You may recognize the title of this page as a line from Aretha Franklin's 1960s hit, "Respect." The anthem still resonates with nurses today. For all their education and responsibilities, nurses sometimes find that their work doesn't get the respect it deserves.
First, as a predominately female profession, nursing is still seen as less important than fields dominated by males, which includes many other branches of medicine. The way medicine is practiced feeds the perception. Nurses typically rank below doctors in authority, pay and education. So doctors sometimes -- whether intentionally or not -- devalue nurses' skills and opinions.
Some nurses also complain of disrespect from their peers. In one study, 70 percent of nurses said that fellow nurses and nurse managers who were rude, critical and unsupportive caused them to leave a nursing job. Among new nurses, 60 percent quit after six months due to this hostile environment [source: Townsend].
Then there are the patients. People who are sick, in pain or facing a frightening medical situation might lash out at nurses as the easiest target. One nurse compared dealing with patients to her previous job as a waitress, where she bore the anger of customers whose pizza had the wrong toppings [source: Bryan]. Some nurses blame the unflattering stereotypes offered by the entertainment media for desensitizing patients and their families. But nurses aren't the cold authoritarians or faceless servants you may see on TV (although even the best nurses have bad days -- they're only human). They're caring professionals, and quite possibly a patient's strongest advocate. That's worth remembering the next time you find yourself in the hospital.