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Call bells and sexism: what nurses say about gendered dress-and-cap symbols

Nurse prompts Twitter debate on impact of out-dated imagery on bedside buzzers
hand holding call bell featuring 'nurses' symbol depicting woman in a starched cap

Nurse prompts Twitter debate on impact of out-dated imagery on bedside buzzers

A nurse has sparked a sexism debate about whether the symbols used on call bells supposedly depicting nurses should be consigned to history.

The nurse, who was a patient at the time of the tweet, posted a picture of a call bell with a symbol suggesting a woman in old-style uniform. The Tweet reads: How are we in 2021 and the call bell still looks like this. #EverydaySexism.

Twitter discussion

The tweet has been liked more than 1,000 times, with others sharing similar images as part of the discussion.

The

Nurse prompts Twitter debate on impact of out-dated imagery on bedside buzzers

Hand holding a call bell featuring 'nurse' symbol depicting a woman in a starched hat
Images on call bell bells often depict nurses as women in starched caps Picture: iStock

A nurse has sparked a sexism debate about whether the symbols used on call bells supposedly depicting nurses should be consigned to history.

The nurse, who was a patient at the time of the tweet, posted a picture of a call bell with a symbol suggesting a woman in old-style uniform. The Tweet reads: ‘How are we in 2021 and the call bell still looks like this. #EverydaySexism.’

Twitter discussion

The tweet has been ‘liked’ more than 1,000 times, with others sharing similar images as part of the discussion.

The nurse told Nursing Standard: ‘I was looking at the graphic and I thought to myself “nurses don’t look like that anymore”.

‘We definitely don’t wear caps. I was thinking it is strange because in my role as a nurse I wear scrubs. I remember thinking it’s a shame it looks that way.’

Wider implications of nurse stereotyping

The tweets have led to nurses debating the appropriateness of the image and how a tiny picture can have significant implications.

Risks that come with unconscious bias

A 2019 study suggested gender-based symbols on patient call bells were an ‘example of everyday sexism in healthcare’.

The authors concluded that patient call bells should not have a gender-specific symbol because the responder can be a man or woman. They added that such conventional imagery leads to unconscious bias, which could be a barrier to change, fair pay, and equal opportunity.

While some nurses and healthcare professionals did object to use of ‘female’ symbolism on call bells, but others responded with suggestions for alternatives.

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher also had concerns about the image.

She said: ‘Nursing uniforms have changed and developed over recent years and outdated imagery of a nurse in a cap and dress does not reflect the modern nursing profession.’


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