Monday, June 12, 2017 - 16:30

Stereotypes which portray nurses as sexual objects or merely doctors’ helpers need to be smashed in order to encourage school leavers to the profession, according to a University of Queensland study.

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, battle axes or a doctor’s right-hand maiden,” Dr Tuckett said.

UQ researchers 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 aim of our study was to combat these misconceptions and lack of knowledge with positive keywords, phrases and images,” 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.”

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’.

“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.”

This study reflected similar results of those from an earlier Graduate e-Cohort Study (GeS) sub-study by Dr Tuckett where the same cohort were asked to respond to an open-ended question: “I love nursing and/or midwifery because…”.

The earlier study found nurses love their career because of the opportunities, rewards, overseas travel, challenge, altruism, flexibility, security and working in a team environment.

The study was published online in Nurse Education Today.

Image left: Dr Anthony Tuckett

Media: Dr Anthony Tuckett, a.tuckett@uq.edu.au, 0423 304 419.