Aim: This paper presents a review of the public and professional images of nursing in the literature and explores nurse image in the context of Strasen's self-image model.
Background: Nurses have struggled since the 1800s with the problem of image. What is known about nurses' image is from the perspective of others: the media, public or other healthcare professionals. Some hints of how nurses see themselves can be found in the literature that suggests how this image could be improved.
Method: A literature review for all dates up to 2006 was undertaken using PubMed, Medline and CINAHL databases. Additional references were identified from this literature. Sentinel articles and books were manually searched to identify key concepts. Search words used were nurse, nursing, image and self-image. The findings were examined using the framework of Strasen's self-image model.
Findings: Public image appears to be intimately intertwined with nurse image. This creates the boundaries that confine and construct the image of nursing. As a profession, nurses do not have a very positive self-image nor do they think highly of themselves.
Conclusion: Individually, each nurse has the power to shape the image of nursing. However, nurses must also work together to change the systems that perpetuate negative stereotypes of nurses' image.