The aim of the study was to describe the South African public's perceptions of the image of nurses. A quantitative descriptive study was conducted and 776 respondents from different backgrounds completed questionnaires comprising 19 statements about nurses and nursing. Most respondents viewed nurses as extremely hardworking (80.0%; n=621) and caring and understanding (78.2%; n=607). Notwithstanding the positive comments about nurses, only 43.6% (n=338) of the respondents indicated that they would want their children to become nurses. Contrary to the negative image portrayed by the media of nursing in South Africa, this study revealed a generally positive public response to nursing and nurses in South Africa. However, nursing was not viewed as a career choice and the public did not seem to understand the complexities of a nursing career. The findings of this study could be used as a baseline for further studies on recruiting prospective student nurses.