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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Enough Already! Nurses Are Not Sex Objects

Published March 11, 2010 2:12 PM by Gail Guterl
 Does this sound familiar? A nurse bends over a patient's bed to help turn the patient and feels a hand on her buttock. She startles and whirls around, only to find the patient's son sheepishly removing his hand.

Why should this healthcare provider, one who is there to provide medical care for someone who is very sick, be treated like a sex object? The answer is often attributed to images of scantily clad nurses in short white uniforms and high heels, appearing in print, video and advertising. (Come on now, walk in a nurses' shoes for 1 hour when she's on duty and see how quickly those heels come off!) 

Isn't it about time these stereotypes ended? Of course many of these images are meant to be funny and nurses have a sense of humor like anyone else. But enough is enough.

Over the top is the latest Mariah Carey video, "Up Out My Face," featuring Carey and pop star/rapper Nicki Minaj in skimpy "nurse" outfits with white stockings, garters and high heels.

Seeing the sad irony in this video, Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN, executive director of Baltimore-based The Truth About Nursing, which seeks to increase public understanding of the role of nurses, says: "I'm sure Ms. Carey was inspired by the nursing research that shows how music can improve patient outcomes, and she just wanted to pay tribute to the profession." Summers, coauthor of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Leaves Us All at Risk," knows that's definitely not the reason Carey and Minaj are dressed so provocatively.

It may sound funny, but it really isn't, Summers says. "Research indicates nursing's sexual image does hurt the profession." She cites a 2008 study from Scotland's Dundee University proving TV images of nurses as "brainless, sex mad bimbos" discourage academically advanced primary school students from pursuing nursing.

But the debasing images seem to keep coming. Last season's TV show HawthoRNe portrayed one nurse as quite willing to more-than-fondle her young male patients. So is that what a guy should expect when he is admitted to the hospital? Definitely not, but the repetition makes this issue so hard to combat.

The only thing that will stop this inaccurate and demeaning portrayal is to make your view known. If you don't want to be portrayed as a sex object, speak up. Join the campaign to protest the Carey music video. Go to and scroll down to "Take Action" and send an instant letter to Mariah Carey. We have to start somewhere and Summers has learned persistence does produce positive results in campaigns she has launched against specific inaccurate or exploitative images.  



Nurses are in demand because there are not enough nurses to handle hospital needs. Because of this shortage nurses will sometimes travel to another location to work for a few months in what is called travel nursing.

Vibrators Vibrators, , Nurses are in demand because there are not enough Vibrators May 22, 2019 9:23 PM
New York NY

Some try to go into nursing, but when they get a reality check and see its hard work , they either drop out, or are too dumb and flunk out. I am a rn since '72 and should write a book. If the class work and study don't get you, the State Boards will ///

april, geriatrics - rn, self March 25, 2011 1:52 AM
phila PA

   Most people who discuss nursing as not being cool are not to bright them selves. Nursing is a great occupation and only bright people can pass the nursing boards. They can play at being a nurse,but in reality they could not perform the real tasks of a nurse.

Jessie , Nursing - RN March 31, 2010 7:13 PM
Phila PA

To all  nurses you may not be aware,but male nurses are subject to sexual comments"Men think only with their_____? Men nurses are only good for one thing/a turkey baster we can have the same results? My wife died recently & I was told by other female nurses get over the death/you need a girlfriend I find these comments offensive to all nurses. I am a Nurse 20 yrs/in Nursing for forty years. Why do we have to up with this??? One observation the Backyard Bully went to the Nursing Board Rooms. I no long will tolerate this?? How about you??

Thomas, All fields - LPN, Veterans Home March 31, 2010 10:17 AM
West Chester PA

I've been an RN for 32 years and I've been fighting this same battle since my freshman year in nursing school, when our campus newspaper wrote a "humorous" article about slutty nurses who were only at college for their "MRS." degree.

I'm weary of the battle and don't think things will ever change.

Let Ms. Carey be satisfied with one of her fantasy nurses when she gets sick/is in labor/etc.

Ellie March 30, 2010 6:58 PM

I believe the person who argues that nurses are in fact ugly has missed the point entirely.

The individual who asserts that people should be able to discriminate between "imaginary and the real situation" is ignoring the imperical evidence that these persistent images DO in fact harm the image of the nursing profession and serve to dissuade capable young people from persuing careers in nursing.

The person who concedes that damage might be done but that "change ... does not begin with writing a letter to Mariah Carey...." offers no other solution.

March 15, 2010 1:40 PM

Oh Lord, this is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Who in the world really thinks nurses look like Mariah Carey?? We all have been to a doctor or a hospital at least once in our lives.. Lets face truth, nurses are UGLY, no where near what Mariah or Nikki looks like.

March 12, 2010 5:33 PM

Wow! I've never thought that I've lived in the world that's full of  idoit people who cannot seperate between imaginary and the real situation. Every nurses get their respect from their hospitality and good job, not from some music video or television series. I don't think this world is working like that. People are smarter than what you thought. And YOU should too.

March 12, 2010 4:27 AM

Come on.  It's not like Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj made a documentary about nurses and tried to convince us that this is how they act and what they do.  It's not like they made the video and said "This is for all those nurses out there doing their thing."  It is obviously meant to be a comedic fantasy.  Just listen to the song.  Nobody's going to watch this and think "Wow. Nurses do that all day."

Look, maybe you're right about what that type of image does to the profession, but believe me.  Change in that does not begin with writing a letter to Mariah Carey and some rapper.  

March 12, 2010 1:09 AM

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