Nurses Getting a Bad Rap on YouTube
By on July 16th, 2012

A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing shows that nurses are often portrayed with negative stereotypes in some of YouTube’s most popular videos.

Nurse Portrait

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The researchers searched YouTube for keywords “nurses” and “nursing” and then shortened the list down to the most popular videos based on the keywords. 96 videos were analyzed in all. “Our study found that nurses were depicted in three main ways – as a skilled knower and doer, a sexual plaything and a witless incompetent” says co-author Dr Gerard Fealy, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Key findings of the study included:

  • The ten most viewed videos reflected a variety of media, including promotional videos, advertising, excerpts from a TV situation comedy and a cartoon. Some texts dramatised, caricatured and parodied nurse-patient and inter-professional encounters.
  • Four of the ten clips were posted by nurses and presented images of them as educated, smart and technically skilled. They included nurses being interviewed, dancing and performing a rap song, all of which portrayed nursing as a valuable and rewarding career. The nurses were shown as a distinct professional group working in busy clinical hospitals, where their knowledge and skills counted.
  • Nurses were portrayed as a sexual plaything in media-generated video clips from the American sitcom Frasier, a Virgin Mobile commercial set in a hospital, a lingerie advertisement and a soft news item on an internet TV show. All showed the nurses as provocatively dressed objects of male sexual fantasies and willing accomplices in their advances.
  • The final two clips were a cartoon that portrayed a nurse in an Alzheimer’s unit as dim and incompetent and an American sitcom that showed the nurse as a dumb blonde, expressing bigoted and ignorant views about patients and behaving in a callous and unprofessional way.

Dr. Fealy goes on to express disappointment, but not surprise, at the fact that even though YouTube is hailed as the “medium of the people”, it appears that the videos on there aren’t much different than the stereotypical nurses you would see on television. The study concludes with the following statement, “To mitigate the effects of unfavourable nursing stereotypes in such areas as interprofessional working and clinical decision-making, nursing professional bodies need to act to protect the profession from unduly immoderate representations of the nurse and to support nurses in their efforts to maximize opportunities afforded by YouTube to promote a counter discourse.”

I find it interesting that the Journal of Advanced Nursing, which ” targets readers who are committed to advancing practice and professional development on the basis of new knowledge and evidence”, would take such an interest in social media. However, television has long propagated the sexual innuendo of the profession in the name of profit. As social media is rapidly developing into the entertainment field of tomorrow, I can understand why professionals in the nursing industry would want to try to turn their image around while the internet entertainment industry is young.

As the son of a nurse, and cousin of several nurses, I have to say that I am concerned about the image that is portrayed about nurses as well. They have to study very hard and are often treated with little respect from doctors and administrators. To think that the media contributes to this is very disturbing indeed.

Author: Darrin Jenkins Google Profile for Darrin Jenkins
Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Darrin Jenkins has written and can be contacted at

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