Purpose: To outline the importance of identifying where nursing is heading as a profession and explore the metaphors it uses to explain its role to society. Current images of nursing are confused. Nurses should articulateb clearly why nursing should be retained as a social force for improving health and meeting the needs of vulnerable people.
Scope: The historical development of nursing considering the metaphors used.
Conclusions: Because of contemporary pressures on nursing, the metaphors used are inconsistent and require interpretation. Nurses should find new metaphors and resolve comlex internal tensions. Unless nursing can articulate its primary function more cogently, it risks extinction.