Nurses need to counteract negative stereotypes of the profession in top YouTube hits

The nursing profession needs to harness the power of the video-sharing website YouTube to promote a positive image of nurses, after research found that many of the top hits portray them in a derogatory way. That is the key finding of research published in the August issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Researchers examined the YouTube database to find the most viewed videos for "nurses" and "nursing". Ninety-six videos were included after preliminary analysis of the first 50 hits for each word. The top ten hits - attracting between 61,695 and 901,439 hits - were then analysed in greater detail.

"Our study found that nurses were depicted in three main ways – as a skilled knower and doer, a sexual plaything and a witless incompetent" says co-author Dr Gerard Fealy, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Key findings of the study included:

  • The ten most viewed videos reflected a variety of media, including promotional videos, advertising, excerpts from a TV situation comedy and a cartoon. Some texts dramatised, caricatured and parodied nurse-patient and inter-professional encounters.
  • Four of the ten clips were posted by nurses and presented images of them as educated, smart and technically skilled. They included nurses being interviewed, dancing and performing a rap song, all of which portrayed nursing as a valuable and rewarding career. The nurses were shown as a distinct professional group working in busy clinical hospitals, where their knowledge and skills counted.
  • Nurses were portrayed as a sexual plaything in media-generated video clips from the American sitcom Frasier, a Virgin Mobile commercial set in a hospital, a lingerie advertisement and a soft news item on an internet TV show. All showed the nurses as provocatively dressed objects of male sexual fantasies and willing accomplices in their advances.
  • The final two clips were a cartoon that portrayed a nurse in an Alzheimer's unit as dim and incompetent and an American sitcom that showed the nurse as a dumb blonde, expressing bigoted and ignorant views about patients and behaving in a callous and unprofessional way.
"The nurse and nursing stereotypes on YouTube are very similar to those reported in studies on television shows, which seem to appeal to a particular public need for medical melodramas and provide TV stations with valuable advertising revenue" says Dr Fealy.

"The same revenue-generating possibilities exist on the internet and it is hardly surprising that its commercial potential should bring with it the continued portrayal of nursing stereotypes.

"Despite being hailed as a medium of the people, our study showed that YouTube is no different to other mass media in the way that it propagates gender-bound, negative and demeaning nursing stereotypes. Such stereotypes can influence how people see nurses and behave towards them.

"We feel that the professional bodies that regulate and represent nurses need to lobby legislators to protect the profession from undue negative stereotyping and support nurses who are keen to use YouTube to promote their profession in a positive light."

More information: The image of you: constructing nursing identities in YouTube. Kelly et al. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 68.8, pp1804-1813. (August 2012). doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05872.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Calling nurses to exercise as role models for their patients

Aug 30, 2011

Nurses, just like many of their patients, struggle to find time and motivation to exercise. But a new study may give these all-important caregivers some additional pressure and responsibility: nurses' attitudes can influence ...

Nurses' job satisfaction well below average

Mar 05, 2012

At a time of growing tensions in the nursing industry, a national survey has shown that poor job satisfaction and a lack of trust in management are widespread in the workforce.

Bullying threatens nurses' health and careers

Mar 20, 2008

In workplaces where nurses are bullied, the quality of patient care declines, the health of nurses suffers, and the retention of quality nurses becomes difficult. A new article published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, ...

Recommended for you

Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants

15 hours ago

Printing whole new organs for transplants sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the real-life budding technology could one day make actual kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs for patients ...

High frequency of potential entrapment gaps in hospital beds

17 hours ago

A survey of beds within a large teaching hospital in Ireland has shown than many of them did not comply with dimensional standards put in place to minimise the risk of entrapment. The report, published online in the journal ...

Key element of CPR missing from guidelines

Jul 29, 2014

Removing the head tilt/chin lift component of rescue breaths from the latest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines could be a mistake, according to Queen's University professor Anthony Ho.

Burnout impacts transplant surgeons (w/ Video)

Jul 28, 2014

Despite saving thousands of lives yearly, nearly half of organ transplant surgeons report a low sense of personal accomplishment and 40% feel emotionally exhausted, according to a new national study on transplant surgeon ...

User comments