Utilizing the methodology of content analysis, this study investigates the sexrole variables in prime-time television portrayals of nurses and physicians from 1950 to 1980. A 20% sample of 28 relevant series yielded 320 individual episodes, 240 nurse characters, and 287 physicians characters. Results show extreme levels of both sexual and occupational stereotyping. Television nurses are 99% female, and television physicians are 95% male. The cluster of sex and occupational role characteristics, personality attributes, primary values, career orientation, professional competencies, and the tone of nurse-physician relationships converge to yield an image of the female professional nurse as totally dependent on and subservient to male physicians. The development of this dichotomous sex and occupational role imagery has resulted in male television physicians who not only have outstanding medical competencies but also embrace all the attractive competencies of professional nurses. Television nurses largely serve as window dressing on the set and have little opportunity to contribute to patient welfare. Action is needed to improve the quality of nurse portrayals by making them more congruent with the real world of work in health care.
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This study was supported by a research grant from the U.S. Public Health Service, Health Resources Administration (NU 00579).
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Kalisch, P.A., Kalisch, B.J. Sex-role stereotyping of nurses and physicians on prime-time television: A dichotomy of occupational portrayals. Sex Roles 10, 533–553 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287262
- Personality Attribute
- Professional Competency
- Extreme Level
- Professional Nurse
- Career Orientation