The history of nurse imagery and the implications for recruitment: a discussion paper

J Adv Nurs. 2014 Jul;70(7):1502-9. doi: 10.1111/jan.12289. Epub 2013 Nov 13.


Aim: This paper presents a discussion of the history of nurse imagery in the context of recent career choice research and the need for contemporary images for nursing recruitment.

Background: The critical and growing shortage of nurses is a global concern. Understanding how individuals come to know nursing as a career choice is of critical importance. Stereotypical imaging and messaging of the nursing profession have been shown to shape nurses' expectations and perceptions of nursing as a career, which has implications for both recruitment and retention.

Data sources: Relevant research and literature on nurse imagery in relation to career choice and recruitment were identified through a search of the CINAHL, PsychINFO, Sociological Abstracts, PubMed; Medline and Embase databases from 1970-2012.

Discussion: Historical images of nurses and nursing remain prevalent in society today and continue to influence the choice of nursing as a career among the upcoming generation of nurses. Students interested in nursing may be dissuaded from choosing it as a career based on negative, stereotypical images, especially those that position the profession as inferior to medicine.

Implications for nursing: Understanding the evolution and perpetuation of popular images and messages in relation to the profession has implications for not only how we recruit and retain future generations of professional nurses but also holds implications for interprofessional collaboration between nursing and other health disciplines.

Conclusion: Strategies for future recruitment and socialization within the nursing and the health professions need to include contemporary and realistic imaging of both health professional roles and practice settings.

Keywords: nursing image; nursing recruitment; professional socialization.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • History of Nursing
  • History, 21st Century
  • Nursing Staff* / supply & distribution
  • Personnel Selection*