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Nigerian Nurses And The Media: Misconceptions And The Way Forward By Mohammed Ibn Abdullahi
Date Posted: 05/Mar/2018
The means of communication has evolved quickly over time reaching a wider population through television, internet, newspaper, radio, magazines etc. Through this evolution, the world was able to interact and collaborate easily with one another by sharing information, ideas, and opinions (Hanbury, 2010). The mass media plays an important role in our society.  In the media, nurses are shown as the submissive helpers of physicians and shown to be sexually objectified. These unjust depiction of professional nurses in the media do not show the public the real responsibilities of the nurse. Most of the popular medical dramas in Nigeria fails to portray a positive image of nurses and spread misconceptions that undermine the profession in many ways (Ekenrode, 2015).
Like other health care professionals, nurses also have some negative attitudes and behaviors but the media portrayed that in an exaggerated way clearing out the diverse positive aspect of the profession, and offering viewer little to no truth about nursing profession. These affects how people think and act towards the profession. The media’s negative view of the profession acts as a powerful force to shape the public’s attitudes towards nursing because it is rare to find a nurse in Nigeria portrayed in the popular media demonstrating clinical skill, diligence, or compassion.  
From 2015 to date the Nigerian film industry Nollywood has released more than 30 films that are misinterpreting nursing professional standard and spreading misinformation about nurses and nursing profession at large. The films include clinic matters, nurses on duty, sweet nurses, special nurses, sex clinic, horny nurses, nurses fellowship, most wanted nurses, wild nurses, nurse of the 21st century, body nurse, nurses on red, nurses paradise, night nurse, nurses delight, Calabar nurses, the clinic nurses, crazy nurses, nurse on mission, nurses club, sisters on night shift, nurse runs, nurse Abigail, romantic nurse among others. Statistically, in every 1 to 2 months they are releasing at least 1 movie or episodes portraying the negative aspect of nursing in an exaggerated way. The social networks such as facebook, twitter, eskimi, instagram, whatsapp etc. are also used to spread the propagandas. Abdullahi, (2014) stated seven most common misconceptions that are spread about nurses which are as follows. 
In the media, nurse are not seen delivering care as autonomous and knowledgeable professionals, monitoring the condition of patients and teaming up with physicians and other health care professional to keep the patient healthy and safe. Instead, they are often portrayed as physician helpers, not highly skilled independent clinicians. 
Fact: It is clear that nursing is a profession, unique, identifiable and autonomous. As profession, nursing has the authority and responsibility to define its standards of practice. It is clear that the profession of nursing, is closely related to the practice of medicine, is indeed, distinct with its own licensing scheme, educational requirements, areas of specialization, code of ethics, models, theories and contract with society (ICN, 2010). Therefore the public have to be aware that a nurse is not a junior doctor nor submissive helper of the physician.
In the media nursing is viewed as female profession and surprisingly in many write ups today the nurse is addressed using the feminine gender ‘she’ rather than the masculine gender ‘he’, surprisingly most of these write ups are written by nurses. 
Fact: It is true that many nurses are females. Despite this fact, the men in the field are highly competent at their jobs, just as their female counterparts are. In fact, the perception of nursing as a women’s job is a real problem in the nursing field. It also fosters some negative perception about nursing overall. Somehow, nursing being a “female career” has made it less important in the public eye.
 In Nigeria today, a mass number of people influenced by the media believed that nurses can only be found at the hospital bed sides.
Fact: Nurses can actually be found almost everywhere including schools, factories, airports, companies, military, clinics, home care centres, community centers etc. However the media emphasis is given on the nurses who work in the hospitals as it is the easiest way to depict or paint ideas as they are commonly seen there.
As portrayed in many Nigerian films that nurses are not passionate about their carriers and tend to act as doctors. 
Fact: Nurses are passionate about their careers. Whereas doctors are trained to diagnose, treat and prevent illness, nurses’ focus on providing patient with a holistic approach to health care. Part of what determines a nurse success is his or her ability to emphasize and relate to patients on a level that differs from doctors. Nurses choose the profession for a variety of reasons, and the close interaction and bonding with patient allow them to make a difference in patient’s lives.
Most of the Nigerian movies today are misinterpreting nursing as a dirty profession, they display nurses as being subservient to male doctors, collecting bed pans, collecting excreta, wound dressing, oral toileting, bed bath, etc. Nurses are  sexually objectified, they gossip, steal patients properties, fight and quarrel with other health professionals, they display nurses as self-centered, low skilled, unprofessional, uncaring, and unintelligent. 
Fact: The above depiction is contrary to what nurses are. Nurses are smart, diligent, humble, neat, empathetic and caring in nature.
Nurse are portrayed as unintelligent and don’t have the necessary qualification to address the health care need of clients:
Fact:  In reality, nurses with minimal qualifications have had remarkable impact on the health care delivery system of Nigeria. Nurses are well educated health personnel and nurse education consist of theoretical and practical training, with the purpose to prepare them for their duties as nursing care professionals. The steps of nursing education include diploma in nursing, specialty courses, bachelor of nursing science, master of nursing science, and doctorate degree in nursing. Therefore a nurse can reach the supreme educational standard and attain the level of professorship in nursing. Thus portrayal of nurses as unintelligent is an ethical challenge that must be considered. 
The Nursing profession is displayed in the media as a profession with limited carrier opportunity. 
Fact: Nursing is the most flexible and diverse of all healthcare professions with vast carrier opportunities. Nurses practice in a wider range of setting and generally, nursing is divided depending on the need of the person being nursed. The major population are:
i. Communities/public
ii. Family/individual across the lifespan
iii. Adult-gerontology
iv. Pediatrics
v. Women health
vi. Mental health
There are also specialist areas such as 
Cardiac nursing
Orthopedic nursing
Perioperative nursing
Obstetrical nursing
Oncology nursing
Emergency nursing
Disaster nursing
Nursing informatics
Ophthalmic nursing
E.N.T nursing
Public health nursing
Mental health/psychiatric nurses
Nursing research
Academic nursing
Anesthetic nursing
Industrial nursing etc.
What people see affect what they think, and what they think affect what they do or act upon this is a basic principle of life (Samwel, 2000). The following are the effects of media misconception that are sprayed about nurses in Nigeria.
1. The projection of nurses as inferior health workers and submissive helpers of physician has demoralized the public regard and respect to nurses.
2. The unjust depiction of nursing as a gender bound carrier has certainly been a discouragement for men entering the profession in.
3. The misinterpretation of nursing as a dirty job has certainly minimize the interest of the public from entering the profession.
4. The projection of female nurses as sexually objectified has increased the risk of female nurses to be sexually abused.
5. The public misconceptions that are spread about nurses and nursing profession leads to nursing leaving the profession.
6. The misinterpretation of nurses as unintelligent professionals has undermine the public from trusting the nurse’s capabilities.
7. The unjust misinterpretation of nursing as self-centered, profession has certainly has devalue the profession in the public eye (Bilyaminu, 2014).
i. Nurses should ensure adequate dedication to their work as well as demonstrating their professional skills.
ii. Nurses should create a good interpersonal relationship with their clients by projecting a positive professional attitude in every interaction with clients.
iii. Nurses should recognize that they have the power and responsibility to foster change in their profession.
iv. Nurses should embark on research to identify the level of misconceptions and ways to clear them out.
v. Nurses should speak out about their work in all places they found themselves.
vi. Nurse should stick strictly to their professional norms/ethics and utilize evidenced based practice in their work approach.
The means of mass communication has contributed immensely in spreading misconceptions or misinformation about nurses. Nurses are professionally abused and the media spread a lot of virulent propaganda on nurses and nursing profession at large, which in turn downgrade the image of nurses on the public eye, increasing the risk of female nurses to be sexually abused in the society as well as preventing males from entering the carrier etc. In an attempt to antagonize these misconceptions, nurses should work harder in communicating their professionalism using the same media.
1. Nurses should consider creating their own media to explain the values and truth about nursing profession to the public directly. Through online campaign, television shows etc.
2. Government should create policies to address the media professional abuse.
3. Nurses should persuade the media to reconsider harmful existing portrayal and take necessary action to deal with the professional abuse.
4. Nurses should organize public enlightmen programmes with the vision to enlighten the public and create awareness on the truth about nurses and nursing profession at large.
5. Nursing regulatory bodies should stand firm to protect the professional standards/ethics. 
About the Author 
Mohammed Ibn Abdullahi (Also known as BULARAFA) Bnsc, 500level. Mohammed Ibn Abdullahi is also the current NUNSA President University of Maiduguri chapter.


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