1. Section Editor(s): Freda, Margaret Comerford EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN

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I guess I've been actively interested in nursing's image from the time that I decided to become a nurse. I was about 16, I think, when I became a candy striper at the only hospital in my town. I loved it instantly, and felt important, needed, and very smart. I even loved the outfit. Of course I knew next to nothing about what I was doing, but in my mind I was just about the best water-passer-outer that hospital had ever seen. From that time on I couldn't wait to be one of those women in white with the great caps. In my mind, everyone looked at these nurses as indispensable to the running of the entire system, and they alone stood between the patients' life and death. Talk about a robust image!


In later years I came to realize that nursing's image was not so one-dimensional. In nursing school I saw the difficulties nurses actually experienced with the profession's image, daily interacting with some medical professionals who respected them as well as many who did not. In my professional life I've had instruments thrown at me by rude and patriarchal physicians for whom nurses could rarely do anything right; happily, I've had many more encounters with physicians who had a more professional image of nursing. It became clear to me over the years that not everyone thought nursing was indispensable to the system.


I've been a nurse for many years now, and nursing's public image, in my opinion, is still muddled. Society's confusion about nursing's image can be seen by the fact that nursing consistently scores high on surveys asking about trustworthy professionals, yet the image of the naughty nurse is still apparent on greeting cards, advertisements, television, and movies. Although news programs have featured nurses describing their ground-breaking research projects, it is still the case that college students do not even need to complete a 4-year degree before legally becoming a registered nurse.


That's why I get so excited when I see a positive portrayal of nurses in the media, especially in a movie or on television where millions of viewers might be tuned in. I've written some editorials about this topic, extolling the virtues of positive portrayals, and pointing out the most disappointing ones. Last fall I watched "Call the Midwife" on PBS. I hope you'll make every effort to see it, for it is so worthwhile! If you didn't catch it when it first aired in the late fall of 2012, I bet you'll be able to find it on Netflix or another service that delivers films to you at home or as an app for viewing on one of the many different devices you might use at home. "Call the Midwife" is beautiful drama series that portrays midwives (most of whom were nurses also) in 1950s in England. Although it shows the work of nurses/midwives more than 50 years ago, it is thrilling to watch in 2013. These young women worked in a hierarchy, yet practiced independently. They provided state-of-the-art care in the most difficult of situations. The midwives are often shown studying to be sure they were up-to-date. They cared for women in their homes, in some of the most decrepit, poverty-stricken neighborhoods in post-World War II England. They were kind and intelligent as well as knowledgeable, and treated everyone with dignity-the perfect combination for a nurse or a midwife. They dealt with physicians who seemed to appreciate what they were doing for the patients, and with good reason. They were often on call, and used bicycles to get to the patient's bedside for the birth. Nothing kept them away from their duty! You'll be so proud of your profession when you watch this!


Have you seen positive portrayals of nurses that you'd like to share with me? I'd love to hear about them.


Margaret Comerford Freda, EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN


Editor, MCN