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Readers’ panel: Is nursing being held back by outdated public perceptions?

A recent survey found that public perceptions of nursing are putting people off joining the profession 

A recent survey commissioned by Anglia Ruskin University found that public perceptions of nursing are putting people off joining the profession 

Picture: iStockphoto

Discomfort about dealing with illness and bodily fluids was the biggest deterrent among the 1,000 people polled from across the UK. But when asked what traits they thought were essential for nursing, only 32% identified leadership skills, with innovation identified by just 23%. Nursing Standard readers have their say.

Liz Charalambous is a staff nurse in Nottingham

The public rhetoric still centres on the 'too posh to wash' debate and a general lack of understanding about the wide range and diversity of nursing roles. Leadership skills and innovation are crucial in driving our profession forward, yet the fact that only a third of those surveyed by Anglia Ruskin University said leadership skills are an essential trait for nurses, and just 23% identified innovation, speaks volumes about how nurses are still perceived by the public. Promoting the positive aspects of nursing is vital if we are to encourage others to consider it as a career.

Grant Byrne is a nursing student in Edinburgh

The outdated views of nursing held by many are evident whenever our profession is discussed in the media, but public opinion is only part of the equation. We will never move forward while we have both registered and retired nurses celebrating the ‘good old days’ and longing for a return to outdated ways of working. We also need to get better at talking about what we do without using general terms such as ‘caring’. Our role is dynamic, challenging and, above all else, hugely rewarding. Let’s celebrate what we do and stop oversimplifying our complex roles.

Beverley Ramdeen is a senior nursing lecturer in Hertfordshire

Despite the diverse roles in nursing, the public still associate the profession with a Victorian view of women comforting and washing the sick. This is reflected in the survey from Anglia Ruskin University, where 40% of respondents said that dealing with illness and bodily fluids deterred them from joining the profession. More campaigns to strengthen the image of nursing are needed, with nurses celebrating their knowledge and skills and how they embody the 6Cs. The public could then let go of these outdated perceptions and understand the complex roles and responsibilities nurses undertake.  

Drew Payne is a community staff nurse in north London

A lot of people form their opinions of nursing from television dramas like Casualty and Holby City – or worse, from the Carry On films where nurses just make beds, wash patients and chase after doctors. We are seen as a ‘caring’ profession but not as the skilled professionals we are, with little understanding of the knowledge, skill and intelligence required of us. Nursing is one of the most trusted professions, but our public image is 30 years out of date. We need to start shouting about what we do so that people can truly start to understand it.

Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only


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