I love October.
For many many reasons. It’s my birthday month, Halloween, it is acceptable to wear the baggiest hoodies, Halloween, nature turns orange, yellow, and red. Oh and did I mention Halloween?
It has never been huge celebration in the countries I lived growing up, but having had the fortune of going to international schools – who’s student population was predominantly american – I was introduced to this fascinating tradition. Although I struggle to watch horror movies, I absolutely love the scary and gory costumes that people come up with for Halloween. I have never been too fond of commercial Halloween costumes, especially ones geared towards women and young girls, with adult costumes verging on the scandalous and girls being dressed in pastel Disney gowns. But hey, each to their own right? I just prefer going as a blood-soaked zombie.
This year is the fist time, since I was 13 (I think), that I will have the opportunity to dress up and go out in public in costume. My first instinct was – you probably guessed – something that would give me the excuse to go as extreme as my skills will let me. So, after a quick google search of popular costumes, to the surprise of no one, Nurse was one of them. Awesome! It’s taken over the rest of my life, why not actually dress as a scary version of myself? And there is whole spectrum of what a commercial nurse’s costume can look like, just look at this one Buzzfeed video!
But then I started to doubt the idea. Would this break the NMC Code of Conduct? What if someone I’ve met during placement recognizes me and is offended? Is it appropriate for me to dress as a “horror” version of my chosen profession? Can this negatively affect my future career prospects? I had absolutely no idea, and I felt a sudden sense of dread. Am I never going to be able to enjoy the things I used to without the fear or it leading to repercussions later on in my nursing career?
I’ve mentioned in a previous post about my view of the image nurses have, but it is a concept that seems to almost haunt me. The internet portrayal of nurses is fairly decent, with 70% of websites showing nurses as educated professionals. They are also shown as having specialized skills and knowledge. However, when it comes to portray them as health authorities, the image starts to falter. A study has shown that how the public stereotypes the profession can have effects on the nursing practice, and their self-concept. Does my Halloween costume then influence or perpetrate these stereotypes?
I decided to try and find the answers online, but there wasn’t much. I found one forum thread where fellow nurses were wondering if it was unprofessional to dress up for Halloween while on shift. Although not quite applicable in my situation as I am going to a Halloween party, it gave me some food for thought. The general consensus was that it
strongly depended on the work environment – school nurses were almost expected to dress up, A&E or ICU nurses less so mainly to avoid having to share serious moments with patients and their family in a silly getup. So if it is based strongly on context, then it should be fine for me to do so if it is specifically on Halloween, and for a themed party.
Despite the reassurance of this realization, and the confirmation from a fellow student that they dressed as a nurse last year, I am still a little apprehensive. I don’t want to encourage the stereotyping of any profession. When I was looking for inspiration, I realized that most nurse costumes had kept the nursing cap in some shape or form. I’m not sure if this is simply because it makes it more recognizable (you know, despite the massive red cross on the apron and the syringe), or because it is one of those lingering stereotypes.
But does there come a point where you just have to accept that it is part of a costume? The same way fangs and cape are the go-to for a vampire costume? Has it become part of a character, or should insist that it is a profession and should be treated so? What about other professions that have been turned into costumes, such as the police or firefighters? There does seem to be a very fine line that can be easily crossed when it comes to costumes. Personally, I think professions are up for grabs – it’s always fun to pretend to be someone else. As long as it is done in a respectful way (e.g dressing up as Prince does not give you the excuse to paint your face dark, the outfit, wig, and facial hair should be clue enough).
So, despite the stereotypes and popularity of a promiscuous nurse, I think I would like to maintain the professional image even when covered in fake blood. It turns out, it’s cheaper to order an actual tunic and discount (yet still functional) stethoscope off the internet than a commercial costume.