More than half of videos about nurses on YouTube depict the professionals as either sex objects or stupid, a study has found.
Six of the 10 most-viewed clips about nursing on the video sharing website fuel negative stereotypes.
Four of them portray female nurses as sexual playthings and the other two present them as being dumb and incompetent.
The research, co-written by University College Dublin professor Dr Gerard Fealy for the Journal of Advanced Nursing, found only four examples of nurses appearing smart and skilled.
Those clips were posted on YouTube by nurses themselves, according to the study.
“Despite being hailed as a medium of the people, our study showed that YouTube is no different to other mass media in the way that it propagates gender-bound, negative and demeaning nursing stereotypes. Such stereotypes can influence how people see nurses and behave towards them,” said Dr Fealy.
Professional bodies that regulate and represent nurses should lobby legislators to protect the profession from “undue negative stereotyping”, he said.
The professor, from UCD’s school of nursing, midwifery and health systems, is urging nurses to take to YouTube and upload videos that promote the profession positively.
Researchers initially searched 96 of the most-viewed YouTube clips on “nurses” and “nursing”. They then narrowed the selection to the top 10 which had attracted between 61,695 and 901,439 hits.
They analysed a range of promotional videos, advertisements, excerpts from a TV comedy show and a cartoon which showed nurses in a mix of dramatised, caricatured and parodied nurse-patient encounters.
“Our study found that nurses were depicted in three main ways: as a skilled knower and doer; a sexual plaything; and a witless incompetent,” said Dr Fealy.
“The nurse and nursing stereotypes on YouTube are very similar to those reported in studies on television shows which seem to appeal to a particular public need for medical melodramas, and provide TV stations with valuable advertising revenue.
“The same revenue-generating possibilities exist on the internet and it is hardly surprising that its commercial potential should bring with it the continued portrayal of nursing stereotypes.”
The four clips in which nurses were presented as sex objects all showed them provocatively dressed and in male sex fantasies: one of the clips is from US comedy sitcom Frasier.
Of the other clips which depicted nurses being stupid, one is from a cartoon showing a nurse in an Alzheimer’s unit as dim and incompetent and one is from a US TV show that portrayed the nurse as a dumb and bigoted blonde.