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Abby Wambach & Terry Gross: Do you really think nursing is inferior to medicine?

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On September 14, 2016, soccer star Abby Wambach discussed Title IX on National Public Radio's Fresh Air. Ms. Wambach asserted that the historic legislation was not intended mainly to strengthen women's sports, but instead "there was a ton of women who wanted to become doctors, they didn't want to just be a nurse.” Neither Wambach nor Fresh Air host Terry Gross gave any indication that they disagreed with the assumptions underlying that description: that medicine is a much more important, substantial profession than nursing, and so any ambitious modern female would naturally choose to be a physician rather than a nurse. Even if this was in fact the way Title IX supporters thought, presenting such views with no apparent distance tends to reinforce them because they are still so commonly held. By contrast, Wambach does not describe ignorant views of gender equality without any indication of whether she agrees--instead, she expresses strong disagreement. We realize many feminists assume that jobs to which women were traditionally confined must be less valuable and desirable than the ones dominated by men, and nowhere is this more striking than with nursing and medicine.

But as applied to nursing, these views are very damaging, because they contribute to the undervaluation and underfunding of the profession that is costing lives worldwide. Nurses are autonomous professionals who use (or try to use) their college science degrees to save lives and improve outcomes in a wide range of settings. Nursing is just as important as medicine. In fact, many nurses are "doctors"--of nursing. Of course women should be able to pursue any field they wish on an equal basis. But the failure to recognize the value of the traditionally female field of nursing is especially ironic in a discussion of gender equality. And NPR's Fresh Air claims to reach more than 5 million listeners weekly. 

Please join us in urging Abby Wambach, Terry Gross, and NPR to clarify whether they agree with the uninformed views about nursing that the September 14 comments reflect, and if not, to take steps to address the damage caused by the unquestioned presentation of those views to Fresh Air's listeners. Thank you!

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