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The "dirty" job: confronting stereotypes in Malaysia

October 3, 2004 -- An unsigned piece in today's Malaysia Star tells the story of one new nursing graduate's determination to join the profession, but also reflects the popular notions about nursing that she and her fellow graduates will now confront.

The piece, "Dream of becoming a nurse comes true for Saripa," explains that Saripah Abdullah just received her nursing diploma. Evidently she had applied to nursing programs 10 years ago. Rejected from all of them, she became a hospital telephone operator, "picked up tips on how to care for patients from the nurses" there for seven years, then applied again, this time gaining admission to the nursing program at the Royal Perak Medical College.

The short piece seems to say a lot about public attitudes toward nursing. Saripah herself stresses that "people should change their mindset and not view nursing as a dirty profession." The program's top graduate, Rosidawati Yusof, likewise is quoted as saying that there is "nothing wrong in being a nurse" and that she does not "understand why some people say this job is not clean." That these new graduates should be so concerned with the "dirty" stereotype that it dominates their graduate commentary strikes us as very sad, but we admire their determination to go on regardless. We also note that their comments reflect to some extent the familiar handmaiden and angel visions of nursing. Saripah describes the job as "giving love and care," noting that "[a]part from the doctor, you are the next person the patients look up to," while Rosidawata notes that "nurses should treat patients as part of their family." However, perhaps these visions are more understandable in the face of what appear to be prevalent impressions that the job is "dirty."

See the Malaysia Star's article "Dream of becoming a nurse comes true for Saripah" in its October 3, 2004 edition.


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