The Image of Nursing – Care Example

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"The Image of Nursing" is a remarkable example of a paper on care. Over the years, nurses have had numerous images as different people experience differing perceptions regarding the field. The images range from the angle of mercy to the sexual stereotype that is at times depicted in fictional works. In the 19th century, Florence Nightingale defined nursing as a symbol of excellence that contributed intensely to the acceptance and respect for the profession. However,   Charles Dickens in his novel The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit used a midwife Sairy Gamp to portray nurses as old, rough, fat, and unsightly.

Based on Dickens's understanding, nurses were unreliable as they were both untrained and uneducated. However, between the 1890s and 1920s, the image of the nurse improved with the First World War and the nurses were identified as the “ Gibson Girl” characterized by authority, control, power, lowered eyelids, and upright carriage  (Cohen, 2007). The end of the good nurse image occurred at the end of the 1920s when nurses were perceived as subservient to physicians with emphasis tilted towards romantic liaisons at work.

The resulting negative publicity of nurses led to the nurse shortage experienced during World War II and nurses recruitment efforts saw the media depict nursing as a dedicated profession of heroes supporting the military. The image of courageous admirable leadership lasted until the 1960s when the novel cum TV series, M*A*S*H was produced depicting nurses as romantic, hedonistic, sexual, and frivolous, hence the promiscuous sex object. Other movies that present nurses as cruel were  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’ s Nest and Something’ s Gotta Give  (Turrow & Gans, 2002). Overview of How Nursing Image is Portrayed by, and Affected by the Media The nursing profession has long been portrayed negatively by the media translating to continued negative publicity.

However, this erroneous image does not mean that there are no positive things within this field that the public needs to be aware of (Finkelman & Kenner, 2010). The bias arises from the media’ s tendency to singling out negative images in the nursing field and brings them to public attention. For the public, anything that the media singles out for their attention is apparently worth subscribing to as one that matters, hence adjustments in existing opinions and attitudes.

Today, the media’ s role in shaping the nursing image is inevitable, given its powerful force presented through numerous modes. Healthcare information today can be found in media such as magazines, radio, internet, books, film, and television. With the advent of the internet, information accessibility has improved and one uses their phone to access it quickly and from anywhere  (Brooks, 2011). In order to shape the role of media in nursing, The Center for Nursing Advocacy actively identifies media examples that portray nurses positively and negatively while urging nurses to respond, the center also uses campaigns to drive changes in media.

The center also uses its website to track nurses’ depictions in adverts, entertainment, and news; sustain accessible documentation of materials; and proactively alert nurses of controversial nursing images and mobilize their response to push for their amendment or withdrawal  (Tomajan, 2012). Impact of Nursing Leaders on Image Besides the media, the nursing leaders also impact the nursing image negatively and this intensifies the negative perception of the profession. In most cases, the predominant steadiness between beliefs, ideas, and knowledge regarding nurses, and their actual role, nature, and work result in a continuous or ultimate image  (Tomajan, 2012).

Such consistency is only developed and implemented through nursing leaders through their definition of strategies and workplace culture. When absent, internal contradictions arise causing a cognitively dissonant nursing image since people reduce such discord by properly regulating their beliefs and attitudes. Conversely, when nurse leaders support collaboration, open and reliable communication, and conflict resolution, they develop the staff’ s advocacy capabilities and advocate more efficiently for themselves and their co-workers.

Furthermore, effective conflict resolution motivates teamwork and improves patients’ safety and the quality of care provided to them  (Brooks, 2011). Impact of Nursing Staff on Nursing Image While nurse leaders play a fundamental role in ensuring proper resource allocation enhancing a positive work environment, it is the staff that interacts with patients in health service delivery. During such interactions, the nurse communicates with patients in ways that can improve or destroy the nursing image. In addition, it is from such interactions that the patient adjusts their attitudes and perceptions towards nursing based on their personal experience.

The factor that greatly influences the quality of care granted to patients by nursing staff is retention and motivation  (Brooks, 2011). These factors are achieved when there exists a sufficient supply of registered nurses and direct-care nurses. With sufficient numbers of nurses, healthcare institutions manage to reduce health care costs, improve the stay for patients, and appropriate cost-containment strategy, and re-ordering the decision-making hierarchy across delivery settings. According to Drury, et al (2009) retention of nurses is very crucial and requires priority by health institutions.

During retention planning, healthcare organizations are expected to pay attention to aging and graduate nurses within their workforce, such that the differences in work preferences are used to supplement each other. Since older nurses prefer working in shorter shifts flexible working hours, the value of experience and recognition are crucial ways of retaining them. Some ways of retaining them include the introduction of roles that attract payment such as trainers and mentors; allocation of lighter duties; enhanced opportunities for professional development; autonomy; and initiatives for return-to-work. Conversely, graduate programs should be implemented for all fresh nurses as a way of providing sufficient and competent mentoring  (Drury, et al. , 2009).

The program can involve rotating to different areas as a way of influencing the graduate’ s decision regarding future career directions and inspirations. Ways of improving Nursing image Drury, et al (2009) confirms that with poor nursing image, school leavers do not want to associate with the nursing profession and this results in a shortage of professional nurses.   The negative images mostly focus on poor pay, less autonomy, high workloads, and less professional standing compared to other professions within the health sector.   In order to attain improvements collaboration should be fostered such that it includes government policies that define better pay and work conditions for nurses; marketing a positive image that defines nursing as autonomous and professional members of the health care team.

Instead of leaving the required improvement strategies to individual institutions, a national focus should be embraced such that there is more concentration towards the elements of nursing  (Brooks, 2011). For optimal results in recovering positive nursing images, there is a need to capitalize on the public perception, especially by encouraging nurses to speak positively in career forums, and career days so as to encourage more students to join the nursing profession.

Other strategies include advertising nursing benefits to improve public awareness and running campaigns to educate the public Future Challenges With constantly changing patient needs and requirements, health care institutions and organizations are subjected to more challenges. The greatest challenge is technological advancement, especially where the nursing workforce is older and incapacitated to adopt the technology  (Brooks, 2011).   Additionally, workforces with few graduate nurses to learn and integrate technology in healthcare services for better quality will ineffectively integrate technology into their services.   Health institutions and organizations should be prepared to adapt technology through the development of strategies that seek to encourage more graduates to take up the career while training allocating shifts that constitute both older and younger nurses for the improved image.

Nurse leaders and staff should also be trained on assertive communication that is open, direct, and appropriate to promote respect for others. Nursing associations such as ANA must also focus on eliminating the white female face of nursing through programs that encourage minorities and men in nursing.

Other areas of nurse training are increasing visibility through professional presentations. In order to deal with media negativity, the role of The Center for Nursing Advocacy should proactively monitor the media to avoid negatively influencing the nursing image. Conclusion The image and voice of nursing have long been assumed to require a professional approach to push for improvements. However, most nursing issues resulting in the negative image require action from the individual nurse level. Although the media may have greatly influenced the image of nursing, many of the concerns result from daily personal contact between nurses and patients or the public, and with other health care providers.

Nurses should therefore consider critically assessing their actions for their impact on the nursing image, present themselves professionally, respect others, and assertively communicate with others.


Brooks, A., 2011. The Nurses Voice: What I Learned from the Closet of a Psych Ward... As A Nurse. United States: Angela Brooks.

Cohen, S., 2007. The Image of Nursing. American Nurse Today, 2(5), pp. 24-26.

Drury, V., Francis, K. & Chapman, Y., 2009. Where Have All the Young Ones Gone: Implications for the Nursing Workforce. The Online Journal Of Issues in Nursing, 14(1).

Finkelman, A. W. & Kenner, C., 2010. Professional nursing concepts: competencies for quality leadership. Sunbury Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Tomajan, K., 2012. Advocating for Nurses and Nursing. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17(1), p. Manuscript 4.

Turrow, J. & Gans, R., 2002. As seen on TV: Health Policy Issues in TV's Medical Dramas. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.

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