n Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery - The portrayal of nursing in South African newspapers : a qualitative content analysis

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1682-5055


The newspaper heading 'Bring back a calling for those who really care' echoed the calls of many articles in South African newspapers from 2005 to 2009. According to one newspaper editor (In search of compassion 2006:9), 'hardly a day passes in which the newspaper does not receive at least one letter from an angry, frustrated and often traumatised reader in which yet another horrendous experience at one of the provincial hospitals is recounted'.

A qualitative content analysis was done to determine how South African newspapers reported issues related to nurses and nursing. A search of the database SA Media of Sabinet was performed for the period 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2009, using the keywords, 'nurse' and 'nursing'. A purposive sample of 161 newspaper articles from national and regional newspapers was analysed using a qualitative, inductive approach.
Images of nurses as caring, compassionate and knowledgeable professionals were present but were overshadowed by negative reporting. Articles that portrayed nurses as overworked, uncaring, lazy, ruthless, incompetent and suffering from burnout appeared regularly during this period. The government has a major role to play in improving public healthcare in South Africa. Steps to address the nursing shortage, lack of resources and poor performance of public hospitals and clinics have to be introduced as a matter of urgency. It is, however, up to the nursing profession to take a critical look at the image of the profession portrayed in the media and to address issues of laziness, ruthlessness, uncaring and general negative attitudes amongst nurses.

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