An analysis of the impact of authorship on the image of the nurse presented in novels


  • Beatrice J. Kalisch,

    Corresponding author
    1. Mass Media Research Project at the School of Nursing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    • Nursing in the Mass Media Research Project, 609 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
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  • Philip A. Kalisch

    1. Coprincipal investigator of the Image of the Nurse in the Mass Media Research Project.
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Content analysis of 201 novels published from 1843 to 1980 with important nurse characters was used to identify variables associated with nurse, physician, and non-health care provider authorship and the quality of the resultant image of nurses and nursing. Nurse authors were more likely to depict nurses as contributing to patients and other persons, being commended, using autonomous judgment, taking greater satisfaction in their career, exhibiting drive, and being engaged in the performance of nursing care activities. They also portrayed novel nurses as more nurturant, empathic, powerful, and intelligent, and as valuing service to others and scholarliness to a greater extent than other authors. Of all authors, physicians presented the most negative nurse images; they were the least likely to endow nurse characters with positive personality and behavior traits. On the other hand, physicians were the most likely to show nurses valuing and being engaged in sexual activities. The fact that nurse authors, who were more prominent during the first 60 years of this century, have given way to a dominance of physician authors during the past 20 years demands intervention by the nursing profession in encouraging nurses to become more active in this form of artistic popularization of scientific ideas and professional health care roles.