The image of nursing is defined by two aspects: how it is perceived by others and what attitude nurses themselves have towards their profession. Most studies have revealed that there is a difference between these two perceptions. The public image of nursing comprises a lot of misconceptions that have been formed by the distorted media pictures of nursing. Thus, social media has a significant role in maintaining an image of the nurse as the doctor’s handmaiden, the angel of mercy, the sexy nurse, and the battle-axe as well as forms the concept of the nurse’s secondary role in the patient care.
Social Media Depiction of Nurses
To begin with, social media, just like other forms of media, depicts nurses as insignificant elements in the medical treatment process comparing to physicians. Nevertheless, the images of nurses tenderly holding children in the pediatric ward or hugging diabetic patients have also helped in tagging nurses as angels of mercy. The general tendency among the public is that it prizes the nurses for their virtues as opposed to their education and knowledge.
As an illustration, the study conducted by Kelly et al. (2012) reviewed how the nursing identity was constructed in YouTube video clips. The authors found that there were three predominant nursing images in the video clips which included nurses as skilled doers and knowers, sexual playthings, and incompetent witless individuals. As long as the results of this study showed a heterogeneous depiction of the representatives of this profession, the stereotypical nursing images, thus, remain persistent.
Most of the projections of nursing in the media have neglected the profession’s official requirements. Therefore, nurses are considered to be feminine and caring individuals unlike other health care providers who have their level of autonomy. In addition, nursing is viewed as a profession that has limited opportunities for career. The professional identity of nurses is highly influenced by various factors, including work environment and values; education; gender, traditional values, and culture; and the concept of care.
Work Environment and Values
The work environment and values are important factors that positively affect the nursing image. Nurses highly appreciate their interactions with other healthcare professionals as they gain experience and knowledge through them. When nurses communicate with other representatives of this sphere, they learn more about themselves and their profession in general. This aspect facilitates their professional development and enhances their self-concept. By positively viewing their occupation, nurses promote a general favorable public image of this field.
Instructors of nursing courses greatly influence self-concept and job satisfaction among nurses. This, in its turn, affects how the workers of medical sphere are labeled by the public. Nevertheless, according to the findings of De Araujo Sartorio and Pavone-Zoboli (2010), some of the instructors in nursing schools have historical scars that affect the way they teach, and hence, are reflected in the general perception of nurses regarding their profession. Even when nurses view themselves as well-trained, they are still regarded by the public as low-status professionals who are subordinate to physicians, lack autonomy in their actions and do not require academic qualifications. People are often not well aware of the various educational experiences that are involved in nursing.
Culture, Traditional Values, and Gender
Traditional values, gender, and culture also determine the public views concerning the nursing profession. Traditionally, nursing has been stereotypically ascribed to women, which makes nurses struggle for power in a society that is gender-segregated. As such, the social media presents nursing as a domestic feminine activity, with all the attention in the hospital setting being directed towards the doctor as the key player in health care.
Caring is a crucial issue for the development of professional identity and nurses’ self-concept. Both the nurses and the public associate this profession with caring; nevertheless, there is a great discrepancy in how it is interpreted. While nurses consider caring as a professional responsibility, the public relates it to unprofessionalism and feminine qualities. Thus, nurses are viewed as caring women, but not independent healthcare leaders. In general, social media has played a role in depicting nurses as caring unprofessional personalities by emphasizing the caring part more than their skills and knowledge.
Strategies for Transformation and Future Practice
For nurses to be valued appropriately as one of the key players in healthcare by the public, they need to become more visible in terms of performing their duties during the practice. To achieve this visibility, nurses can embrace measures such as promoting their accomplishments, taking part in committees within the health sector, becoming more involved in community and professional organizations, and publishing articles in professional journals (Hoeve, Jansen, & Roodbol, 2014). Additionally, nurses should collaborate with administrators, researchers, and educators as this will allow them to be recognized and appreciated for the contributions they make. Nurses need to work together with the purpose to recognize and acknowledge the achievements of each other and celebrate them; this will enhance the unity all through the profession (Weaver, Salamonson, Koch, & Jackson, 2013). Consensus could be further achieved through imparting the nurses’ skills for conflict resolution, promoting communication, and improving team building.
On the other hand, considering the educational perspective, policies should be established to implement a unified level of academic requirements for nurses as this will provide the positive image among the public (Baldwin, Lyons, & Issel, 2011). Other professions including pharmacology, psychology, and physical therapy all have embraced post-baccalaureate entry into professionalism and performed qualities for uniform educational entry into the occupations for all candidates. This paper encourages adoption of a similar educational advancement in the nursing sphere. In addition, educational advancement opportunities need to be developed and supported to encourage the academic growth within the profession (Baldwin, Lyons, & Issel, 2011).
With the continuous transition of nurses into various practice areas, there occurs a need for orientation, mentorship, and preceptors that are intended to increase the professional growth of nurses (Hoeve, Jansen, & Roodbol, 2014). Such an initiative will guarantee the improvement of the perception of nurses as they will be viewed as professionals who consider the welfare of their colleagues and support the professional growth of one another. Similarly, further education needs to be encouraged as it will allow the continuous development of nursing practice (Hoeve, Jansen, & Roodbol, 2014).
Lastly, the opinion of the public shapes the political agendas within the society. As such, given that such public opinion is based on the images of nurses that are inaccurate, it is important for nurses to have a part in the politics which influences their image (Hoeve, Jansen, & Roodbol, 2014). Thus, nurses are required to become politically active to facilitate advancement of the profession. If nurses fail to properly participate in politics, they are bound to become the victims of poor political decisions that impede their practice (Baldwin, Lyons, & Issel, 2011). The active participation of nurses in the process of developing policies is likely to lead to the increased representation and visibility of nurses in the issues connected with healthcare.
To summarize, social media has played an important role in forming the image of nurses as only assistants of the physicians and not independent professionals in the healthcare. The role of the nurse in patient care has also been misinterpreted, with the public regarding the care they offer as unprofessional and only inherent in the females. Therefore, the engagement in more research of identifying methods through which they can reach the public and communicate to them their responsibilities, is vital. Evidence-based approaches are also important in creating procedural approaches to care; they allow patients to understand that nursing is a healthcare profession with its scope of practice. Importantly, nurses should change their perceptions and image of nursing and understand their role as independent healthcare professionals who have autonomy to decide how to conduct patient care according to their knowledge and understanding of patient needs.
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