Improving Nursing’s Public Image: One Nurse at a Time!

Improving Nursing’s Public Image: One Nurse at a Time!

Public identity and image have been an ongoing struggle for the nursing profession. Compounding the problem are pervasive, inaccurate, stereotypical nursing images that demean the true nature and complexity of nursing. Changing these stereotypes has been difficult, although the responsibility for changing the profession’s image lies on the shoulders of those who claim nursing as their profession. “Image conflict,” then, is an enduring issue. This presentation will explore common nursing stereotypes and examine the impact of these stereotypes on professional identity. In addition, strategies for improving nursing’s public image are presented, as well as the challenges inherent in trying to change stereotypes that are an ingrained part of the profession’s history and even how some nurses view themselves.

Session Objectives
Following this session, participants will be able to:

  • Explore the roots and prevalence of historical and contemporary nursing stereotypes, including nurse as angel of mercy, love interest (particularly to physicians), sex bombshell/naughty nurse, handmaiden to the physician, and battle-axe, as well as the stereotype of the male nurse as being gay, effeminate,or sexually predatory
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities individual nurses, employers, professional associations, and the media have, to ensure that nurses are portrayed accurately and positively to the public
  • Reflect on the premise that every nurse controls the image of nursing.


Carol Huston

Carol Huston, MSN, DPA, FAAN, has been a Professor in the School of Nursing at California State University, Chico (CSUC), since 1982 and served as the Director of the School from 2010-2015. Dr. Huston was named one of seven Master Teachers in 1999/2001, as well as the CSUC Outstanding Teacher in 2001/2002. She was also named the Outstanding Professor for CSUC in 2008/2009. She currently teaches half-time as a Professor Emerita. Dr. Huston served as the 2007-2009 President of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. She currently serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees for Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif., a role she has held for 3 1/2 years. Dr. Huston also serves as the lead faculty for the Sigma Theta Tau International/Chamberlain College Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy, which launched in fall 2014, and as a Leadership Consultant for the STTI Institute for Global Healthcare Leadership that launched in September 2016. Dr. Huston is the author/co-author of six leading textbooks on leadership, management, and professional issues in nursing (a total of 21 editions) and has published more than 100 articles in leading professional journals. Her co-written book, “Leadership Roles and Management Functions in Nursing,” has been translated into five languages, and two of her books have been named AJN books of the year. In addition, she has keynoted more than 300 nursing and healthcare conferences worldwide. Dr. Huston is also the codeveloper of the Marquis-Huston Model for Teaching Critical Thinking, which has been recognized internationally by nurse scholars. Her research interests include critical thinking, outcomes measurement, quality health care, and empowerment of the nursing profession.