Imprinting

I was recently hospitalized for a minor surgery, and being a researcher, I was fascinated and curious why women chose to be nurses. Long hours, heavy responsibility of taking care of patients often facing life or death situation, patients suffering. As smart as these women have to be to admitted into a college nursing program and then pass the state exam, if they chose, they could have gone into marketing, financing profession, with potential to make a lot more money. So over the four days I was hospitalized, I asked them: why did you decide to become a nurse? We all have moments that something is imprinted into us. Sometimes it’s a moment of crisis, other times it’s a moment that somehow sticks with us. When I asked three nurses why they became nurses, they told me their stories.

The first nurse told me that she decided to become a nurse when she was three years old. When she was three, she had a serious accident and injured her head. The doctor just pulled the hair out of her scalp like pulling out weeds. She was only three, but her pain did not concern him. Then the nurse pulled out her hair, but the nurse was so careful, so gentle. The little girl fell in love with the nurse, and the little girl never wavered in her wish to become a nurse as she grew up. The second nurse told me that she first learned about the nurse’s job when she was around fifth grade in elementary school. She was participating in job visit day, and when she saw how the nurses took care of elderly people, she was impressed such job existed. That image of nurse stayed with her as she grew up and selected the path to become a nurse. The third nurse told me that her mother and aunt were nurses, and she saw first hand how a job as a nurse would give her financial independence, and that it was one of the few profession women did not have to give up after she married and had children. Although my parents get along well with each other, I know some women are stuck with terrible husbands, she said. With independence, I won’t have to worry about that, she said. As I listened to her, I wondered what imprinted her with the image of being stuck with a terrible husband, that made her think of nurse as a profession that offers freedom from that.

In Japan, nurses are predominantly women. physicians are predominantly men. Gender bias had not bothered me before, because I was too timid to ask for something that was outside of my comfort zone. But there must have been men who wanted to be nurses and women who wanted to be doctors. I only began to seriously think of gender bias and inequality after I studied Psychology in college. Because I know now how imprinting works, how bias become so deeply ingrained in us, I know now the importance of the portrait Michele Obama, the black first lady, displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington,D.C.. 

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