Contemporary public perceptions of nursing: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the international research evidence

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Nursing Management, 2016, 24 (8), pp. 994 - 1006
Issue Date:
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© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aim: To investigate the current public understanding and perceptions of nursing. Background: In recent years, attention to large scale health-care failures has focused considerable concern upon nursing standards. To avoid short-term solutions, and the temptation to see individual failures as representative of the wider profession, it is important to understand contemporary public perceptions of nursing. Evaluation: A systematic review and narrative synthesis of peer reviewed papers from January 2010 to September 2015. Key issues: Four main themes were identified: (1) media portrayal of nursing as a troubled profession; (2) entertainment value in demeaning nursing; (3) role incongruity – nursing trusted but not respected; and (4) nursing roles remain poorly understood. Conclusions: Although there is evidence of strong public trust, this does not generally appear to be born out of an understanding of nursing work and impact; rather it appears to stem from the respect held for the traditional, more sentimental stereotypes of selfless, hardworking young females. Implications for nursing management: A long-term, strategic solution is required that focuses on public engagement and interaction with the profession in a context wider than personal health/ill-health, and that goes beyond the marketing campaigns seen in the past to address recruitment crises.
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