In course of conversation with each of the participants, two themes emerged; nursing was referred to as a job or work, rather than a profession, and nurses were referred to as female. This seems to indicate that all participants hold image of nurses associated with non-professional females.
Female images of nursing associated with caring, such as those evidenced in my research, can be traced back to the early nursing reform in the Victorian era. During the nineteenth century nursing was a female occupation, where the role of the nurse was perceived as that of wife and mother transferred out of the home and into the hospital setting (Stephenson, 1970). Patriarchal ideologies denoting the maternal duties of women within the domestic sphere such as nurturing, caring, comforting and servitude lead to the popular belief within the nineteenth century that nursing was women's ideal work (Fagin and Diers, 1983). Promotion, recruitment and nursing reform within the Nightgale era was centred on this ideal (Holden and Littlewood, 1991) and nursing became and still remains a predominantly female profession, both in statistical numbers as well as public perception.
The image of the nurse as the "ministering angel" emerged as a result of historical ties with religious orders (Hughes, 1980) and the promotion of nursing as a dedicated "calling" from the Victorian Era through to the mid 1950s (Kalisch and Kalisch, 1987). The popular media perpetuated this image and it lead the public to believe that the privilege of ministering to the sick is payment and satisfaction enough for nurses (Strachan, 1996). It was also an image exploited by employers and nurses were expected to accept the long hours, poor working conditions and poor pay without complaint (Hughes, 1980).
Four respondents determined the media to be the reason they hold their images of nurses and research shows that television and the press do have the power to mediate the perceptions and images held by young people (Silverstone, 1994). Since the 1950s the media has abounded with ornamental images of female nurses as who spend their time doing insignificant chores, feeding patients and attending to the needs of superior male doctors in the hope that they will procure a husband. Recruitment images from 1950 to 1985 were of a similar nature, further reinforcing the image of nursing as a "feminine ideal of service to medicine and medical men" (Hallam, 1988), typified by the "handmaiden" image.
Outdated images and stereotypes perpetuated by the media that regard nurses as religious visions of servitude and feminine dependents of doctors have lead society to devalue nursing roles and allow the medical profession to create a patriarchal environment within the health care realm (Roberts, 1997). Within this patriarchal setting the male orientated medical profession has remained powerful, dominant, widely recognised, highly prestigious and has been renumerated accordingly. Patriarchal principles which devalue feminine roles and the position of women within society have resulted in nurses being poorly renumerated, poor ...