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Nursing in the 21st century: results of a pilot survey on attitudes towards nurses and nursing

24 February 2022
15 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 4


Nursing is one of the most trusted professions, yet it is poorly defined. There are many definitions and characterisations of nursing. This study sought to pilot a survey exploring the views of nursing in the 21st century. Methods: This study piloted an electronic survey with open and closed questions. Descriptive statistics were collated for closed questions using Excel. Open-ended questions were analysed using the text analysis program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) for tone, emotion and criticality. Results: This pilot study recruited 72 participants from professional and non-professional backgrounds. Respondents displayed diversity in their perceptions of nursing, the role of nurses and the role that nurses perform. Conclusion: Nursing is a complex, multifaceted profession. The view of nursing was generally positive and authentic although not easy to define. Nursing was felt to be an inclusive profession; however, it is extremely diverse in nature. Further research is required to explore these concepts in greater depth.

Nursing continues to be one of the most trusted professions (Stone, 2019). In 2020, the nursing profession celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and the 100th anniversary of the Nurses Registration Act 1919, legislation bringing regulation and recognition for nurses. These milestones prompted the authors to explore perceptions of nursing in the 21st century. In 2021 there were almost 745 000 registered nurses, nursing associates and midwives in England and Wales (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2021). Nursing is complex and multifaceted; nurses work across all fields—at home, close to home and in hospital (Health Education England, 2017).‘Registered nurse’ is a legally protected title in the UK, yet there is still no clear definition. In addition, the term ‘nurse’ is not a protected title but whether this should be regulated is a contemporary topic of discussion. There is an ongoing debate regarding whether the title ‘nurse’ should also be protected in law. For example, registered nurses who are removed from the NMC register are still legally entitled to call themselves a ‘nurse’, regardless of the reason for their removal (Mitchell, 2021).

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