Reputation management involves more than just image, identity and brand management. There is a definitive link between stakeholders within an organisation and its reputation, since those stakeholders can make or break the reputation of any organisation in any industry in all corners of the globe. The goal of this study is to analyse the reputation of the nursing profession by applying Davies, Chun, Da Silva and Roper's (2003) corporate reputation chain (CRC) model. The study concentrated on the motive for students wanting to enter the nursing profession within the public health sector in the Western Cape region in South Africa, the context of the nursing profession and its (negative) reputation, as defined by Chun et al. (2003), as well as the recruitment and retention of nurses. South Africa has unveiled plans for new clinics and hospitals across the country to meet the health needs of all citizens who use public health facilities. These hospitals and clinics need to be fully staffed. However, great care needs to be taken in selecting staff to work at these facilities. That selection process should begin by scrutinising the type of person who enters the profession. A qualitative exploratory design was adopted in this study, which used an electronic (closed and open-ended) survey with 27 statements/questions. The sample population for the survey consisted of 249 fourth-year students enrolled in the R425 Diploma in Nursing programme at the Western Cape College of Nursing. The objectives of the study were met, in that it succeeded in determining the motivation for students choosing nursing. The results showed that, although most of the respondents were positive about the profession, a significant proportion of them would have preferred other careers. There was also a definite disparity between students' perception of how the public views nurses and their own personal views of the profession. The research findings created the basis for the Nursing Reputation Management Framework and recommendations that may be applied in practice and have a positive impact on the nursing profession's reputation as well as the recruitment and retention of nurses in South Africa. Changing the negative reputation of nursing should rest in the hands of the profession itself. Nurses can therefore use these findings to rebrand themselves in a meaningful way that will have positive outcomes for their patients. Nurses need to change their own image and identity in order to change the negative perceptions/images of others, in particular that of the media and patients.