploring the narrative of one first-in-family nursing student during their university transition.

“I worked really hard to get here. I wouldn’t want to go back.” Exploring the narrative of one first-in-family nursing student during their university transition.

Our guest Blogger this week is Associate Professor Sarah O’Shea from the University of Wollongong. I have known Sarah for nearly ten years and for much of the time we lived next door to each other. Sarah and I have much in common … we were both the first in our families to attend university, both immigrants to Australia, both mums who struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’ as we juggled PhD candidature and full time work.  Perhaps most important though is our shared commitment to student success and the incredible joy we experience when we watch our former students cross the stage at graduation, particularly when they have struggled with challenging life experiences. 

Since moving to Wollongong Sarah’s academic journey has flourished and I have watched with admiration her inspirational First in the Family research. In this post Sarah shares Marlee’s story of transition to university, what it means to her and her family, and how it illustrates the types of hurdles that many first in family nursing students encounter.

Nursing programs are the third most popular choice of study area in Australia [1]. In 2014 over 17,000 students started a nursing degree; 2,316 of these were men [2]. Over a third of nursing students are in the lowest socio-economic band and many are returning to education after a significant gap in learning [1]. There is a tendency for many universities to operate within a discourse of deficit focusing on what students lack instead of welcoming and celebrating the cultural wealth or strength they bring with them [3]. Working within a mass university system characterised by increased student diversity also means that it can be very difficult to remain mindful of the student as an individual.

My research with students has focused on foregrounding individuals’ subjective experience of attending university with an emphasis on the narratives of learners who are defined as disadvantaged or belonging to equity categories. This work has highlighted the transformative potential of attending university [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9], the identity work that students (particularly women) undertake [10, 11], as well as approaches to retaining and supporting diverse student populations [12, 13].

grad image

Listening to and telling stories fulfils a very basic need in people. As an educator hearing students’ stories has provided entry into the lived experience of attending university, offering rich insights into both the unique trajectories of learners and also providing a means to recognise common patterns or experiences across populations.

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Celebrating International Nurses Day 2016

Celebrating International Nurses Day 2016

I recently visited the Florence Nightingale Museum in London. Situated near St. Thomas Hospital, where the original Nightingale Training School was established, this surprisingly modest building houses a collection of fascinating historical artefacts (including that famous lamp).

LAMP

As I wandered through the exhibition I couldn’t help thinking about Nightingale’s tenacity, indomitable strength and the many challenges she had to overcome. From the beginning her parents vehemently opposed her choice of career, viewing nursing as a job for the poorly educated working class, and not appropriate for a respectable woman. During the Crimean War Nightingale and the other army nurses worked in rat infested and overcrowded conditions, surrounded by filth, decay, disease, pain and suffering, tending thousands of wounded and dying soldiers. Over and over again Nightingale’s attempts to implement change and improve patient care were met with resistance and criticism from her medical colleagues.

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