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Sch Inq Nurs Pract. 1998 Summer;12(2):99-118; discussion 119-22.

The dark side of nursing: impact of stigmatizing responses on patients.

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  • 1Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA.


The current emphasis in nursing is on caring, what it involves and why it is the profession's responsibility. This article focuses on the opposite behaviors--the "dark side of nursing" (Jameton, 1992). By developing a fuller understanding of nurse behaviors labeled the "dark side of nursing," the profession can better comprehend what caring involves and develop innovative ways to reduce dark-side behaviors. Although marginalizing, labeling and stereotyping, and stigmatizing are related, the focus will be on stigmatizing responses to patients. A number of investigators document nurse stereotyping of suicidal patients, persons with AIDS, racial/ethnic groups, and sex offenders and the impact on patients. Social psychological theories on stereotyping and deviant behavior provide some explanation for the nurse's behavior. The organizational perspective, however, has not been employed to enhance our understanding of nor to eliminate this phenomenon. Combining an organizational perspective with the social psychological theory of negative stereotyping (stigmatizing) and philosophical theory involving ethics provides a more comprehensive theory for understanding the "dark side of nursing" and designing interventions to reduce the occurrence of this damaging behavior.

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