Headlines: January 7th, 2004

Only 15 per cent of 15 to 24 year olds would consider becoming a nurse and almost one in five people think that nurses have no formal qualifications, according to a MORI poll published by ‘Nursing Standard’ today to launch a campaign designed to enhance the reputation of the profession.Over half of the more than 2,000 people questioned in the poll were unaware that nurses are answerable to a governing body. At the same time the number of people who think today’s nurses are well educated has dropped to 42 per cent – down by ten points since 1999.

Launching its ‘Nursing the Future’ campaign, “Nursing Standard” says in an editorial that it hopes it will be the start of a widely embraced move to change perceptions about nursing. Questioning why there is such a mismatch between the view that nursing is a highly valued profession and the reluctance of young people to take it up, “Nursing Standard” says, “Could it be that a mainly female profession is still seen as menial?”

The poll shows that Florence Nightingale is still Britain’s most high-profile nurse more than 90 years after her death. She was named by three quarters of those surveyed. She was followed by Edith Cavell, with the First World War heroine being named by 15 per cent of people. Third place went to a fictional character – the matron played by Hattie Jacques in Carry On films.

On the positive side the poll found that 81 per cent of people believe nurses are caring and understanding and almost as many think of them as extremely hard working. Twelve per cent of people still believe nurses are better at their job if they are female, down from more than a third compared with 19 years ago. Just 5 per cent of those questioned associate nurses with having sexual appeal- half the 1984 figure.