Role and Image of Nursing in Children's Literature: A Qualitative Media Analysis

J Pediatr Nurs. 2016 Mar-Apr;31(2):141-51. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2015.09.009. Epub 2015 Nov 24.


Nurses' role and image as portrayed in young children's literature were described and analyzed.

Design and methods: A total of 30 children's books (pre-kindergarten through grade two audience) written in English were chosen using progressive theoretical sampling. Included were books, both fiction and non-fiction and with varying years of publication, that mentioned nurses and/or were about general healthcare topics. The books were analyzed using the method of qualitative media analysis which is derived from the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism.

Results: Nurses were generally portrayed positively but simply and inaccurately in this sample of children's literature. The seven themes discovered were labeled as nurse characters using traits evident in the sample: nurse unlikely, nurse minimal, nurse caring, nurse subordination, nurse skillful, nurse diversity, and nurse obvious.

Conclusion: The image of nursing is socially and culturally constructed, and accurate portrayals of nurses and their roles are necessary in all media. Thus, better representation of nurses in children's books is needed as young children's literature is an important first exposure to the art and science of nursing.

Practice implications: Future children's books authored by nurses may more closely reflect accurate contemporary nursing practice and contribute to an improved image of the nursing profession.

Keywords: Children's literature; Nursing image; Nursing role; Qualitative media analysis; Symbolic interactionism.

MeSH terms

  • Books*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Literature*
  • Male
  • Nurse's Role / psychology*
  • Pediatric Nursing / standards*
  • Pediatric Nursing / trends
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States