Celluloid devils: a research study of male nurses in feature films


D. Stanley: e-mail: david.stanley@uwa.edu.au


stanley d. (2012) Celluloid devils: a research study of male nurses in feature films. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(11), 2526–2537


Aim.  To report a study of how male nurses are portrayed in feature films.

Background.  It was hypothesized that male nurses are frequently portrayed negatively or stereotypically in the film media, potentially having a negative impact on male nurse recruitment and the publics’ perception of male nurses.

Design/Methods. An interpretive, qualitative methodology guided by insights into hegemonic masculinity and structured around a set of collective case studies (films) was used to examine the portrayal of male nurses in feature films made in the Western world from 1900 to 2007. Over 36,000 feature film synopses were reviewed (via CINAHL, ProQuest and relevant movie-specific literature) for the keyword ‘nurse’ and ‘nursing’ with an additional search for films from 1900 to 2010 for the word ‘male nurse’. Identified films were labelled as ‘cases’ and analysed collectively to determine key attributes related to men in nursing and explore them for the emergence of concepts and themes related to the image of male nurses in films.

Results/Findings.  A total of 13 relevant cases (feature films) were identified with 12 being made in the USA. Most films portrayed male nurses negatively and in ways opposed to hegemonic masculinity, as effeminate, homosexual, homicidal, corrupt or incompetent. Few film images of male nurses show them in traditional masculine roles or as clinically competent or self-confident professionals.

Conclusion.  Feature films predominantly portray male nurses negatively. Given the popularity of feature films, there may be negative effects on recruitment and on the public’s perception of male nurses.