An academic today slammed Youtube for stereotyping nurses as “sexual playthings” and called on health professionals to improve their image.
Jacinta Kelly, an acute care lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, said Youtube culture demeans the nursing profession – portraying them as ditzy doctors’ assistants.
She called on young nurses to upload their own Youtube videos highlighting the skilled element of their jobs to counteract “gender-bound, negative and demeaning nursing stereotypes.”
Ms Kelly said: “It seems that the stereotype of nurses is actually getting worse.
“Nurses are painted in a very damaging and humiliating way and not only does it affect how other people view the profession but it affects the self confidence of current nurses.
“By uploading their own video content nurses can promote the complexities of skilled nursing and move away from these damaging sexualised stereotypes.”
The issue of nurses being depicted as “sexual playthings” will be discussed during a public lecture at the University’s campus in Peterborough on February 27.
Ms Kelly trawled through more than half a million YouTube clips and was shocked to find an overwhelming amount showing nurses in compromising positions.
She analysed the 10 most-viewed videos on YouTube for the search terms ‘nurse’ and ‘nursing’ retrieved from the website in July 2010.
The top videos included promotional videos, advertising, and excerpts from TV programmes and cartoons.
She found there were three nursing identities portrayed in the videos – the skilled knower and doer, the sexual plaything and the witless, incompetent nurse.
The video with the highest number of views – more than 1.1 million – was an audio-free clip of Daphne, from the US sitcom Frasier, in a revealing nurses’ uniform.
Ms Kelly believes negative online portrayals of the nurses not only affect the public’s view of the profession, but can also influence how nurses view themselves.
She said: “Despite its supposed democratising function as a ‘medium of the people’, YouTube is no different than other popular mass media in the way that it propagates gender-bound, negative and demeaning nursing stereotypes.
“Its popularity means that its stereotypes act as a powerful force in influencing public beliefs and attitudes, and such stereotypical constructions of nursing identity have now become a fact of life on YouTube.
“The identity as a sexual plaything or an incompetent individual, albeit created in the male-dominated world of YouTube, constructs an identity that is counter to that of the skilled professional.
“The study of nursing identity is important, as it offers a window on how the profession views itself and how it is viewed by the public, most of whom at some point will rely upon the expertise of nurses.
“There is also the real danger that nurses may internalise a particular identity constructed through these videos and act according to these expectations.
“Hence, images that give rise to particular identities can ultimately have an impact on clinical practice.
“However, it lies within the nurses’ power to challenge negative stereotypes that create these identities.
“As users of YouTube, they can act as moderators in the online community and seek to redress the balance of power in the way that nursing is represented.
“By carefully selecting their own video content to post on YouTube, nurses can convey to the largely young, male public the complexities of skilled nursing and the critical and central role that nurses play in the healthcare system.”
Ms Kelly’s research paper ‘The image of you: constructing nursing identities in YouTube’ has been published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.