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Black and white photograph of a nurse working in 1930s dental surgery
Nurse working in a dental surgery, c. 1939.

Origins and influences

The professional image of nurses and nursing is thought by some to have contributed to a reduction in the initial recruitment and retention of nurses.

It is, and always has been, inextricably linked to the prevailing status of women and to the cultural context in which the role operates.

Examination of the professional image of nurses is a highly complex activity and must be set in the cultural context in which the individual nurse practices. Along with continuing stereotypes portrayed in the media and the status of women, the role of the nurse is subject to continuing gender stereotyping.

When reflecting on the present-day image of nursing, we should also explore the history of the profession.

In the 19th century, across much of the world nursing was dominated by:

  • women
  • people with religious and charitable aims
  • the medical profession (male doctors)

Evidence suggests that the professional image of nurses is also influenced by:

  • gender stereotypes
  • caring culture
  • media portrayal
  • behaviour

Your task

Based on your experiences, what is your opinion of the professional image of nursing?

If you have worked as a nurse in more than one country, you may wish to compare and contrast your experiences.

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This article is from the free online course:

Nursing in Crisis? Exploring Current Challenges

Coventry University

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