Student nurses and their educators should watch more television programmes featuring the nursing profession, according to researchers.
The study authors noted that the profession’s portrayal in hospital dramas was frequently based on stereotypes, such as doctors’ handmaidens or sex symbols, which could “denigrate” its status and damage its appeal to potential students.
But they argue there is “value” to be gained by students and educators from “engaging more closely” with contemporary media portrayals of nursing.
Their study involved a survey of 484 nursing students in Australia, asking them about their TV viewing habits and opinions on the image of nursing in dramas with a clinical theme.
Grey’s anatomy, House and Scrubs were the three most popular clinically-themed programmes watched by the Australian students. Nurse Jackie also appeared in the top 10.
Students said they wanted TV programmes to display “more modern, visible role models” of nursing, noting that some programmes suggested doctors “do everything”, nursing skills were rarely shown and storylines were often inaccurate or unrealistic. One respondent also pointed that “looking sexy and love affairs are not the reality of acute health facilities”.
But students also felt programmes portrayed ethics and professionalism positively, and could have some recruitment benefits in terms of raising the profile of nursing. Several highlighted that watching hospital dramas had inspired them to become a nurse.
“It is important for the nursing profession to continue to critically engage with its public image in popular media to combat negative stereotypes around nursing,” the authors said online in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
They added that the programmes could also provide educators with examples of both proper and improper ethical conduct, that were likely to be engaging for students.
“Medical television offers nursing education a wealth of popular and easily accessed material to assist students to explore their own and other people’s ideas about nursing,” the authors said.
- Nursing on television: student perceptions of television’s role in public image, recruitment and education
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