Virtuous, invisible and unconcerned: nurses, nursing and the media
Balaam, M. (2017) Virtuous, invisible and unconcerned: nurses, nursing and the media, no. 323.
This study, underpinned by a hermeneutic methodological strategy, investigates how British nurses make sense of representations of nurses in the popular media, and their perceptions of the potential implications of media representations for nursing as a profession and their own sense of self. The study was designed because of a number of factors: the popularity of hospital dramas and the increasing prevalence of hospital based 'fly on the wall' television programmes, a plethora of press coverage about the poor quality of nursing care, concerns from the nursing profession that the media representation of nurses have a detrimental effect on the nursing profession and nurses' sense of self, and a scarcity of research which has explored nurses' perceptions of representations of nurses in the popular media. Twenty-five nurses from a broad spectrum of nursing areas were recruited to the study. Eighteen participated in focus groups and a further seven nurses were interviewed individually. A thematic analysis of participants' descriptions, perceptions of, and emotional response to the representation of nurses in the media, revealed that nurses hold diverse, contradictory and ambivalent views of media representations. Whilst the way nurses describe representations in the media is consistent with previous research, which argues that nurses are represented by a number of stereotypes, there are novel and significant findings presented in this thesis, which may have implications for the nursing profession. The study reveals that some nurses hold a virtuous understanding of the profession and secondly, that some nurses hold a stereotypical understanding of nurses. Despite participants dismissing the media as 'just entertainment', having no consequence to the status of the profession or their sense of self, they nonetheless expressed concern at the 'negative' way they were represented in the media. Consequently, there is a need for nurses to challenge both existing media representations and the way they talk about nurses and the profession.