Debunking nursing clichés will attract school leavers

The University of Queensland

Wednesday, 14 June, 2017

Debunking nursing clichés will attract school leavers

Stereotypes which portray nurses as sexual objects or merely doctors’ helpers must be combatted to encourage school leavers to join the profession, according to a University of Queensland study.

The study, designed to combat misconceptions in the nursing profession, surveyed a group of 109 early-career nursing professionals from Australia and New Zealand and asked what keywords, phrases and images they would use in a recruitment poster to encourage school leavers to study nursing.

The top three keywords identified by the surveyed group were ‘opportunity’, ‘rewarding’ and ‘travel’ and the three core images they thought positively depicted nursing as a lifelong career were ‘care’, ‘opportunity’ and ‘task, technical, technology and role’.

The research found that, in order to encourage school leavers to consider studying nursing as a preferred career option, the key messages needed to underscore the profession as one in which ‘no two days are ever the same’, a school leaver can ‘make a difference’ and ‘get a job anywhere in the world’.

Dr Anthony Tuckett of UQ School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work said there was a need to change long-held and misinformed perceptions about the nursing profession to accurately reflect the career.

“Unfortunately there is a misconception among some school leavers that could be attributed to negative media — such as the nurse who set fire to an aged-care facility — and historical clichés where nurses were portrayed as sex objects, battleaxes or a doctor’s right-hand maiden,” Dr Tuckett said.

“Those who took part in the study recommended highlighting the opportunities, rewarding aspects and travel prospects that a nursing career provides to encourage school leavers to study nursing.

“We hope these findings shape the way nurse educators and leaders recruit for students in the future,” Dr Tuckett said.

“It is also necessary to complement this messaging as part of an overall promotional strategy by utilising social media and web-based technology to celebrate and promote exemplary practice, education, research and the achievements of the nursing workforce.”

The study was published online in Nurse Education Today.

Image credit: ©

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