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Keywords:

  • nurse;
  • nursing;
  • nursing image;
  • organizational behaviour of nurses;
  • person–environment fit;
  • professional development

Aim.  This paper reports a study comparing nurses’ perceptions of their public image with their self-image, and examining how the relationship between their perceived public image and self-image was associated with their job performance and turnover intentions.

Background.  The stereotypical public image of nursing is a major concern to nurses. However, it is relatively unknown how this image affects nurses. A few studies have investigated how nurses’ interpretations of their public image affect their self-image and work behaviour.

Methods.  A convenience sample of 346 Australian nurses participated in a questionnaire study in 2003. The results were analysed by t-test, polynomial regression and response surface analysis. Six participants from the survey participated in a focus group to provide further interpretation of the findings.

Results.  Nurses rated their aptitude for leadership more positively than they thought the public viewed them. In contrast, nurses rated their image as being caring less negatively than their perceived public image. Job performance was predicted by self-image relating to leadership aptitude. On the contrary, the relationship between self-image and perception of the public image as being caring predicted job performance. When nurses perceived their public image as caring less positively than their self-image, their job performance tended to improve. As for turnover intention, both self-image and perceived public images of having an aptitude for leadership and being caring were negatively related to intention to quit the job.

Conclusion.  To enhance nurses’ job performance and reduce their turnover intentions, it is important to improve both the public image and self-image of nurses.