Nursing is considered to be one of the three most important professions in the UK, according to a new poll.
The survey of 2,000 people found nursing ranks with being a doctor or firefighter as one of the top three most respected professions.
The research, for the Here for Life campaign being promoted by the chief nursing officers of the UK and Ireland and the RCN Foundation, found that 89% of people admire nurses.
Almost a third (31%) said they would consider becoming one, while a quarter (26%) would think about becoming a midwife.
However, there was a lack of understanding of the range of things nurses do, with only 15% of people associating nurses with making decisions about diagnosis and treatment.
Just 5% knew they were involved in researching new treatments and therapies, only half (53%) knew some nurses can prescribe drugs and over a third (37%) are unaware that nurses lead other teams of professionals.
Three in 10 (29%) people also believed midwives only play a role during labour, even though they provide care and advice to families before, during and after labour.
It comes as a separate survey for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found seven in 10 (70%) people think there are too few nurses to provide safe care to patients.
Professor Jane Cummings, chairwoman of the RCN Foundation, a charity which offers support and research grants, said: “It is extremely heartening to see the huge amount of respect and admiration the UK public has for its nurses and midwives.
“Nursing and midwifery are highly skilled and diverse careers that require a combination of professionalism, commitment, knowledge, competence and compassion.
“This is why it’s very important that the public has a better awareness and understanding about the depth, breadth and diversity of the nursing and midwifery professions.
“Nurses and midwives provide vital care in all settings across the UK. Here for Life will help highlight this, while also empowering nurses and midwives to tell their own stories and feel pride in the huge contribution they make.”
The new campaign will encourage nurses and midwives to share images on social media that sum up who they are and what they do, using the hashtag #HereForLife.
The public will also be encouraged to take part, by posting photos and stories about how nurses and midwives have made a difference to their care.
Professor Charlotte McArdle, deputy chief nursing officer for England, said: “It is fantastic that so many people would consider a career as a nurse or midwife – this important campaign will help people understand more about who our nurses and midwives are in today’s world, and the expertise they bring to our health and social care services across the UK and Ireland.
“Nursing and midwifery are highly skilled careers with hugely varied and fulfilling opportunities and we want everyone to know that our nurses and midwives are both here for you, and here for life.
“If you are interested in joining us in one of these hugely rewarding roles, I’d encourage you to search online for more information.”
In the RCN survey, more than a quarter (28%) of people said they were concerned that they may not get the care they need owing to too few staff on NHS wards.
Thousands of nursing roles lay unfilled across the UK.
Nearly a fifth (19%) said they were most concerned there may not be enough nurses to help with treatment, while 13% were most concerned that care might not be of a safe standard.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “It is on the public’s behalf that we remind politicians everywhere again today that a fully-funded workforce plan is a major step in keeping our health and care settings safe.
“They must begin to take responsibility for the current situation and turning it around.”