Nurses can be perceived in many ways by both patients and the public; television has played a role in what the perception of what a nurse should be in todays society. “Public perceptions about the nursing profession are mixed and even contradictory at times” (Houston, 2017). Nurses are viewed as being doctor’s handmaidens who perform routine and repetitive tasks at the bedside under the direction of a physician, angels of mercy often referring to Florence Nightingale whom always put patients’ needs first before her own, love interest or naughty nurse due to the depiction of nurses in movies, commercials and TV, or the battle axe nurse who is older experienced and is there to care for the patient but may be perceived as cold and not empathetic. “The essence of nursing is not always clear and nurses still suffer from (gender) stereotypes” (Hoeve, Jansen & Roodbol, 2013). The public has a perception of what a nurse should be; approximately 90% of the nursing profession are women at this time and has only changed very slowly over time. Nursing is a profession that deals with compassion and caring for the sick; men can be questioned about their choices or even thought of as homosexual when seen in the role of a nurse by some individuals. “Many nurses believe nursing’s image to be one of the most important and enduring issues they face as a profession” (Houston, 2017). Individuals must look a certain way; piercings, tattoos and individualized hair color or cuts can be viewed as unprofessional by the public. Elderly populations may refer to Florence Nightingale as the reference of a nurse and anything straying from that may be considered outside the norm. Nurse Jackie from the HBO series may also be a perception of nurses some may have; the series portrayed the nurse as an addict who did whatever she needed to do while taking care of patients. I do not wish to promote either Florence Nightingale or Nurse Jackie professional image; I have worked extremely hard to overcome the stigma of short hair and tattoos from both patients and public to get where I am today. Hard work, professional work ethic and education help change public and professional images. “The reality is that every nurse controls the image of nursing” (Houston, 2017).
Uniforms are extremely important when patients are trying to identify nurses versus other staff members. Traditional white uniforms are thought of as being a symbol in the history of nursing; dresses and nursing cap are a thing of the past in most organizations today. Nurses wearing white were easier to identify to patients rather then the colored designed scrubs of today. The scrubs are now made for comfort due to long work hours instead of necessarily professional. Graphics and colored scrubs can be seen as unprofessional by patients even if it is dress code for a place of employment. “Nurses argue that comfort and uniformity of dress are equally important and that uniforms are not a requirement for professional trust and respect” (Houston, 2017). The professional image can be improved if a organization either provides matching scrubs or unifies a color to represent each specific role within the organization; this will make it easier on the patient and public. Clothing plays an important part in public image as it may be disrespectful if viewed as tight or revealing. The organization I work in allows nurses to wear either ceil blue scrubs or white pants and a ceil blue top to make is easier for recognition of a nurse by patients or visitors. Each department has a specific color assigned to them for staff to wear making it easier even on staff to recognize the department or specialty area they are from. “Nurses need to accept the responsibility for addressing the problems that have historically plagued the profession, and take whatever steps are necessary to proactively build a power base that does not depend on gender or age” (Houston, 2017).
Hoeve ten, Y., Jansen, G., & Roodbol, P. (2013). The nursing profession: public image, self-concept and professional identity. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(2), doi:org/10.1111/jan.12177
Huston, C. Professional Issues in Nursing. [Bookshelf Ambassadored]. Retrieved from https://ambassadored.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781975140366/
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