When I grow up I want to be a nurse: Exploring the effect of the television portrayal of nurses on the decision to become a nurse in New Zealand

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Gilchrist, Barbara
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Master of Nursing
Eastern Institute of Technology
Harvey, Clare
Harding, Thomas
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
nursing image
hospital-based drama
public perception
career choice
motivation factors
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Citation: Gilchrist, B. (2017). When I grow up I want to be a nurse: Exploring the effect of the television portrayal of nurses on the decision to become a nurse in New Zealand. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Nursing). Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), New Zealand.
This research explores the influence of hospital-based drama television programmes, focusing on the portrayal of nurses, and how these characters have influenced nurses’ career choices. Using Norman Fairclough’s framework for critical discourse analysis, it explores the social and historical factors that have led to the development of the imagery and stereotypes that populate these programmes. Research indicates that the image of nursing influences recruitment to the profession, and that the nursing image, and people’s perceptions of it, are in part shaped by the media. Therefore, an understanding of these influences, and their impact on the recruitment and retention of nurses is vital to ensure the health needs of the population will be met in the future. The primary information source for this research is peer-reviewed literature from which four main themes were drawn. These themes are nursing image, motivating factors to career choice, the influence of television and nurses on television. This information is then compared with current and historical discourse, along with the commentaries provided by nurses who completed a survey undertaken as part of this research. Triangulation of these three information sets provides a comprehensive view of the image of nursing as it relates to television, how and why this has developed, and also the implications of this on career choice. The primary finding is that nursing is constrained by historical and social factors that perpetuate enduring stereotypes which are not reflective of contemporary nursing. While the literature suggests this has a detrimental effect on recruitment, analysis of the survey information largely disputes this, with respondents showing a degree of media literacy that appears protective. A need to increase understanding that is relevant to the local environment on this topic led to the formulation of the research question “How does the portrayal of nurses on television affect the choice of nursing as a career in New Zealand?” Completion of this research adds to the body of knowledge on factors influencing nursing workforce development in New Zealand.
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