Last time I wrote "My Week" I promised you something about the nursing identity. Having delivered a lecture on that theme just last week and also prepared seminar materials for my colleagues from all branches of nursing, I am ready to unburden myself of the clichés and stereotypes alive and well out there in internetland.
As part of the exercise I decided to "google" for images of nursing. Apart from the marketing materials for various university courses most of the images were either historical (very interesting and educational) or straight out of a "Carry-On" film.
Nearly all the pictures were of female, hospital-based nurses with or without a stethoscope wrapped around their neck. One wonders about the public's image of the profession if in the days of worldwide fast access to information, these are the main images available to us.
When reading in preparation for the lecture I came across some really interesting sites in America that are campaigning for better images of nursing in the media and popular culture. I was particularly struck by a website that analysed film and television dramas in relation to their depiction of nursing and whether they gave a fair view of the profession or not (if you are interested I have listed the website at the end).
The conclusions I came to were:
However dispiriting this search was, I became very clear about what I felt were the issues to leave the students with. At the end of the day, whatever the image and identity of nursing, there should be a firm ethical and moral principle underpinning our practice.
I felt that it was important that the students became more aware of the images out there and the impact that these might have on their experience of nursing, and whether they chose to stay or not. I also pointed out that families' and friends' responses to their choice to become nurses may be less than positive, and that we still have a lot of work to do to improve people's perception of nursing and nurses.
Too many nurses become disillusioned and stressed with the dissonance between expectation and reality, and I felt that at least I could help prepare nursing students for the realities of practice.
What do you think? Do let us know.
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Unfortunately, I don't think that the media's portrayal of nurses has changed much from the stereotypical view of angels/vamps in the 20 years that I have been nursing. The article rightly points out that individually, most people have a positive experience of nurses, corporately however the image remains unchanged. I think the way forward would be for the political bodies of nursing unions to lobby the media to alter their portrayal of nurses, this however does take time" - Ellen Nicholson, Somerset
"The trouble is we do not market ourselves. Nursing is different as you said depending in which area you work. Nursing differs so much these days from what the public's image and perceptions are" - Name and address supplied
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