monkeybusinessimages / Bigstock
In Britain, the Royal College of Nursing has issued new guidelines advising nurses not to address women as “ladies” or old people as “pensioners” in order to “avoid causing unwitting offence.” Members are also advised to avoid using the term “alcoholic” and instead say “alcohol misusers”.
Gender sensibilities loom large: “mankind” should be replaced with “humankind”, wards should be “staffed”, not “manned”, and nurses should avoid using any sexuality term as a collective noun, for example “gays”. They should also be sensitive to people who are non-binary and use their preferred pronoun.” (“Nurses told to stop calling women ‘ladies’,” Telegraph, February 3, 2020).
Presumably no one will ask women whether they would prefer to be called “ladies” – such modes of address will simply be dropped. And according to trans orthodoxy, no one’s “preferred gender” can be presumed – indeed, it is counted by some as a hate crime to do so – therefore they will have to omit pronouns altogether. Quite apart from the fact that “trans women” might actually like to be addressed as “ladies”, asking everyone for their preferred pronouns might elicit some interesting responses from the Saturday night “alcohol misuser.”
As Telegraph columnist Celia Walden points out, the RCN has since “insisted the guide is more ‘for print, email and other digital channels’ than a general instruction.” This doesn’t make it any less pernicious to the medical industry as a whole, and as one NHS nurse said: “PC culture means no longer being allowed to use one word in our reports, but two, three or sometimes four. And the longer the report takes to write, the less time you have with your patient.” (‘We want nurses to treat us, not worry over what to call us’, Telegraph, February 4, 2020).
This is a valid point, and yet when last week I visited a 78-year-old relative admitted to a general hospital after a dislocation (which happened in his care home and whose cause has not been determined), the problem was not one of being misgendered or otherwise offended by slurs on my sexuality, or by being addressed in archaic terms. No, the problem was unintelligible speech on the one hand, and on the other, not being addressed at all – by silence and apparent indifference.
My relative also has a speech problem, which was even more severe than usual, but being so well acquainted with him I could at least understand some of what he was saying, so expected someone to ask for help in translation. However, although the nursing assistants spoke kindly to me (while efficiently performing all the nursing care in the four-bed ward catering for dementia patients), I found it hard to understand what they were saying, since they were all of foreign extraction.
I approached the sister-in-charge, who showed no curiosity about my relative’s communication problems, merely commenting that he was “very noisy” and “out of his comfort zone.” Her English was perfect – and no, she was not rushed off her feet – the ward was fully “staffed” – or even filling in reports.
The RCN would no doubt argue that it simply wishes to show more consideration to patients, but the college has clearly taken advice from the trans lobby in writing this advice, since every other consideration bows to their demands. As Ms Walden notes, the guidance advises against saying “people with disabilities” rather than “disabled people”, but when a person with disabilities needs a little more care and patience it is not forthcoming.
The NHS’s speech problem is more about its staff not looking up from their screens in the reception area on the arrival of a new patient, or even during consultations.
The problem is not misgendering patients or saying “the elderly” instead of “elderly people”, but not treating them as people.
The problem is not using offensive language but giving patients the silent treatment – and this guidance will only make matters worse.
Until the RCN can stop speaking nonsense it might be better for all “humankind” if they took a vow of silence.
Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).