Changing how the world thinks about nursing

Join our Facebook group Twitter bird search box

Oregon university study finds greeting card nurses mainly about sex and abuse

August 12, 2003 -- Today Oregon Public Broadcasting ran a story by Rob Manning about a study by Professor Linda Smith and her nursing students at Oregon Health and Science University examining images of nurses found in greeting cards. Their "card content analysis," to be published this fall in Nursing Spectrum, evidently angered the students because the two most common images of nurses they found in the cards were the "blonde bombshell" and the "sadistic shot giver."

The researchers found that the cards also tended to associate nurses with menial tasks and white hats and failed to convey what they really did, resulting in a potential impact on care and nurse recruitment. The story had brief interviews with two practicing nurses who did not seem as troubled by the cards in addition to documentary filmmaker Diane Garey whose 1988 "Sentimental Women Need Not Apply: A History of the American Nurse" compared media images to the work of real nurses. Ms. Garey was quoted to the effect that media images have never reflected what nurses really do, and that one unflattering portrayal, such as the 1930 film "Night Nurse," doesn't necessarily reflect the views of society as a whole.

This seems fair enough as far as it goes, but not as applied to the media in general, especially in the face of broad-based research such as that of Kalisch and Kalisch. And while inaccurate nursing images certainly are nothing new, that fact provides little comfort in a society whose health care system is now crippled by a huge nursing shortage, where more than 90% of the nurses are still women, and where one of the OHSU students was asked how much she was paying to become a "well paid waitress." In any event, the radio piece concluded by noting that the Oregon Nurses Association is trying to use positive images of male nurses in a recent recruitment campaign asking: "Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse?"

Read the transcript of Oregon Public Broadcasting's "Popular Images of Nurses" or listen to the story online.

See the research article "Image Counts — Greeting Cards Mail It in When It Comes to Accurately Portraying Nurses" by Linda S. Smith, RN, MS, DSN, and and her senior nursing students at Oregon Health and Science University, Klamath Falls Campus. The article appeared in the October 1, 2003 issue of Nursing Spectrum (Southern ed.).