A recent descriptive study, conducted by nurse researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield in England and University College in Dublin (UCD), examined how nurses and nursing are portrayed on YouTube-the world's most popular video-sharing Web site-and how nurse-related words, images, and situations found in videos posted on YouTube promoted either positive or negative images of nurses and nursing.
The study's initial YouTube search using the terms "nurse" and "nursing" yielded 300,900 hits. The researchers whittled the results down to the 10 most-viewed videos and clips and categorized them as being either nurse generated or media generated. They then used critical discourse analysis to describe, analyze, and explain the nurse-specific "public discourse"-the language, actions, content, and intent-that was revealed by those 10 videos. Three distinct nursing identities stood out: nurse as "skilled knower and doer," nurse as "sexual plaything," and nurse as "witless incompetent."
Although four of the 10 videos (all produced by nursing schools) presented nurses and nursing in a positive, professional light, it was marketing pieces, clips from television shows, and a cartoon that objectified or sexualized nurses, trivialized their work, and reinforced negative stereotypes-and also drew the most viewers.
According to the article's corresponding author, Gerard M. Fealy, associate professor and associate dean for research and innovation at the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Health Systems, the article has two aims. One, he said, is to "alert nurses to the way others see us." The other is to provide evidence that nurses and nursing organizations can use to inform legislators and those who make decisions about all, not just YouTube's, online content, so that "adverse and derogatory representations of nursing do not transgress the profession's right to its good name."
Stressing that engaging in retaliatory ridicule won't work, he said that what's needed is "a counter discourse, one that harnesses popular media like YouTube to project a more positive image, an image that reflects the reality of nursing and nurses' work."-Eileen Beal