The image of you: constructing nursing identities in YouTube


  • Jacinta Kelly,

    1. Jacinta Kelly MSc RGN HDip
      Doctoral Student School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, The University of Manchester, UK
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  • Gerard M. Fealy,

    1. Gerard M. Fealy PhD RGN Med Associate Professor/Associate Dean Research & Innovation, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems, Health Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Ireland
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  • Roger Watson

    1. Roger Watson BSc PhD RN Professor of Nursing School of Nursing and Midwifery, Northern General Hospital, The University of Sheffield, UK
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G.M. Fealy: e-mail:


kelly j., fealy g.m. & watson r. (2011) The image of you: constructing nursing identities in YouTube. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(6), 1804–1813.


Aim.  This article is a report on a descriptive study of nursing identity as constructed in the Web 2.0 site YouTube.

Background.  Public images of the nurse carry stereotypes that rely on the taken for granted gender category of the nurse as woman. Nursing images represent a form of public discourse that has the capacity to construct nursing identity.

Methods.  Critical discourse analysis was used to describe, analyse and explain how nurse and nursing identity were constructed in a purposive sample of ten video clips accessed on 17 and 18 July 2010.

Results.  The ten most-viewed videos depicting the nurse and nursing on YouTube offered narratives that constructed three distinct nursing identity types, namely nurse as ‘a skilled knower and doer’, nurse as ‘a sexual plaything’ and nurse as ‘a witless incompetent’ individual.

Conclusion.  Nursing identities recoverable from the texts of YouTube images propagate both favourable and derogatory nursing stereotypes. To mitigate the effects of unfavourable nursing stereotypes in such areas as interprofessional working and clinical decision-making, nursing professional bodies need to act to protect the profession from unduly immoderate representations of the nurse and to support nurses in their efforts to maximize opportunities afforded by YouTube to promote a counter discourse.