Nursing the image : popular fictions, recruitment and nursing identity 1950-1975
This thesis examines popular images of nursing and nurses and their relation to issues of professional practice and personal identity in the changing health care climate of post-war Britain. The study explores issues of representation in British films, romantic novels and television programmes, as well as in the recruitment literature produced by the government and the profession. Case studies and autobiographical writings are used to situate these images in the context of personal nursing identities. An analysis of the literature on images of nursing in Britain reveals a dependency on North American empirical research in spite of the very different institutional frameworks of both the media and the health care system in Britain. This thesis contributes a substantive empirical investigation of popular representations of nurses, nursing and nursing life in Britain focusing on popular fictional forms. The thesis argues distinctively that there is a strong correlation between these forms, images used to attract young women to the profession, professional nursing ideologies and models of nursing practice. An analytical focus on representations of class, gender and race reveals a white middle-class feminine ethos underpinning claims to professional autonomy and practice. This image is located as a source of internecine debates and struggles in nursing throughout the post war period. Case studies and autobiographies personalise the political struggles outlined above, placing individual experiences of becoming a nurse in the context of training and working in a rapidly changing health care environment. A history of nursing focusing on the experience of skilled practitioners has yet to be written; this work is an initial contribution to that effort.