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Sexy nurses: Tongue in cheek or demeaning and gratuitous?


Beyond the Bedpan has always been a little concerned about the way nurses are seen by the public, but surely a little tongue in cheek humour isn’t going to change that?

Honestly, what is the world coming to when we can’t walk 10 yards down the street in our skimpy rubber nurse’s uniform without being wolf-whistled by grubby builders? If we’re not being leered at by patients we’re struggling to fend off the attentions doctors. It’s a wonder that we ever get any work done.

Ok, maybe not. But we wonder if that’s how some people see nurses? The image of nursing does come under a lot of scrutiny, especially when it comes to the public perception of the people underneath the uniform.

And this week’s story that a bus company is running an advert starring a seriously sexy female nurse in a tiny PVC uniform that wouldn’t look out of place in Ann Summers doesn’t do that perception any favours.

The adverts, on buses running between Worcester city centre and the hospital, have been praised and condemned in equal measure, but despite complaints that the image “demeans and devalues” the image of nursing, the bus company is sticking to its guns.

Beyond the Bedpan has been surprised by the support for both sides of the argument; Nursing Times readers are normally such a reticent bunch when it comes to sharing their opinions.

Many of our readers felt the advert was just a bit of harmless fun, and that only a frigid, old fashioned bore with too much time on their hands would think otherwise. Or words to that effect. “I don’t think the public perceive us as little nymphettes, and maybe we need to get over ourselves a little? Just my opinion.”

One reader wondered if people were also “offended by Casualty, Holby and Scrubs where nurses are quite often portrayed as incompetent buffoons!” Another added, “there are far more serious issues taking place on the planet than a flipping bus advertisement.”

But 40% of people we asked did think that the adverts were demeaning to nurses. One person was shocked at the blasé attitude of their own colleagues to the saucy portrayal: “Nurses dressed up in PVC with a cleavage is not what we are! Where is your pride? It gives the impression that the nurses are nothing but play things that dress up to please their patients.”

Many readers also asked what other messages the advert was giving out. “What permission does it give? What might be the antithesis of this image, the Hattie Jakes image? Are we back to the virgin and the whore again? After all these years?”

Not only is the advert gratuitous, it doesn’t go any way to dispelling the myth of nursing being a female-only profession, and one reader seemed keen to help address the balance. “As a male nurse, I feel discriminated against, as no one ever poses as a ‘sexy’ male nurse.” We’ve got a digital camera and a spare half an hour, we’d be happy to help. In the interests of balance, you understand.

Whatever your opinion, it seems to have been a successful advertising campaign. Beyond the Bedpan thinks we’ve all learnt something today. And that’s that buses to the hospital run from Worcester city centre every 30 minutes.


We should be grateful we don’t work Holland though. A union there has launched a campaign to gently remind patients that sex isn’t on the menu after it recieved complaints that some male patients were asking for more than a bedbath.

The campaign, called “I draw the line here”, features (yet another) attractive blonde nurse with her hands crossed in front of her face, and was launched after the union recieved the complaints from students.

The union said it was most surprised at the reaction of a care dependents interest group, Per Saldo. Aline Saers, the group’s managing director, expressed sympathy for the patients. “They are free to ask,” she said. “You are free to refuse.”

This must be a first. Beyond the Bedpan is lost for words.


Readers' comments (24)

  • Dear God!! We get groped enough by male patients without it being condoned by interest groups. Aline Saers should walk a mile in our shoes for a day, then decide where her sympathies lay. Whatever next?

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  • A doctor said to tme not very long ago,that in life only two things were certain, these were death and nurses. He said of course that he was just joking,and I remarked that he was a very creepy little man to which he took offence and had the nerve to tell me there was no need for personal insults! I offered to take the matter further,needless to say he declined.
    But the aftermath was that it was virtually impossible to get him to do anything for my patients. So please don't tell me this is harmless fun,everything has a cause and effect.

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  • Nursing is not about us wearing pvc uniforms and doing inappropriate things to patients. We do the job because we care about people and want to help them and to save lives. By displaying that poster on the back of the bus its giving the public the wrong impression about us and what we do and its ALOT! harder then people think!.

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  • Being an employee at said Trust and user of the bus service in question, my concern is that the bus service is unreliable, expensive, not co-ordinated with other public transport, or nurses shift patterns - and a non exsistant Sunday service

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  • Tongue in cheek or demeaning and gratuitous?

    Considering the deviants, perverts and crime that abounds openly and dailt on our streets and the laughably innefective police presence, such advertising on public transport, indeed any portrayal of nurses being anything other than nurses is positively dangerous.

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  • The sad thing about this advert (and I am assuming it is an advert for nursing) is that clearly the creators of this image were lazy and could'nt be bothered. They knew nothing about nursing. Speaking as a male heterosexual nurse I have seen countless nurses A line skirted over the knee uniforms on my fellow female professionals and they are about as sexy as false teeth.
    Neither is nursing the remotely bit glamourous. If only!from the practical point of view perhaps we should all have rubber uniforms they would be much easier to wipe clean than the current ones.

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  • What the hell is happening to the nursing community " depiction of nurses; who should be allowed to by called a nurse" etc etc etc, when the hell will we become a collecetive of professionals who don't care about what isn't important and concentrate on,
    1.the way we are treated,
    2.the care we are expected to deliver with substandard equipment,
    and any other number of important issues. It suits whatever govt. in power and various other agencies to divide and conquer the biggest workforce in the NHS.

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  • The argument is lost when people like Paul Smith 20/3/2010 8.19pm make comments without knowing the facts, it is not an advert for nursing it is an advert for the bus service to a hospital. Useless blithering without the facts are why other disciplines treat nurses with belligerence.

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  • I see that advert frequently, as the bus speeds down the road, as it leaves five minutes before most of us nurses finish our shift. Having then to wait twenty odd minutes to see the PVC again. Which wonderfully arrives at the train station ten minutes after my train home leaves, making a potentially 35 minute journey home anything up to a two hour ordeal. Considering the PFI hospital decided to build a new hospital miles from the city centre surely it should be obliged to proved adequate transport provision. It's heartbreaking to see elderly visitors/outpatients having to stand for long periods of time, in sometimes horrendous weather conditions, waiting for a bus home.

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  • I dont see what the problem is with the advert, I think it is funny. I have always been treated with respect by patients and relatives and never had problems with them having misconceptions re: the nurses role. (I have been nursing for 20 years)
    The real issue is the rubbish bus service which sadly seems fairly typical.

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