The purpose of the research study was to describe the general South African public’s perception of the image of nurses. The general public’s perception of nurses in South Africa and globally is seen as one of the main reasons for the current shortage of nurses, as the profession is generally portrayed extremely negatively in the open press. The picture painted reveals long working hours, poor pay and negligence resulting from poor performance and support as the essence of the nursing profession. The public is bombarded with images of nurses’ strikes and poor patient outcomes. Positive feedback is rare and seldom contributes to changing public perceptions of nurses. Studies on the public perceptions of nurses have been carried out in various countries, but published studies on the South African situation could not be found. This study aimed to determine and describe the general South African public’s perception of nurses and the results will be used to make recommendations that could improve the image of nurses and encourage more respect for the profession as a whole. A quantitative non-experimental and descriptive design was used to gain more information about the South African public’s perception of the image of nurses. A questionnaire was used to gather the data, which consist of biographical data and responses to 19 statements regarding nurses and the profession. The objectives of the study were formulated from the research question as follows: 1) to determine the general public’s perception of nurses; and 2) to formulate recommendations, based on the research results, for enhancing nurses’ public image. The population of the research comprised the 1 000 respondents to whom the questionnaires were distributed. Of these, 776 questionnaires were returned. The questionnaires were distributed in five provinces of South Africa, namely Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Accordingly, the objectives of the research were achieved, as the general South African public’s perception of the image of nurses was determined and described. In addition, recommendations for improving the current image of nurses were made. The findings of this study were predominantly positive and shed some light on the reasons for the current declining numbers of new registrations at the South African Nursing Council. The respondents, however, indicated that only 43.6% want their children to become nurses and that nursing is still viewed as a predominantly female profession. The public viewed nurses as extremely hardworking (80.03%), caring and understanding (78.2%) and supported the statement that “nurses treat their work as a profession in its own right, not secondary to a doctor’s” (73,8%). In view of the findings, the recommendations included the importance of improving the image of nurses among school children and improving recruitment strategies. It is also recommended that nurses in the profession should be made aware of the important role they play in changing their image and in re-branding the profession as a knowledge-based career for all genders and age groups. Consequently, this should be emphasised in training programmes and should be the focus of future South African campaigns.
Dissertation (MCur)--University of Pretoria, 2011.