nursing stereotypes and myths

6 Stereotypes and Myths About Nursing [and the Sincere Truth!]

There have long-been misconceptions and myths about nursing, and with strict patient privacy laws, the public can never have complete transparency regarding all the responsibilities of a registered nurse (RN).

Consequently, from plagues to pandemics, nursing stereotypes have slowly contributed to several typecasts of the nursing occupation. Moreover, with countless portrayals of nurses seen in movies and television, stereotypes about nurses are further fueled by entertainment — and the depictions are not always exact replications of real-world nursing careers.

In 2022, the National Library of Medicine reviewed 27 studies on nursing stereotypes. The analysis of studies concluded that most people surveyed consider nursing to be a women’s profession. Most also believed that nursing had low-skill requirements, little academic training, low social prestige, and little pay. Nursing is also predominantly perceived as a subordinate to the medical profession, lacking independence in daily tasks and duties.

Yet, despite such misconceptions, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported the vocation as the nation’s most prominent healthcare career, with nearly 4.2 million registered nurses employed worldwide. Further, U.S. News reports that registered nursing is among the top 10, best health care jobs in the nation—with career satisfaction being a big component of that rank. These statistics prove that there are various advantages to consider about the nursing profession, and it’s time to set the stereotypes to rest.

Read on to determine which nursing stereotypes are fact and which are fiction.

1. Nursing is “Women’s Work.”

Myth! While nursing has historically been a women-dominated field, the gap between female and male nurses entering the workforce is lessening — slowly but surely. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing confirmed this theory, with data highlighting an increasing number of male RNs in recent years. Specifically, men made up 6.6% of RNs in 2013, 8% in 2015, 9.1% of registered nurses in 2017, and 9.4% in 2020.

2. Nursing is “Dirty Work.”

Myth! Contrary to popular belief, nurses are not solely responsible for healthcare “grunt work.” Although registered nurses occasionally encounter waste, they do not clean patient excrement daily. Rather, registered nurses can typically be found evaluating patients, coordinating care plans, providing life-saving treatments, operating medical equipment, maintaining medical records, and performing diagnostic tests. All of these tasks require complex, highly skilled training in the nursing field.

For this reason, aspiring nurses require at least an associate degree in Nursing (ADN), where they study a comprehensive curriculum covering Anatomy and Physiology, Nursing Skill Development, The Adults and Wellness Continuum, and more.

Upon graduation, nursing graduates are prepared to provide culturally appropriate patient care and ethical, legal, and regulatory frameworks in the nursing field. They are also prepared to pursue professional licensure as a registered nurse (RN). This is done through the nationally recognized NCLEX-RN examination.

If learners seek to continue their education after earning their associate degree and nursing licensure, there are even further academic pathways for advancement, such as an RN-to-BSN program or an RN-to-MSN bridge program.

3. Nurses Need to Fit a Particular Personality Type.

Myth! It’s rumored that nurses must fit into specific personality traits to succeed in their field. However, nurses don’t need to appreciate blood and gore, or be extroverts, to be good at their jobs. While it’s true that certain skills can make a great patient care nurse, the reality is that registered nurses can hold various career titles beyond beside care— from case managers to consultants and more.

Think you have what it takes to provide compassionate, patient-centered care?


Download our on-demand virtual information session and learn everything there is to know about becoming an RN at Goodwin University!


4. Nurses are at the Mercy of the Medical Doctor (M.D.)

Myth! Registered nurses are not doctors’ secretaries or physician assistants; they are integral to a holistic healthcare team providing quality patient care. Registered nurses typically work independently and are tasked with patient advocacy and education, assessing, monitoring patient conditions, and alerting applicable care teams of significant changes, outcomes, and solutions. With a broad scope of responsibilities, nurses may also participate in surgeries, perform research, and publish articles in medical journals.

5. Nurses Never Work Outside of Hospitals.

Myth! In 2021, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 60% of registered nurses worked in hospitals. Ambulatory healthcare services employed 18% of registered nurses, 6% of RNs worked in residential care facilities, another 6% in government positions. About 3% of RNs worked in local, private, and state educational services. Fortunately, nursing offers various specialties and settings, including businesses, clinics, universities, secondary schools, patient homes, and more.

6. Nurses Don’t Make Decent Money.

Myth! Today, registered nurses are in demand, and the job outlook for the occupation is rather optimistic. The profession is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, with 203,200 job openings expected each year on average over the decade.

Among the highest paying for large occupations, registered nurses made a median annual wage of $77,600 in 2021, according to the Department of Labor. The same year, registered nurses residing in Connecticut made a yearly average of $88,530.

Additionally, if a registered nurse is interested in obtaining a bachelor’s degree (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, or wants to become a nurse practitioner, the future of nursing mobility is feasible! And there is increased pay potential when advancing your education.

Goodwin University offers advanced-practice registered nursing (APRN) programs like the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) tracks.

Attaining a graduate degree comes with the significant advantage of salary potential. In 2021, the Department of Labor listed nurse practitioners as making a national median salary of $120,680 annually. Registered nursing is the first step towards this path.

Combatting the Nursing Career Stereotype

Stereotypes are harmful to the success of the healthcare system. Pigeon-holing nurses can also negatively affect patient care, creating unnecessary stress and tension, interrupting medical team communication, and ultimately delaying the effectiveness of patient outcomes.

Raising awareness of the occupation as a scientific discipline is essential to reducing nursing stereotypes. Audiences must also be mindful of inaccurate nursing portrayals in the media and actively participate in healthcare legislation and policies.

In turn, nurses can help overcome such falsities by:

  • Assessing and abolishing any of their own biases
  • Building relationships with patients
  • Creating a safe setting for patients to be themselves
  • Positively interacting with others in their community, and
  • Supporting inclusivity by educating and encouraging those actively disabling their biases

Are you ready to start studying for a career as a registered nurse? Learn more about the path to becoming a nursing professional today!