Image and Voice of Nursing
Nursing, one of the coveted practices, revolves around health promotion, disease prevention, cure, coordination of care, and provision of palliative care in situations where cure is an impossibility (Gordon, 2006). As a practice, nursing is well matched to the needs of the global population although it faces myriads of challenges. What remains doubted in contemporary society is the diversity of nursing with respect to perspectives such as ethnicity, race, age, and gender. With these in mind, it is close to impossible for nursing practice to provide care that can be described as culturally relevant to all populations. Nurses like other professionals need more education and preparation when it comes to adopting new responsibilities quickly often in response to rapidly changing health care environments. Understanding what the nursing profession is all about depends on doing a cross-examination of its inception, growth, and development over the years. As such, the purpose of this paper is to reflect on the historical and current image and voice of nursing and the profession of nursing. It entails a description of the historical image of nursing, an overview of how nursing is portrayed by and affected by the media, an explanation of how nursing leaders and nursing staff impact change, a description of how the image of nursing can be improved, and a discussion of future challenges and a masterful summary of the nursing image both past and current.
Description of historical image of nursing
There is no doubt that nurses are largely invisible even though they are the majority of healthcare professionals. Many believe that the skills, knowledge, competence, and judgments exhibited in the nursing profession are a reflection and not a reality as would be expected. Unlike other professions, people’s perceptions and views of the nursing profession are often dependent on their one on one experiences with nurses. This means that people are likely to have either a positive or negative image of the nursing based only on their brief personal experiences. Over the years, there are several individuals who have worked hard to give nursing the positive image that it largely enjoys today. Some of the famous individuals who showed commitment to giving nursing a positive image include Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, and Walt Whitman. Florence Nightingale also stands out among people perceived to have contributed significantly to the nursing profession. Nightingale will forever be remembered for her leadership in research as well as her efforts towards promoting the nursing profession. As a result of her commitment and sacrifice, the International Nurses Day is celebrated every May 12, which coincidentally is Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale’s efforts also resulted in setting aside of one week, the Nurses Week, during which nurses in practice are recognized and the profession of nursing is advertised to portray a good image and enhance its visibility (Frello & Carraro, 2013). Moreover, Nightingale’s efforts to promoting the nursing profession also saw her reform the British military health care system and emphasize the need of promoting hygiene and reducing death rates resulting from infections. During the Crimean War, Nightingale’s work incepted the tales of the “Lady with the Lamp” (Frello & Carraro, 2013). Several years later, she had published over 200 books and other materials that proved pivotal in the development of the curricula of several nursing schools such as the Nightingale School of Nursing. Up to today, Nightingale remains one of the most influential people, especially in the nursing context, of the 19th century. It cannot be doubted that her work is what gives the nursing profession its past and present positive image.
Nursing in the media
Various media platforms have a significant influence on the image of the nursing profession. What the media does for the nursing profession is singling out selected nurses and their organizations for attention. On numerous occasions, the public believes that the nursing profession matters since it is always at the center or focus of media attention. In contemporary society, media platforms are powerful forces as they enable people to find and access information as quickly as possible (Finkelman et al., 2013). The secret to accurate portrayal of the nursing profession on media platforms is having nurses provide vital information that inform the public on issues related to the nursing profession. Television remains one of the most popular media platforms in modern society, and it is here that the image of nursing has been largely distorted and misinterpreted. Myriads of television shows highlight negative stereotypes about the nursing profession such as incompetence, sexual abuse and discrimination, and overbearing (Finkelman et al., 2013). In the United States, for instance, a common television show that portrayed a negative image of nursing was a series known as MASH. The major character in the series was one Hot Lips Houlihan, a nurse who often wore red lipstick and had large breasts. In this series, Houlihan appears to be more of a sex tool than a nurse thereby giving the nursing profession a negative image. Other than television, cartoon films and print images have also not been left behind when it comes to negative portrayal and representation of the nursing profession. A common cartoon film portraying nursing negatively is “Betty Poop” where one character is a nurse who often wears naughty and indecent nurse outfits. In the real sense, what is seen of the nursing profession in this film is against the expectations of patients and community in entirety.
The efforts to making the nursing profession more visible than before are not aided by the information provided to various media platforms. Often, when nurses communicate or convey information to the media, they are hardly professional or enthusiastic about their work. It should also be noted that members of the nursing profession are largely underrepresented in various media platforms, especially print media. Several newspapers and magazines often focus less on the area of healthcare coverage while focusing more on issues revolving around entertainment, organizational public relations, and entrepreneurship. The duty of educating media personnel about the development and growth of the nursing profession lies solely with nurse leaders and executives. There should be a gradual shift from known mass and print media to social media with the internet being the single most information medium in modern society. Research indicates that the internet reaches slightly over 2 billion persons around the world, and therefore, it would prove pivotal in enhancing people’s awareness of the nursing profession (Finkelman et al., 2013). It would be important for nurses to utilize the internet through blogging to express themselves, connect with the public, and educate people on matters related to nursing. Websites such as LinkedIn can also be important for enhancing nursing awareness as users can create profiles showing their professional connections.
Impact on change
There is minimal evidence that the nursing profession is viewed from a positive angle and that its visibility is being maximized. One thing about nurses is that their identities go with them wherever they are whether they are aware of them or not. Over the years, only a few people have shown commitment to ending the silence about the nursing profession. To impact change on the nursing profession and its image in entirety, nursing leaders and nursing staff must be involved in the process. To start with, nursing staff and leaders must bear the burden of informing the public about nursing (Iacono, 2009). As already mentioned, informing the public can be through various platforms and the internet through social media is undoubtedly a viable platform. A nurse can reach several people at once by posting something about the nursing profession on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The need to impact change should also see every nurse struggle to make public education and communication a significant part of their nursing work. This can be achieved by holding campaigns to enhance awareness on specific days such as the International Nurses Day (Iacono, 2009). Already, nurses’ efforts to impact change are evident in their foundation of what is referred to as “Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow.” The latter is a coalition of 42 healthcare and nursing organizations that has worked towards the development of a communications campaign aimed at educating and attracting people to the nursing profession. The coalition has been fruitful when it comes to shedding off the negative image of the nursing profession. Further, in an effort to impact change, nursing leaders and nursing staff have been tasked with communicating in ways that highlight their knowledge rather than their virtues.
Improvement of image
Given the adversities and negative perceptions, people have of the nursing profession, improving the image of the profession is inevitable. One way through which the nursing image can be improved is ensuring that what is presented on the websites of nursing organizations is assessed frequently (Finkelman et al., 2013). Research indicates that only a few websites of nursing organizations display nursing images that clarify and perfectly convey the role and services provided by nurses to the public. The existing deficit when it comes to promoting the services and value of nurses can be linked to the negative image or perception that several people have of the nursing profession. Improving the image of the nursing profession should also involve advertising responsibilities of nurses and activities related to nursing on mass media, print media, and social media (Finkelman et al., 2013). These advertisements should also focus on the accomplishments made by nurses in various organizations, a move that may see people view the nursing profession from a positive angle. Several nursing organizations do little towards promoting nurses and the nursing profession in entirety leaving the duty to the nurses themselves. It is important for nursing leaders to ensure that their staff is certified to work in their respective fields. This should go hand in hand with networking with other professionals to ensure that nurses are involved in the shaping of policies and making of decisions within their organizations. An innovative behavior that ought to be embraced in nursing organizations to help improve the image of nursing is communication. Communication can be a reflection of interest or disengagement thereby promoting further networking and education of people on issues revolving around the nursing profession. In the long run, the public is likely to view nursing practice positively while making attempts to educate themselves in whatever the nursing profession has in store (Finkelman et al., 2013). Another innovative behavior that could prove pivotal in improving the image of nursing is organizing visits to high schools, colleges, and other learning institutions, where students are taught about the profession and recruited as potential nurses in future.
Future challenges and summary
One of the future challenges of the nursing profession is the projected shortages. Several predictions indicate that the world is likely to witness a massive shortage of nurses in the coming decade (Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine et al., 2011). The impending shortages can be attributed to the fact that the number of nursing instructors is less than what is expected to meet the demand for nursing programs. Also, the potential shortages in the nursing context can be attributed to the retirement of what is referred to as the “baby boomer” generation. The retirement of the mentioned generation means that nursing experience, knowledge, and clinical judgment are done away with. Moreover, it is expected that regulations and government policies will be a challenge to the nursing profession in future (Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine et al., 2011). Selected states in the United States have come up with regulations and policies that fail to recognize the Nurse Practitioner role, and this puts the nursing profession in jeopardy.
To sum up, in the past, the image of nursing was that of people bandaging patients, handling bedpans, or sitting at the bedside with sick persons. However, the current image of nursing is that of people who are largely involved in education, leadership, and research. With the numerous efforts in place, it is expected that the future image of nursing will be positive. It cannot be ruled out that image is important not only to the nursing profession but other professions as well. It is the responsibility of nurses to interact, speak, and act professionally as this could attract more people to the nursing profession.
Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation., & Institute of Medicine (U.S.). (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://www.nap.edu/read/12956/chapter/2
Finkelman, A., Kenner, C., Finkelman, A., & Kenner, C. (2013). The Image of Nursing: What it is and how it needs to Change. Professional Nursing Concepts: Competencies for Quality Leadership. Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Learning LLC, 85-108. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from http://media.axon.es/pdf/87997_2.pdf
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