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Are nurses getting the respect they need to save lives?

May 6, 2019

BBC and other major media spotlight nurse denied Guinness marathon record

A BBC item was among those reporting that Guinness World Records had denied nurse Jessica Anderson its record for a woman completing a marathon in a nurse’s uniform after she ran in scrubs rather than the traditional dress and cap. Anderson is right that presenting the gendered traditional uniform as a symbol of nursing today damages the profession. Guinness has now vowed to review its category.

May 6, 2019 – On May 4 the BBC website posted an item by Catherine Burns reporting that Guinness World Records was refusing to recognize that nurse Jessica Anderson had just broken the record for fastest marathon run by a woman in a nurse’s uniform after finishing in about 3 hours and 9 minutes. The rationale given to Anderson was that she ran in scrubs, but the existing record is held by someone running in a traditional nurse’s uniform, and Guinness rules still require entrants of whatever gender who wish to compete in the “nurse” category to wear “a blue or white nurse dress, a white pinafore apron, a traditional white nurse’s cap. Tights are optional.” Anderson said that when she questioned these requirements before the race, Guinness told her that scrubs were too similar to the required outfit for someone running in the physician category, and that “to maintain a different level of challenge the ‘nurse’ costume has to be different, hence the requirement for the old fashioned, stereotypical attire.” Anderson found this requirement “outdated and frankly quite sexist,” noting that it “really has an impact on the public perception of nursing.” The story has now been covered worldwide, with predictable glee, and we understand that Guinness has vowed to review its guidelines for this category. We congratulate Anderson, and we think Guinness’s apparent notion that the nurse category should be kept antiquated because otherwise it would be too similar to the physician category is absurdly physician-centric. We admit that we don’t think someone running in scrubs deserves to take a marathon record held by someone running in a dress and cap, which would seem to be far more difficult because of constriction and added wind resistance. Indeed, a big reason that people wear scrubs is that they are much easier to move in.

We urge Guinness to retire the traditional-nurse-outfit category, because we agree with Nurse Anderson that the message it sends damages the profession, which has long struggled to get the respect and resources it needs despite enduring female-oriented stereotypes. Indeed, Guinness itself has reportedly conceded that the required uniform is stereotypical. Presenting it this way suggests that the profession is limited to the female gender and the constraints traditionally placed on it. It says that nurses are not modern health professionals of any gender. By the way, so does referring to nurses as “sisters,” as the piece does in describing Anderson’s work at the Royal London Hospital. 

And contrary to the BBC’s description, we are not talking about a record for “fastest nurse to run a marathon.” Last month Tucson nurse Sarah Sellersfinished the Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 36 minutes, and 42 seconds, 19th in the race. Nurses and their achievements are not defined by uniforms.

Please join us in sending feedback to the Guinness World Book of Record by sending a tweet @GWR asking them to end the old contest and begin a new one. Please copy us if there is room @TruthAbtNursing. Thank you! Below is our tweet to Guinness:

Nurse Jessica Anderson

Nurse Jessica Anderson


Nurse Sarah Sellers

Tweet to Guinness

Speaking Engagements

Sandy Summers to speak at Widener University in May

May 16, 2019 - Truth About Nursing director Sandy Summers is thrilled to be set to speak at the Nightingale ceremony for graduating seniors of the Widener University School of Nursing! It will be held at The Springfield Country Club (400 W Sproul Rd, Springfield, PA 19064) at noon on Thursday, May 16.  Widener is located in Chester, Pennsylvania.  

Having an event? Book Sandy today!

Let Sandy Summers empower your nurses and help them fully embrace their autonomy!

Patients deserve better protection. Let Sandy help your nurses and students fully embrace their autonomy to strengthen nursing care, reduce errors and improve care! Sandy recently spoke in Washington DC, Manitoba and Vancouver, and gave the graduation speech at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. She speaks widely to a variety of international nursing groups. Click here to see details and book her today!

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Saving Lives is the transformative book acclaimed by nurses, nursing leaders, scholars, and the media. It can help your friends, colleagues, and students be the strong nurses our profession needs to protect patients from errors, injuries, and disease. See praise for Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk by leaders in nursing and the media as well as the awards it has earned, including three Book of the Year awards from the American Journal of Nursing and an award from Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing. The updated second edition from Oxford University Press is now available! All donations and royalties go directly to support The Truth About Nursing, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Thank you for your support!

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Think about the future

New international text Nurses and Nursing leads off with chapter by Truth leaders

The exciting new textbook Nurses and Nursing: The Person and the Profession includes a chapter on nursing's image by Truth leaders Sandy Summers and Harry Jacobs Summers. Edited by Padraig O Luanaigh, RN, EdD, the thought-provoking new textbook from Routledge "draws on international contributors with a range of backgrounds to explore, engage with and challenge readers in understanding the many aspects and elements that inform and influence contemporary nursing practice." Our chapter is "Nursing's public image: Toward a professional future." We thank Dr. Luanaigh for the opportunity to be a part of this important new project. Please consider this book for your classes in professionalism, nursing and society, and nursing leadership. Click here to request a free copy for review now! See more about the book here...

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