Primary care nurses' experiences of how the mass media influence frontline healthcare in the UK

BMC Fam Pract. 2013 Nov 24:14:178. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-14-178.


Background: Mass media plays an important role in communicating about health research and services to patients, and in shaping public perceptions and decisions about health. Healthcare professionals also play an important role in providing patients with credible, evidence-based and up-to-date information on a wide range of health issues. This study aims to explore primary care nurses' experiences of how mass media influences frontline healthcare.

Methods: In-depth telephone interviews were carried out with 18 primary care nurses (nine health visitors and nine practice nurses) working in the United Kingdom (UK). Interviews were recorded and transcribed. The data was analysed using thematic analysis, with a focus on constant comparative analysis.

Results: Three themes emerged from the data. First, participants reported that their patients were frequently influenced by controversial health stories reported in the media, which affected their perceptions of, and decisions about, care. This, in turn, impinged upon participants' workloads as they had to spend additional time discussing information and reassuring patients. Second, participants also recalled times in their own careers when media reports had contributed to a decline in their confidence in current healthcare practices and treatments. Third, the participants in this study suggested a real need for additional resources to support and expand their own media literacy skills, which could be shared with patients.

Conclusion: In an ever expanding media landscape with greater reporting on health, nurses working in the primary care setting face increasing pressure to effectively manage media stories that dispute current health policies and practices. These primary care nurses were keen to expand their media literacy skills to develop critical autonomy in relation to all media, and to facilitate more meaningful conversations with their patients about their health concerns and choices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Practitioners*
  • Nurses
  • Primary Care Nursing*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom