The image of nursing: A glimpse of the Internet

Jpn J Nurs Sci. 2016 Oct;13(4):496-501. doi: 10.1111/jjns.12125. Epub 2016 May 10.


Aim: An inaccurate image of the nursing profession can negatively affect staff recruitment, resource allocation, and the perception of nursing professionalism. Previous research has investigated how nurses were portrayed in the traditional media but relatively little is known from the perspective of the Internet. Therefore, the present study aimed to explore how the nursing profession is portrayed on the Internet by using two popular sources of photographic images.

Methods: The first 100 images that were obtained using the search term "nurse" on Google Images and Shutterstock were analyzed. The distribution of the image attributes between the two websites was compared with Fisher's exact test. The text description of the images that were obtained from Shutterstock also was analyzed.

Results: In the 171 images with at least one nurse in them, the nurses were predominately female (91%). The facial expression of the nurses was mostly smiling (85%) and 68% of the nurses had a stethoscope. For those with their hands visible in the images, 39% were holding documents, writing boards, or tablet computers and 29% were shown touching patients. Only 7% were depicted as using medical devices.

Conclusions: While most of the nursing images were relatively professional-looking, the nurses were portrayed only as engaging in comforting patients and recording data. Nurses who were engaged in clinical tasks or scientific activities, such as research, were absent in the portrayals. A plan needs to be developed to accurately and comprehensively represent the nursing profession on the Internet.

Keywords: Internet; communications media; nurses; nursing.

MeSH terms

  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Nursing Process*