Recent actions politicize nurses
NURSES continued from page 1
The suit will test the legal
question of whether the regents
had absolute authority to abolish the school, since the UTSSN
was "established and created"
by the legislature in 1973.
It is interesting to note that
Regent Joe Nelson, the most
outspoken proponent of the
dissolution of UTSSN, is a physician.
"Dr. Nelson," he sarcastically
corrected a nurse (PhD.) faculty
member who addressed him as
"Mr." during her testimony at
the March 26 hearing.
Soon after the Regents' action, Dr. Nelson was awarded
the Texas Medical Association's
"Distinguished Service Award
for his outstanding contributions
to medical education, organized
medicine, and for his civic contributions in Texas."
"Your enemy, " former State
Senator Bob Gammage recently
told UT-Houston nursing students and faculty, "is the TMA."
He went on to say "the medical profession as a class—and
through its professional associations—has as much or more
political clout than any lobbying
group in this state or country."
And he warned that "over the
last two generations they've
been accustomed to getting their
Gammage knows of what he.
speaks. He recently lost a primary Congressional race to Ron
Paul, a Houston physician, who
unethically used TV campaign
spots which showed him in scrub
uniform delivering a baby. (No
"The way that nurses have
been manipulated, historically,
both from within and outside
the profession, often reminds
one of a hot knife cutting
through butter," write Beatrice
Kalisch and Philip Kalisch in a
current article in the Journal of
Nursing Administration. ("A
Discourse on the Politics of
"Politics concerns the promotion of one's interest group
and the use of whatever resources are available to protect and
advance that interest," the authors state. "Nursing is a political
matter." Nurses, they encourage,
must get politically involved.
An example of politics in
action and, as Redding stated,
of nurses being "acted upon"
rather than "acting on" was the
Training Bill on January 2, 1975
and again on July 25, 1975.
"Such high federal spending
for nursing education ($650
million over a three year period)
would be intolerable at a time
when even high priority activities are being pressed to justify their existence," stated President Ford, who is up for reelection next November.
Dr. Charles Berry, president
of the UT Health Science Center
in Houston, shared similar attitudes about nursing education
recently. "I do not believe in
higher education for nurses," he
said. "It only makes the health
care delivery system more expensive and just takes money
away from the professionals
With the new reorganization
(effective September 1), the
Dean of the School of Nursing
in Houston will be required to
report to Dr. Berry. (Before
the abolishment of the UTSSN
the Dean reported to Dr. Marilyn Willman, a nurse and the
While Berry is calling for "an
orderly transition" nurses at
UT-Houston are calling it "an
"He wants us to act ladylike," one student nurse said.
And, on two recent occasions, Dr. Berry has made it
threateningly clear what will
happen if it isn't 'lady-like'.
"I want to make it very clear
. . .the battle is over," he warned
nurse faculty members. "If
you're so concerned and (yet)
you're talking about resignations
. . . strikes .. . doing other types
of activities that I consider unprofessional and disruptive, I
intend to take note of that, I
intend to make a record of that
Holding up a thick manila
folder of records he is keeping
of dissidents, Dr. Berry told UT
nursing students, "The fight is
over . . . but I think some things
that have been done were very
unprofessional. I think it's
worse, by far, for faculty than
for students. I think a student
has a right to be concerned . . .
but faculty should be more
professional . . . it's not going
to be to everyone's ultimate
Confirming evidence of the
attempt by physicians to control
nursing came in the form of a
proposed "affiliation agreement"
between nursing schools and
President's veto of the Nurse hospitals. This directive, as stat-
( ) Check enclosed
( ) Bill me later
( ) Gift Subscription from_
(A gift card will be sent)
ROZANNE THATCHER, (far
right) state-head of Save Our
School, addresses UT Regents,
May 14. (I to r) Regents Tom
Law, Dr. Joe Nelson, Lady Bird
ed, would have put both nursing
students and their faculties under supervision of a doctor.
The proposed policy change
was to have been voted on at the
May 14 UT Regents meeting,
but because of a threatened
walk-out by nursing faculty and
students, the regents tabled the
. issue, saying Dr. Nelson would
work with nursing school administrators on re-wording the contract.
"It's not going to be that way
because nurses are not going to
have it that way," said President
Marilyn Wilman. "Members of
our nursing faculty are professionals, and do not work under
It is apparent that nurses are
fighting for their own autonomy
while they and consumers are
losing the traditional worship of
a doctor's authority.
According to a new Louis
Harris survey, public confidence
in physicians has declined drastically in the past decade.
In 1966, 73% of the public
had confidence in physicians,
but as of this year only 42% of
the public has confidence in
Earlier this year, the New
York Times ran a five-part
series of articles critical of
doctors. The headlines read:
"Unfit Doctors Create Worry
in Profession," "Millions of
X-Rays Found Unneeded and
Radiation is Often Excessive",
"Incompetent Surgery and.
Needless Death", "Thousands a
Year Killed by Faulty Prescriptions", and "Few Doctors Ever
Report Colleagues' Incompetence".
The issue of malpractice suits
and rising insurance rates has
also given a bad image to a profession that, in this century, has
been given "God-like" status.
A nursing student said that
her classmates have a way of
referring to the first med school
course as "God 1".
"And remember," she said,
"barbers were surgeons only 100
years ago. Nurses ran hospitals."
"Before 1912," said Dixie
Brown, executive director of the
Texas Nurses Association, District 9, "doctors went to hospitals as their philanthropic duty,
much the way doctors visit
nursing homes today. Until
1940 nurses administered hospitals.
"As each health care profession gained its own area of
expertise, it sought its own au-
tonomy-away from doctors,"
Pharmacists know more
about the interaction of drugs
on the body's cemistry, physical therapists know more about
the physical functioning of patients' bodies, and dieticians
know more about nutrition during illness than doctors—yet
doctors prescribe drugs and
diets and set physical regimes
for patients, Brown said.
"Nurses are interested in preventative medicine—keeping the
patient from even going to the
hospital," Brown added.
It is obvious that this idea of
health care comes into conflict
with doctors who make money
from illness, not wellness. Preventative medicine threatens
Brown feels that doctors were
threatened by their loss of power to other health care professionals and, thus, came down on
nursing first because it was "female-dominated" and "politically unorganized."
"It is as though doctors fear
losing their nearly exclusive franchise on control of the medical
industry by granting women
equal status and the power of
self-determination," wrote Ed
Miller in Iconoclast (May 24).
PO. Box 88072 Houston.Texas 77004
Miller's article was entitled
"The Nurse Question: Handmaidens for Physicians or Independent Health Practitioners?"
In a Houston Chronicle
story last fall when that question
was posed ("To Whom Is A
Nurse Responsible?") Dixie
Brown of TNA replied, "to the
Dr. William Sherrill, immediate past president of the Harris
County Medical Society stated
emphatically,"to the physician."
"The lines are drawn and in
the interest of the best patient/
consumer care nurses must get
politically organized and use
their potential political clout",
one nursing school faculty
Nurses will be treading on
foreign ground for a while because power-politics is a traditionally masculine arena.
Kalisch and Kalisch hope,
however, that "physicians and
other political elites will be re-
socialized to some of the nurses'
values (and that there will be)
greater cooperation (among
health professionals) in decisionmaking" to the benefit of the
"Politically speaking," they
pointed out "the model nurse is
not the quiet, submissive, hardworking individual who makes
the best of every situation, but
the . . . professional who uses all
available resources to advance
health care around her (him).
The model nurse seeks power . . .
to improve patient care in all its