Can we care for others if we are totally focused on 'ME'?
The essence of nursing has long been described as care; we have an éthics'based on caring; for nursing to be therapeutic I would argue that nurses need to be able to really connect with the patient (by whatever descriptor). Such genuine connection requires us to be able to empathise - to see the person regardless of disease /disability. An essential role of nurses is to meet the needs of patients. The expectation is that they will do this ethically. Yet, narcissism is an epidemic as great as obesity according to research recently publisheds by Twenge & Campbell (2013). Narcissists love themselves above all others. Their actions are driven by the desire to meet their own needs. They lack empathy. If they have to lie and cheat to get what they want they will do so without conscience. Twenge & Campbell argue that the epidemic is being driven by (amongst other things) the Paris Hilton media phenomena and the education that encourages students of all ages to think of themselves as special. How often do you see advertisements like 'because I'm worth it!''?
There is not the balance that encourages them to realise that while each of us may be special to our parents - so too are our peers etc special. In fact the really 'special'people are those with intellectual/ physical disabilities and who rise above them. BUT narcissists do not see this. They consider they do not have to earn anything - they are simply entitled.
So - where does this leave nursing? Perhaps it is time we considered a pre-entry test to weed out the narcissistic? My reading of narcissisctic personality disorder suggests it can not be çured'but may weaken around forty/fifty years of age.
Nursing will lose its essence if nurses care first and foremost for themselves and have no respect for others; no empathy and no ethics. If lying is OK - what then of medication errors, other adverse events; incident reporting and the list goes on?
It would indeed be foolish for nurse leaders to ignore this research. Until our society realises the problems associated with an entitlement mentality and our education system, parents, politicians etc reverse the 'ME first'thinking and balance individuality with community and rights with responsibility nursing must recognise the threat narcissism is to our core values and practice.
Twenge, J & Campbell, W 2013 The Narcissism Epidemic Living in the Age of Entitlement Atria paperback New York