The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Stereotyping in the medical field

Laura Ellingson, professor at Santa Clara University, said that women are not valued in the health care system.

Ellingson opened Women’s History and Awareness Month with a presentation on women as “other” in the health care system.

Have you ever, “failed to value her?” Ellingson asked the audience.

Ellingson defined “her” as the women nurses, medical assistants, technicians, and even the women working the switchboard at the nurses’ station. We have neglected the people who are lower in the medical hierarchy, Ellingson said.

Courtney Bruggeman, a family and consumer sciences major, said that she had “failed to value her” but Ellingson made her think more highly of nurses.

Ellingson became interested in the medical field after reading a book series on nurses when she was in the eighth grade.

She noticed then the nurses in the books were portrayed as nourishing, beautiful and submissive. They conveniently fell in love and had kids. It was the typical stereotype of what women should be, Ellingson said.

After taking a women’s studies class in college, she began her research on interpersonal communication within health care organizations.

During her sophomore year in college Ellingson was diagnosed with bone cancer.

During her treatments Ellingson observed the behavior towards people, specifically women, lower in the medical hierarchy.

A nurse is a person educated and trained to care for the sick. A nurse can be any gender. However, as of last year, 94 percent of nurses are women and only two percent are men, Ellingson said.

Men are not expected to be nurses because it doesn’t fit into the, “men are strong” stereotype, she said.

Women usually work in the lower medical positions of the hierarchy.

A doctor is the highest on the hierarchy.

The lower hierarchy positions are forgotten, Ellingson said.

Ellingson said women play an important role in the health care process but their role is often overlooked. She said that women are nurses, switchboard operators, receptionists and medical assistants but these roles are overlooked because they are lower on the hierarchy.

“Female nourishing is considered not important but necessary,” Ellingson said.

Maya Boyd, a family and consumer sciences major, said nurses offer comfort and are interact more with patients than the doctor.

Through her research, Ellingson discovered doctors, male or female, have a tendency to forget the role these women play. People collaborate with people who they feel is on their level, she said.

The workers lower in the medical hierarchy work just as hard as doctors, but are paid less. Technicians’ starting rate is seven or eight dollars.

“That is not a living wage,” said Ellingson.

Ellingson said there is a demand for health care occupations in today’s job market.

She urges men and women to get involved in the heath care system and break the gender stereotypes.

“Treat people in lower hierarchy with dignity,” Ellingson said.

Zinika Livingston can be reached at 581-7942 or at [email protected].

Stereotyping in the medical field

Stereotyping in the medical field

Laura Ellingson from Santa Clara University lectures on her ethnographic research in medical clinics Monday night in Lumpkin Hall. (Bryce Peake/Daily Eastern News)


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