Identity and image
Image can be defined as a reproduction or an imitation of something or as a mental picture or impression of something (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, 2011). Most images are hard to distinguish because it is based on subjective perception and opinion. The forever-changing image of nursing is an example of how subjective perceptions affect the profession. Different stereotypes engraved and the portrayal in the media of nursing can influence the image of the profession. The roles of these aspects including the lack of uniformity of nursing will be discussed. Nurse Stereotypes
In the profession of nursing many stereotypes arise. The mixed connotations of these stereotypes cause confusing images of nurses. Some stereotypes are angel of mercy and sex bombshell. Stereotypes of the male nurse will also be discussed.
Identity and image Essay Example
Nurses described as angels of mercy can be dated back as far as the era of the Crimean War (Huston, 2014, p. 329). The angel of mercy image is saint-like, going “above and beyond” caring for the sick. When one thinks of an angel of mercy, Florence Nightingale comes to mind. She cared for the injured and sick during the Crimean War. In 2011 there was an ad by Kaiser Permanente portraying the nurse as an angel of mercy. In the ad Kaiser Permanente’s depiction of nurses is as follows, “nurse means noble. Nurse means selfless…Nurses are nurses because their capacity to care is colossal” (Truth About Nursing. 2011). With positive features of the angel of mercy there are negative features as well. Some may believe this stereotype hurts the profession. The angel of mercy title may mean to some as a nurse being herculean, phenomenal, or superhuman. These characteristics can be misleading, portraying nurses as overly extraordinary making it complicated if they fail.
The sex bombshell stereotype of nurses conveys negative attention to the profession. The “sexy nurse” wears short skirts, thigh high stockings, red lipstick, and tight tops showing off their breasts. The “sexy nurse” can be seen throughout the media during the 1960s and 1970s. M*A*S*H (1970) depicted a nurse, “Hot Lips” Houlihan as seductive. This illustration was demeaning, bringing negative attention to the profession when the profession was beginning to be recognized. More interest was given to the sexuality of the bombshell nurse than their skill and expertise. The negative attention in M*A*S*H (1970) downgraded the profession of nursing paving the way for the unconstructive portrayal of nurses in shampoo and gum commercials (Huston, 2014, p. 331).
Male nurses are also stereotyped. They can be viewed as homosexual, hypersexual, non-achievers, less compassionate, and less caring (Huston, 2014, p. 333). Homosexuality is a common label of male nurses because nursing is seen as a predominately female occupation. Male nurses seen as hypersexual can be a result of some thinking that the only reason males become nurses are to feed their sexual arousal. Being in close quarters to the deprived and weak may entice the hypersexual nurse resulting in bad behavior.
The “non-achiever” may also be a stereotype of the male nurse. Traditionally, nursing was seen as a female occupation, not mixed gender. In an article describing the roles of the nurse it is said that, “men were doctors and women were nurses. Doctors diagnosed and treated patients; nurses cared for the needs of patients” (Connolly, 2008). Males in nursing could be seen as compliant not going the extra mile in obtaining a doctorate degree. Also male nurses may be seen as mediocre and not qualified (Huston, 2014, p. 333). Take for instance the movie Meet the Parents in 2000. The movie’s main character, a male nurse was depicted as a non-achiever because he was compliant and happy in his position as nurse. These stereotypes of the male nurse make it hard for the profession to recruit males. Nursing in the Media
Many stereotypes in nursing stem from the media. Shows such as “ER”, “Nurse Jackie”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and most recently, “Scrubbing In” depicts nurses in a non-professional manner. Inappropriately, this can make a negative impact on the future prospects in nursing, and the way society portrays nursing. “Scrubbing In”, is a reality show that first aired on Oct 24, 2013. The premise of the show is to follow the lives of travel nurses as they fulfill an assignment in California . Unfortunately, instead of highlighting the effort nurses make in caring for their patients, the show airs scenes of the nurses arguing, getting drunk, partying, and exposing themselves to other people. Karen A. Daley, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), wrote a letter to Music Television (MTV) expressing her great disappointment in the way the show depicted the nursing profession . In the letter, Ms. Daley mentioned that nurses have an increase in responsibility every day in healthcare and when media displays the nursing profession as “MTV” did with “Scrubbing In,” it can severely impair future nursing recruitment and increase the nursing shortage .
She also mentioned that the image of nursing could become inaccurate to patients who need to trust and rely on the nurse to provide excellent care . Nursing image by means of the Internet, can be distorted, and alter the perception of the nursing profession. Many images on Google between the years of 2001 to 2004 were found to be sexually suggestive and degrading, with women exposing cleavage in their scrub tops, wearing fishnet stockings, and garter belts (Huston, 2014).
Unfortunately, when we conducted the same search, we have to concur that these images do exist even still in 2013 . The negative depiction of nurses in the media sparked a group of John Hopkins University graduate nursing students to formulate the, “Center for Nursing Advocacy” which was unsuccessful due to legal technicalities (Huston, 2014). Although that organization didn’t excel, Sandy Summers who belonged to that same group of graduate students created a new organization called, “Truth About Nursing (Huston, 2014).” The purpose of this organization is to foster growth, strengthen the nursing profession, educate, research, and improve the healthcare system (Huston, 2014).
Nursing stereotypes are still well ingrained, and tend to establish itself at an early age. By the age of three years old, gender roles and future careers begins to be present (Huston, 2014). Interestingly, boys will consider “high-status” female jobs just as much as a “low-status” male job, but the girls tend to consider female jobs only (Huston, 2014). Promoting positive, non-gender bias nursing images during the early elementary school-age, can heighten a young boy’s perceptions of nursing, thus increasing the likelihood of men entering the profession as an adult (Huston, 2014). Implications for Practice
The numerous stereotypes of nurses are an issue in the profession. These stereotypes lead to the confusion that “old stereotypes of nurses as overbearing, brainless, sexually promiscuous, and incompetent” (Huston, 2014, p. 328). We have learned as the profession grows negative historical characteristics of the nurse need to be forgotten.
They bring harmful attention to nurses making it difficult for the profession to be taken serious. In day-to-day practice we need to shed light on the positive, constructive attributes of nurses like, caring, skillful, and competent. As Karen Daley stated in her letter to MTV, the negative images influence the attitudes of clients . But it also negatively impacts the perception of other healthcare providers, politicians, and policy makers (Huston, 2014). This led to our professional growth by encouraging us to become active in creating a positive image of the nursing profession. We all will have worked hard for our degree and have experienced many ups and down, so it is upsetting that the media can make a few shows, and it automatically creates a negative stigma on the nursing profession. Nursing is a profession
One of the first necessary steps needed to be made is reclaiming the title “nurse”. Currently the term nurse is used very loosely with individuals who are not incensed to practice as a nurse using the term. “The International Council of Nurses (ICN) stated that the term “nurse” should be protected by law and applied to and used only by those legally authorized to practice the full scope of nursing” (ICN, 2004). Protection of the title “nurse” would also warrant for the discontinuation of its use by UAP’s. Commonly, patients are confused as to who really is the registered nurse because most of the staff refers to themselves as nurses. Reclaiming the title means that only the registered nurse can use the title and confusion regarding who the nurse truly is will diminish.
As a future nurse, in day-to-day practice we plan to display a high degree of professionalism, while keeping in mind that image is essential. We want others outside of the profession to know that nursing is about teamwork, skill, professionalism, and privileges . Most importantly, there is a distinct difference between how nursing is portrayed on camera versus how nursing is in reality. In conclusion, we are aware that there is not just one single thing that can be done that will change the image of nurses. It will take many different aspects and approaches to change the nursing image in the public’s eyes. As future nurses we must remain aware of the issue and work hard to uphold nursing as a profession.