Nursing Empowered Leaders: A Study Describing Who We Are and Who We Want To Be

Sunday, 19 March 2017: 10:00 AM

Judi Allyn Godsey, PhD
School of Nursing, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Tom Hayes, PhD
Williams College of Business, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, USA

 Numerous articles have been written describing the disconnect between the perceived image of nursing and the unfavorable, inaccurate, stereotypical representations of nursing commonly fed by the media (Morris, 2007; Cabiniss, 2011; Kelly et al., 2011; Rezaaie-Adaryani et al., 2012). Media representations of nurses have typically included their role as subservient to physicians, angels of mercy, or sex objects (Cunningham, 1999; Mendez & Louis, 1991; Pierce, S., Grodal, K., Smith, L. S., Elia-Tybol, S., Miller, A. & Tallman, C., 2002; Ward, Styles and Bosco, 2003). Researchers have consistently called for the profession of nursing to pursue branding strategies that take charge of the nursing image (Pinkerton, 2002; Parish, 2004; Dominiak, 2004; Baldwin et al., 2010 and Cabiniss, 2011). A common theme in the literature describes an ongoing lack of a consistent brand identity for nursing. (Goodin, 2003; Zarea et al.,2009; Emeghebo, 2006; Cabiniss, 2011 and Rezaie-Adaryani et al., 2012). No published studies could be identified prior to this research which used valid instruments to identify, measure, and describe the current and most desired brand image for the profession of nursing.

 Perceptions of the current versus most desired brand image of the nursing profession were compared in a national sample of Registered Nurses (n=264). Participants were administered electronic surveys consisting of a series of Nursing Brand Image Scales. These scales were developed by the researchers to measure and compare the current versus the desired brand image and brand position of the nursing profession. The “Nursing’s Current Brand Image Scale” (NCBIS) consists of 42 words and phrases describing the nursing profession. It uniquely ranks, and then rates each of the descriptors for the nursing profession. The “Nursing Desired Brand Image Scale” (NDBIS) rates and then ranks the same 42 words and phrases, but from the standpoint of those traits considered most desirable for the nursing profession. Perceptions of current versus desired image were then compared and contrasted. Lastly, the “Nursing Current Brand Position Scale” (NCBPS) consists of 10 brand position statements constructed from the most commonly selected descriptors identified by nurses on the NBIS. Nurse participants were asked to select only one current brand image position statement which they felt “Most Accurately Describes” the nursing profession, followed by the statement which “Least Describes”, and finally, the statement which is “Most Appealing” for the profession of nursing. The internal consistency reliability for each scale was excellent.

The top five "current descriptors" for the nursing profession were: "advocates" (48%), "caring/compassionate" (33%), "critical thinkers" (32%), "patient centered/focused" (25%), and "essential members of the healthcare team" (19%). Descriptors chosen least, or not at all: "powerful/decision-makers", "autonomous", "interprofessional", "researchers", and "health experts" (0-2%). Brand position statements most frequently selected as currently representative of nursing focused on themes of "caring", "patient centeredness", "advocacy" and "holistic care". However, nursing as a "caring profession" decreased significantly (p = 0.00) as a "most desired" brand image, while "nurses as leaders in education, research and practice" increased significantly (p = 0.00) to become a "most desired" brand position statement. Almost three-fourths of nurses responded "no" when asked if nursing has a consistent brand image.

Results of this study demonstrated that significant gaps exist on two levels regarding the brand image of the profession of nursing. Incongruences were found between how nurses perceive their profession currently versus how they would like to be perceived. Interestingly, respondents reported that “nurses themselves” were primarily responsible for managing their own professional brand image.

Numbering more than 3.3 million, Registered Nurses make up the largest group of healthcare professionals in the nation. The authors contend that the large scale, strategic management of a profession’s brand identity is a primary responsibility of the major nursing professional associations at the national level, rather than reliance on individual “nurses themselves”. This study provides further support that the nursing profession needs to manage its brand identity in a more deliberate and consistent manner. This research could inform the design of a more accurate and distinctive set of brand positioning statements which represent nurses as leaders in education, research and practice and essential leaders during an era of healthcare transformation.