By Natalie James
Professors teaching a first-year nursing lab are shrugging off concerns of students who say textbooks used in their lab are offensive.
Students say the books Holistic Nursing and A Handbook for Practice and Interpersonal Relationships, Professional Communication Skills For Nurses, promote questionable racial stereotypes in sections aiming to teach communication skills.
The pages with the offensive passages were part of the readings assigned just before the Christmas break.
Holistic Nursing clearly charts different patient-relations techniques that the students found unsuitable, such as instructing nurses to “avoid eye contact and limit touch” with Asian and Native Americans.
Under the category of environmental control, the book also states African Americans have “an inability to function due to a hex, sins, disharmony or the supernatural,” and that Latin Americans use “Latin Time” instead of standard chronological time.
In A Handbook, the author writes, “Giger and Davidhizer caution nurses not to regard Black English as a substandard… at least some of the time 89 per cent use this form.”
These stereotypical statements have upset students.
“I’m a black person, but I never heard of Black English,” says Kayla Adebajo, who feels the statements give people the impression blacks don’t speak “plain English like everyone else. I don’t see this in my daily life.”
Adebajo brought the concerns of some students to Baerabel Anderson and Liz Braie, two of three teachers who assigned the readings.
Adebajo says she was told the issue would be addressed in class. “I showed [Anderson] the pages, and she said she understood what I was saying and she and Liz [Braie] would talk to the class next term.”
But Anderson and Braie say they haven’t seen the passages at all. “I still don’t know anything about it,” says Anderson, who took part in the book selection process this past summer.
The newly-revamped first-year curriculum integrates principles of holistic nursing, which focuses on factors like race and culture when treating patients.
The students say the books have been helpful in other areas but it doesn’t change how they feel about using what they consider to be stereotypes to teach people to be more sensitive to different cultures.
“It’s not uncommon for [nursing] books to be stereotypical,” says Isolde Daiski, who is also a nursing professor.
While she doesn’t teach from these books in her class on nursing theory, she admits students have legitimate concerns and adds they should be skeptical of anything they read. “We must know books are not ultimately the truth,” she says.
“Communication is different for different people,” says Miranda Lui, a Chinese student. “But for me, I took in the Canadian culture so this doesn’t take into account my experiences.”
Students say their teachers did not talk about the claims made in the book or give instruction on how to interpret the information.
“If they said, ‘dont take this chapter literally,’ then it would have been OK,” says Lui.
“I’m a white girl and I took offense,” says Sam Cullen, a nursing student who notes there was no category for ‘typical’ white behaviour in the racial groupings.
“They teach us to deal with things in a non-stereotypical, unprejudiced way, then we look at the books… and because it’s a [nursing course], it bothers us even more. You’re trying to help people but if you’re carrying around these stereotypes you shouldn’t be there.”
While all three teachers using the books claim not to be familiar with the passages, Braie admits the entire first year class uses these books “consistently” and the texts were chosen by the nurses from the faculty.