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Nurses' Images in Movies Improving

Movie Study: Nurses Are Increasingly Portrayed as Strong, Self-Confident Professionals
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 10, 2008 -- Fictional nurses in movies are going through an image change, and this time, it's a positive one.

So says David Stanley, MSc, RN, RM, a senior lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Australia's Curtin University of Technology.

Stanley studied 280 films that featured nurses; the movies were made from 1900 to 2007 in the U.S., U.K., Western Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia.

Most of the films -- about 60% -- were dramas; comedies accounted for 20%, and the rest were horror, mystery, romance, or other genres. Examples included A Farewell to Arms, Rear Window, M*A*S*H*, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The World According to Garp, Nurse Betty, and Atonement.

Earlier films tended to portray nurses as angelic women. "The implication was that as long as women were nice, kind, and feminine, they had all that was required to be a nurse," Stanley writes.

That self-sacrificing image didn't totally fade away, but other depictions also showed up on the big screen over the decades. Sometimes, on-screen nurses were threatening or downright evil; in other cases, they were portrayed as sex objects.

More recently, movie nurses are "intelligent, strong, and passionate characters," Stanley writes.

Nurses should be aware of the way their profession is portrayed in movies because media images are influential, notes Stanley. His report appears in October's edition of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

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