the image of nursing

Nurses General Nursing


Do you think the nursing profession has a positive or negative image currently?

What effect if any, does the image of professional nursing have on the shortage and the future of nursing?


567 Posts

Please see my posts in the future of nursing thread, that adress this issue, if somewhat indirectly.

ERNurse752, RN

1,323 Posts

I think the nursing profession is viewed positively by the general public...however, the general public doesn't have a great deal of knowledge about what nurses really do.

I think this keeps people out of nursing b/c they think nurses are bedpan queens who are only capable of doing what they are told by the all-knowing, all-seeing doctors.

We all know this is not true.

A lot of highly intelligent people my age have gone into other professions. Why? More money, less stress, get treated with more respect, better hours...the list goes on.

So, in my opinion, the current image of nursing is a positive one, but it is inaccurate, so it actually hurts the profession in the long run by discouraging people from going into nursing.


566 Posts

Specializes in ER, Hospice, CCU, PCU.

From a personal perspective I think the events of 911 have altered the preception of the public related to nurses. Not necessarily the issues surrounding nurses just the fact that they are there. Prior to 911 I would have patients thank me for my help, but more and more people are thanking me for being a nurse and for just being there. It's a nice change:)


10 Posts

I believe that the general public is aware of nurses but not what nurses actually do. People know we exist and that we are there to help but they become acutely aware of our knowledge and skills when they or their family member needs us.

Many people have a "hand-maiden" impression of nurses. This can only be disspelled by education of the public. We as nurses need to band together and educate the public as to the education nurses have and what nursing is all about. Nursing is about more than just bedpans, shots, and getting people undressed.

Nurses have historically stood by and allowed the general public to view them as nothing more than servants to doctors. Let's CHANGE that image!


255 Posts

Originally posted by debbyed

Prior to 911 I would have patients thank me for my help, but more and more people are thanking me for being a nurse and for just being there. It's a nice change:)


I've noticed this, too. I just moved into a new apartment, and have met several people who have thanked me for just being a nurse, and have said, "Well, if anything happens, I'm glad you're here close by!"

As for nursing's image. One great way to change the dependant view to a stronger, independant one is to strongly advocate for accurate representation on television. "ER", especially needs strong nurse advisors, but also shows like "Trauma: Life in the ER". Let's show nurses doing what they do -- not just the doctors!! :cool:

How right you are TV doesn't due justice to nursing. Unfortunately incidents like the ER nurse that married the

millionare is negative pubilicity as well for nursing. The overworked, underpaid mugs and shirts maybe true but have a negative affect on nursing. (If you were looking for a career would choose the career that advertises these things?)

We all need to let TV producers know that they are inaccurately portraying nurses.


6,011 Posts


I also frequent a forum from Mass General Hospital...called Spinal Disorders 2. It's the most active forum they have there.

There are about 10-12 nurses who post there....more or less. And several THOUSAND regular folks who post too.

If the topic of "guess what happened while I was in the hospital" comes up, you can bet your sweet life you will find out what the PUBLIC really thinks of nurses.

I must say I have lost my cool there more than once when derogatory generalizations about ALL nurses are made.

The 9/11 fervor for nurses is nice (what a terrible way to obtain it though), but I'm afraid that will not stick around.

I wonder how we could go about taking a poll on the general public's opinions?


6,620 Posts

Our recent contract negotiations have left a lot of the public with a poor perception of nurses because we demanded a raise and voted in favor of a strike action. So now we're greedy and don't really care for our patients at all. Apparently we went into the profession because of the glamor:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :(

I was getting my haircut and the girl doing it actually started talking about how greedy the mean ol' nurses were. "They get like 20$ an hour (15$US), I don't know what they're b*tching about, I only make 13$". I just about started to convulse right there!!! Yeah...hmmm...cutting hair has to be pretty tough...ok... but it ain't nursing by a long shot.:p


455 Posts

Found this on the net. The results of this Harris Poll were released in July 1999.

Harris Poll reveals Americans fear effects of nursing shortage on quality of health care

Study also shows public trusts information provided by nurses as much as doctors

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - As a national nursing shortage builds, more than half of Americans believe the quality of health care is affected "a great deal" by a shortage of nurses, according to a new Harris Poll released today.

The nursing shortage is posing an increasing threat to the quality of care in hospitals and health organizations, and this poll reflects the general public's concern. Only four percent of respondents said the quality of health care that people in the country receive was not affected "at all" by a nursing shortage.

Sigma Theta Tau International, an honor society of nursing, and NurseWeek Publishing Inc., publishers of NurseWeek and HealthWeek, a nursing and health care trade publication, commissioned the poll, conducted by Louis Harris & Associates, Inc. More than 1,000 people were surveyed in this public opinion poll, conducted in June. The groups collaborated to conduct the poll to gauge attitudes about the nursing profession.

Despite 2.5 million registered nurses in the United States, a shortage exists in nurses with needed specialties, skills and experience. Nurses are in particular demand if they demonstrate a high level of skills in the operating room, recovery room, emergency room or pediatrics. Hospital recruitment efforts to reverse the shortage include big sign-on bonuses, salary increases and tuition reimbursement plans.

Other poll results include:

1) An overwhelming majority of the public (92 percent) said they trust information about health care provided by registered nurses, ranking nurses even with physicians.

2) 85 percent of the Americans said they would be pleased if their son or daughter became a registered nurse.

3) 76 percent of the public thinks nurses should have four years of education or more past high school to perform the duties of their job.

4) When asked about specific duties of registered nurses, 91 percent of the public recognized they monitor patient care, but only 14 percent recognized that nurses prescribe medications.

1) Public's trust of nurses

An overwhelming majority of the public (92 percent) said they trust information about health care provided by registered nurses, ranking nurses even with physicians. Nurses ranked higher than teachers (62 percent) or journalists (51percent). Only two percent of respondents said they didn't trust health care information "at all" provided by doctors or registered nurses.

2) Nursing as a career

Americans on average would be considerably more pleased if their son or daughter said they wanted to become a registered nurse than a journalist or a lawyer, and much more pleased if they wanted to become a registered nurse than a police officer. Nursing ranked roughly the same as teaching. On a scale of one (very displeased) to 10 (very pleased), respondents were asked to rate how they would feel about their son or daughter choosing a certain profession.

3) Education levels for nursing

When asked about the education of nurses, nearly one-half of the public said nurses should have four years of education beyond high school. Three out of ten Americans think nurses should have five to 10 years of education beyond high school.

The education level of nurses continues to be a hot topic, as diverse nursing groups across the country seek to make the baccalaureate degree the standard entry point into practice. Nurses now only need an associate degree for RN licensure. Entry-level BSN enrollment has fallen 6.6 percent from a year ago, dropping for the fourth year in a row, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

By the year 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects there will be 596,000 registered nurses with a BSN, with a need for 854,000 baccalaureate nurses. Nurses with five or more years of education (Master's or Doctorate degree) are projected at 175,000, with a need for 377,000 in the health care system. Projections for 2010 and 2020 continue to drop off significantly in each degree area.

4) Nursing's role in health care

When asked about specific duties of registered nurses, the public recognized that nurses monitor care and provide counseling to patients, but were less aware that nurses diagnose, treat and prescribe medicines, which are duties of advanced practice nurses. Responses were as follows:

91% said nurses monitor the condition of patients

69% said nurses provide counseling to patients

34% said nurses diagnose health conditions

23% said nurses decide on treatments for patients

14% said nurses prescribe medications

A complete report of the Harris Poll findings is available for $25 to the public and at no cost to the media. For more information or to request a copy, please contact Amy Macke, Sigma Theta Tau, at 888.634.7575, e-mail: [email protected]; or contact Barbara Bronson Gray, NurseWeek at 818.889.5312, e-mail: [email protected] or visit the web site at

For a copy of Sigma Theta Tau's "Facts on the Nursing Shortage," including several recommendations to curb the shortage, visit our web site at



167 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, Emergency, Infusion.

There was also another article in the Indianapolis Star a few weeks ago regarding the nursing shortage, and it stated how school-age children were asked if they would ever consider being a nurse. The responses from the boys were "No, nursing is a girl's job," and the responses from the girls were negative in that nurses had to deal with "bodily functions" (meaning pee-pee and poo-poo, kids.) The focus on the article was how to make children aware that nursing is more than a woman's job dealing with pee and poop. I believe the article also included thoughts from high school age kids stating that they would not go into nursing because they could make more money in other career choices. It stated that proposals were being made before Indiana's state government to provide for education grants and discounts from colleges for those going into nursing.

The entire article focused on why kids are not going into nursing, but nothing about why nurses were leaving the profession. Still, it's nice to see any article about the shortage. I had a conversation with an x-ray repairman who travels from hospital to hospital all day long, and when I mentioned the nursing shortage, he didn't even know what I was talking about.

I wanted to add a comment regarding the above mentioned hairdresser, I have found in talking with most of my friends (who are not nurses) that I make more money than all of them (they are secretaries, hair dressers, a police officer and a teacher). No sympathy from them! Only the police officer feels that nurses do not make enough money. I feel bad complaining to my sister, who is divorced and raising two children on $9/hr (before taxes & health insurance). Does she have a college degree? No, but it still makes me feel guilty, so I never complain about my salary in front of her.

To answer the original question (sorry it took me so long to get to it!), I have never received a negative comment from anyone about my being a RN. I have heard negative comments about nursing care received, but not about nursing in general. I get the feeling most people look at nursing as a "calling", sort of like becoming a nun -- "You have to be a special person" type of comments.



657 Posts

when i tell ppl i am a registered nurse they generally say...oh i give you a lot of credit...i could NEVER do that.

i never asked them what it is they think i do.

so i guess i have a lot of "credit" but no money.

thanks for posting the surveys and the links!

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