My interest in this topic began in 2007 when I reviewed over 36,000 film synopses looking for the words ‘nurse’ or ‘nursing’ to identify feature films that portrayed nurse characters. This led to identifying a wide range of films with nurses and the results were published in 2008 in Journal of Advanced Nursing (Stanley 2008). From this study I identified only 7 films featuring male nurses and I wondered if there were more that I had missed or had been released since my initial review in 2007. Therefore, I reviewed the films again looking for the words ‘male nurse’ in the synopses or for films where characters played the part of a male nurse. Unsurprisingly, I found very few films that offered male nurse characters. In the second review I identified only 13 films made with male nurse characters up to 2011 (Stanley 2012). It was this research that led to the publication under discussion here.
To characterize these 13 films as a percentage of the over 36,000 is a misrepresentation of the data as these 13 films represent all the films I could locate with male nurses in a significant role (I excluded films about male orderlies and medics who might not be defined as ‘nurse’). As such, the research results reflect the content and messages of the 13 films about male nurses and to link the results with the total number of films reviewed is simply a devious manipulation of the data and shows limited insight into research.
Therefore if, as the research suggests, I was able to locate all the films that feature male nurses, I have reviewed 100% of the feature films about men in nursing. Of these, all but one offers an impression of men in nursing in a negative light. Thus, 92·3% of the feature films made about men in nursing show male nursing negatively. This represents an avalanche of negative imagery about men in nursing in feature films. Therefore, the dominant message the viewing public gets is a negative one and, more worryingly, it is the message that film makers are aiming to send. The research was not about the public's view of men in nursing, but how feature film producers/makers portray male nurses in feature films.
The second point offered by my protagonist is that the public are not influenced by the media. A point contradicted by the comment, ‘There is no question that the media can have an impact on health care’. My view is that that public are influenced by the media, in all its forms and it was this reality that led to my interest in how male nurses are portrayed in feature films.
The ‘Focker’ films were very popular and financially successful and were seen by millions of teenage boys. Ask a teenage boy if he knows who Shipman or Allitt are and I'll bet they have no clue, but I am sure they will know who Greg Focker is. This is the power of film media. The message of the ‘Focker’ films is that to be a male nurse is weak and inappropriate. There will be many young impressionable boys who see these films and form the view that nursing would not be a wise choice of career. This is a bad thing and my research indicates that, with few exceptions, most of what is offered as feature film entertainment that portrays male nurses is, likewise, very negative. The viewing public can chose to disregard it, ignore it, or may have personal experience that contradicts it, but the point of the research is that the feature film industry (mainly from the USA) is responsible for producing films that offer a very poor impression of men in nursing.
It may be no surprise that in the USA and Canada they have quite low numbers of men in nursing (7·1% in USA and 6·2% in Canada). From a UK perspective, a recent article in the Daily Mail suggested that the increase in men in nursing in the UK (up to 10·2%) can be partially attributed to a positive male nurse character in the UK TV programme Casualty; therefore, if one TV show can have an impact so can a mass of feature films. There is no doubt that the images offered by the media are taken up by the public and that the media do have an impact on people's perspectives and views: this is why advertising works so well.
I am a passionate advocate for the best things men bring to nursing. I also believe we should be advocating for more men to enter nursing, but the media's influence on male nurse recruitment cannot be ignored and should be acknowledged. This was the point of the research. The research led to the production of a DVD to promote the image of men in nursing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kORSrMhsEzk&feature=youtu.be) and to develop a more positive image of men in nursing. The publication of the paper should make others aware of how important it is that male nurses take more responsibility for how they are portrayed in the media. I agree there is no place for outdated prejudice, but film makers do not seem to get this. My article highlights the danger which the image of men in nursing is in if the feature film industry is able to continue its negative representations. The question is: how do we, as a profession, address this? Recognizing the proliferation of negative feature film images of men in nursing is really only a starting point to addressing the need to change how the public are being shown what men in nursing can offer.