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Current Image of Nursing

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Florence Nightingale is known to many as the historical image of nursing. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War where she tended to wounded soldiers rounding at night holding a small lamp. Nightingale was a strong-willed advocate for the field of nursing. Her advocacy was for the" improvement of care and conditions" (MacQueen, 2007, p. 31) for patients making significant achievements during her career. In the western world for centuries, nursing as an "organized institution" (Buresh & Gordon, 2006, p. 179) was provided through Christian religious institutions. In religious sects, nurses were socialized to sacrifice every shred of their identity being "obedient members of an anonymous mass" (Gordon, 2006, p. 2). Religious nurses were taught not to claim credit for their work and accomplishments. Instead, they were educated to view themselves as divine instruments who willingly assigned credit to "God, the Bishop, the Abbot, or the Mother Superior" (Gordon, 2006, p. 3) for their accomplishments. Often, nurses were not viewed by their sex, not allowed to marry, and were sheltered in or near the hospitals in dormitories. In the 19th century, religious and social reformers such as Florence Nightingale adapted the religious template to help women who needed to find purposeful paid work (Gordon, 2006). Scientifically oriented doctors were moving into hospitals in greater numbers and wanted trained nurses who would be their servants. During this era, nursing remained feminized. Nurses lacked political, legal, economic, and social power. In the 19th century, nursing was constructed as "self-sacrificing, anonymous, devotional, and altruistic work" (Gordon, 2006, p. 3). This was a time when the nursing profession had to be one's true desire to make the sacrifices it required.

Current image of nursing

The old days of the starched white dresses and infamous head caps are now a thing of the past. The uniform and nurses' etiquette no doubt "exuded their professional identity" (Buresh & Gordon, 2006, p. 37). Today, in nursing, it is common for nurses to present themselves in scrubs, business attire, and street clothes depending on the specific field nurses work. First impressions are important for establishing rapport and continuing professional relationships. The image that nurses project impacts their ability to influence others (Lukes, 2009). Today, in the field of nursing, dramatic changes have been seen. Medicine has advanced extraordinarily along with the nursing profession. Now, nurses have the ability to choose from a variety of work environments which enhances their professional and personal growth. Healthcare institutions are no longer run primarily by religious organizations. Stringent personal limitations once imposed in the nursing profession are no longer seen. Also, it is becoming more common to see male nurses in the field of nursing which in the past was not allowed. Nurses have the ability now to assert their knowledge, political, legal, economic, and social power. Unfortunately, despite these available abilities, nurses still do not fully exert their power and resources. Even though the profession has come a long way, there is room for substantial growth. Nurses need to stay in touch with the business environment, project a credible nursing image, and maintain and nourish professional relationships (Lukes, 2009, p. 255). Research and evidence-based nursing practice is becoming more prevalent along with the requirements for a higher level of nursing education. In general, the public views nurses as caring, compassionate, and informative professionals. According to Buresh and Gordon (2006), the public still does not fully "understand what nurses do" (p.25). Until that time comes, nurses' real value as clinicians will not be common knowledge. Nurses have improved in regards to taking credit where credit is due but often fall short. Nurses have so much to offer. They should take time to educate and speak out to the general public.

Media's image of nursing

In today's society, a vast amount of information is generated and disseminated to the general population through newspapers, books, magazines, television, movies, and the internet. Information has a powerful potential to educate and influence people on varying levels. Studies suggest that many Americans rely on the media as their primary sources of health information (Buresh & Gordon, 2006). First, there is an underlying problem with nursing image as most people don't understand the basis of the work. The public doesn't understand the critical thinking behind what nurses do. Many think that the job is menial. Nurses are putting the whole picture together by working to bring their patients to the highest level of health and independence through the critical thinking process. However, few nurses articulate what goes on in their thinking process. So, most of their work goes unnoticed. Patients and families see nurses as providers of simple comfort measures. The general public may have a basic misunderstanding through media images of nurses such as Nurse Mildred Ratchet (Jaybird Chronicles, 2010), subservient behaviors, sexual stereotypes, or hand maidens making the problem compounded. Also, "stereotypical images of nurses" (Fletcher, 2007, p. 208) can be found in advertisements in nursing and medical journals. In isolated cases, negative stereotypes of nurses may be seen as harmless. However, decade after decade when they are viewed by millions of people on television or read in newspapers, our ability to be seen as critical thinkers becomes eroded. In general, television shows tend to portray physicians as the key clinicians in the hospital with the nurses in the background as followers. Many shows even perpetuate the myth that nursing in hospitals is managed by physicians. These images reinforce the belief that nurses are not critical thinkers. Also, it portrays nurses as dependent on physicians for every direction. The portrayal shows that nursing is not a profession unto itself but that nurses are medical aids. Portrayals of nurses on many shows may be just to add some drama or comedic role. But, inaccurate images of nursing do affect what the public thinks and believes about the profession which undermines our credibility and funding opportunities for the profession. Public officials and healthcare decision-makers with little understanding of nursing's importance don't allocate sufficient funds to nurse staffing, education, or research. When hospital administrators place less value on the work of nurses they under staff, it increases patient mortality and worsens the nursing shortage. The image of nursing is vital to the



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