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News on Nursing in the Media


Enoch PrattThe Enoch Pratt Free Library's Writers Live! presents
Sandy and Harry Summers - authors of

Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Enoch Pratt Central Library, Poe Room
400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

Join us to celebrate the Oxford University Press release of the updated second edition of the award-winning book  Saving Lives! Sandy and Harry Summers will discuss their book as well as their work to improve public understanding of nursing with the Baltimore-based international non-profit The Truth About Nursing. See the flyer and hang at work or school, or distrubute through social media!


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Clicking and clacking

Mindy Project petitionMay 2013 -- By the end of its first season, Mindy Kaling's Fox sitcom The Mindy Project had three recurring nurse characters, giving it almost as many as Showtime's Nurse Jackie had at that time. But that's pretty much where the similarity in nursing portrayals ends. Nurse Jackie's lineup is led by Jackie Peyton, arguably the toughest, most expert major nurse character in U.S. television history, along with her quirky but impressive protégée Zoey Barkow. On Mindy, set at a New York ob-gyn practice, the main nurse character is Morgan Tookers, a good-hearted but demented ex-convict who drives some of the show's more ridiculous plotlines and delivers unintentionally self-mocking lines like "I am not paying $10 to check this $5 coat." There is also Beverly, an older nurse who was initially so hostile, inept, and unhinged that the practice fired her; she reacted by breaking lead character Mindy Lahiri's nose. Still, after Beverly threatened to sue for age discrimination, she was re-hired as an administrative assistant, a job at which she has proved equally incompetent. In one episode, she queries: "Is it offensive to say that I only trust an older white man to give me the news?" And late in the season the show introduced Tamra, a nurse with little evident motivation who initially functioned as an office insult comic reminiscent of Perry Cox from Scrubs, except without Cox's expertise or authority. It's true that the show is irreverent toward the physician characters in romantic and personal matters--they have their foibles and they can act foolishly. But the physicians also display health expertise, and the show does not question their medical competence. Meanwhile, the nurses are peripheral misfits who help advance plots and offer comic diversions but show little if any health knowledge. The Mindy Project feeds the stereotypes that nurses are unskilled dimwits and physician lackeys. The show's executive producers were Mindy Kaling, Michael Spiller, Howard Klein, Matt Warburton, B.J. Novak, and Charles McDougall. see the full analysis... or go straight to our petition!


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"You're the surgeon, hon -- you tell us!"

Grey's AnatomyMay 16, 2013 -- Tonight's season finale of ABC's Grey's Anatomy capped another season of the all-surgeons-all-the-time drama, which has become of one of the most popular hospital shows in U.S. television history. The show has also been one of the most damaging to nursing, and this ninth season was no exception. As usual, clinical plotlines wrongly told viewers that surgeons do virtually everything that matters in the hospital, including all the skilled monitoring, critical interventions, patient education, and patient advocacy--things that nurses do in real life. A December 2012 episode did briefly feature an apparently knowledgeable nurse cajoling a nervous surgical intern into managing an infant patient in crisis. The scene suggested the nurse was training the surgeon to assume command, like a drill sergeant, but that nurses cannot act without physician direction. In the end, the nurse came off as an anonymous testing device for the surgeon, whose experience dominated the scene. A March 2013 episode included a fleeting suggestion that nurses were actually required for the hospital to do surgeries! But the rest of the season included apparently nurse-free surgeries. And the show otherwise presented nurses as obsequious servants, doing mundane physical tasks and absorbing commands with a standard "yes, doctor!" or without comment. In tonight's season finale, a major storm threatened the hospital, in a plotline seemingly based on what happened at NYU Langone Medical Center during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In real life, NYU nurses transported critical NICU patients to safety. But here, Grey's surgeons appeared to staff the NICU pretty much by themselves, ventilating the babies and providing emotional support to distressed parents. And late in the episode, the show offered a classic Grey's insult. Attending surgeon Miranda Bailey, too upset by a bad patient outcome to perform surgery, is seen ferrying blood to the OR. Surgeon Richard Webber, not recognizing Bailey at first, says "Thank you, nurse," then, seeing his mistake, apologizes. This underlines just how far Bailey has fallen, that she could be mistaken for a nurse. Soon Bailey is operating again, and the responsibility for carrying objects from point A to point B is back where it belongs. more...


Manly yes

nurse holding babyMarch 8, 2014 -- In recent months press sources around the world have run helpful pieces about men in nursing. These reports typically note that the percentage of men in nursing is still no more than 10%, but that it is slowly increasing as stereotypes start to fade due to the Truth's work (just kidding). The articles generally focus on at least one man in nursing, from students to senior ward managers, describing the man's path into the profession and giving some sense of what he does at work. On July 10, 2013, USA Today ran a piece from The Tennessean by Lexy Gross. The article provided basic information about the growing number of men in U.S. nursing--from about 2.7% of nurses in 1970 to about 9.6% in 2011, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report--with background from nursing experts. The piece also profiled a Tennessee nurse who considers it a "manly job" because of the fortitude it requires. On September 27, 2013, the Guardian (UK) ran an installment of its "Day in the life of..." series of health care profiles written by "student nurse" Alex Collyer, a combat medical technician studying nursing at the University of Southampton. We're not fans of the term "student nurse," which suggests that students are already nurses, but Collyer's piece was an engaging account of the rigors of his education, especially the clinical component. On October 9, 2013, the Los Angeles Times ran Ari Bloomekatz's long, powerful profile of David Fuentes, a recent UCLA nursing graduate who overcame a tough background to achieve his dream of becoming a nurse. That piece described some specific things Fuentes does for patients. It also included good quotes from UCLA nursing dean Courtney Lyder, who addressed the stereotypes that remain. And today, the Western Australian published a shorter piece by Connie Clarke that profiled veteran nurse Ian Suttie, a ward manager at Royal Perth Hospital who started out as a London musician. That article also included very good commentary on men in nursing from the Western Australian Health Department's acting chief nurse and midwifery officer Brett Evans. On the whole, these pieces give the public an accurate vision of a future with more men in nursing, while acknowledging the slow pace of progress and the social barriers that remain. We thank those responsible. more...


Inspiration information

Ronnie Dornan, Clinical Nurse Specialist at NHS Borders SPSP Fellow, GalashielsDecember 31, 2013 -- Today The Southern Reporter (Selkirk, Scotland) ran a short report about the "pioneering" work of nurses at Borders General Hospital who developed a successful program to promote early recognition of at-risk patients. The piece says that the nurses' work sparked national debate in Denmark after it was described on a prominent television news program there. The TV report was a result of interest by Danish consultant anesthetist Jens Stubager Knudsen, who visited Borders General to learn about the work of "specialist nurse Ronnie Dornan (right), who set up the hospital's bespoke Critical Care Outreach service in 2000." The Southern Reporter item could certainly have used some detail about how the outreach program actually works. And the piece subtly reflects the continuing disparity in the perception of nurses and physicians by referring to the Danish physician as "Dr Stubager" but the Scottish nurse as "Ronnie." Still, Dornan himself refers to the physician as "Jens" in noting that the visitors were impressed with the work at Borders General. And Dornan offers a strong one-sentence summary of their success: "As well as having one of the lowest mortality rates in Scotland, the critical-care unit at the BGH [Borders General Hospital] has one of the lowest out-of-hours admissions, length of stay, need for ventilation and need for renal replacement therapy in Scotland." That kind of description of how nursing innovation improves patient outcomes is very helpful. We thank everyone responsible for this report. more...


Q: Get a sense of humor! How could jokes possibly affect the way people think about nursing?

just jokingA: Jokes do affect how we see the world. And few people would accept "just joking" as an excuse for stereotyping of other disempowered groups. Even humor and fantasy images affect people. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Granada (Spain), published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2010, found that men who had listened to a series of "sexist jokes" later displayed more tolerance for violence against women than those who had not listened to the jokes. more...


You can do it another day

Health Wagon AppalachiaApril 6, 2014 -- Tonight a segment on CBS's long-running news show 60 Minutes offered a very good portrait of two nurse practitioners (NPs) who provide vital health care to still-uninsured residents of rural western Virginia from an old Winnebago called "The Health Wagon." Correspondent Scott Pelley explains that many residents of that poverty-stricken part of Appalachia, along with nearly 5 million others nationwide, have fallen between the cracks because they do not earn enough to afford coverage under the Obamacare health exchanges, but they live in one of the 24 states that has refused to expand Medicaid coverage despite federal subsidies. The report focuses mostly on the plight of the poor and uninsured--many of whom work full time--whose lives are at risk because they lack access to care. But the piece also conveys that NPs Teresa Gardner and Paula Meade are skilled and autonomous professionals, showing them examining, counseling, cajoling, and laughing with patients. Pelley notes that "with advanced degrees in nursing, Gardner and Meade are allowed to diagnose illnesses, write prescriptions, order tests and X-rays." And there is no real suggestion that they report to physicians, although the report also briefly profiles the "volunteer medical director" Joe Smitty, who drives a tractor-trailer X-ray lab around. The piece does emphasize how challenging the NPs' work is, particularly in view of the shortage of funds that means the nurses must wrestle with the battered RV (which breaks down at one point) and that they must work into the night writing grant proposals, while worrying about their own futures. One third of the Health Wagon's funds come from federal grants, and the rest are from private donations. But the report avoids the angel image. Toward the end, when Pelley asks if the nurses sometimes feel they can't do it anymore, Meade says yes, but it's the patients' gratitude and reliance on them that reminds them that they have "a purpose." And then, as Gardner adds, "you can do it another day." The report was produced by Henry Schuster and Rachael Kun Morehouse, and we thank all of those responsible. more...


Picking battles

Monday Mornings cast April 2013 -- From February to April 2013, TNT broadcast the first and only season of its drama Monday Mornings, which portrayed surgeons at a Portland (Oregon) hospital and in particular the tense "morbidity and mortality" conferences at which they examined their errors. The cable series was created by noted television producer David E. Kelley (responsible for the CBS surgeon show Chicago Hope (1994-2000)) and by surgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. The new series was based on Gupta's 2012 novel of the same name. All eight major characters on Monday Mornings were surgeons, and the series glorified their work, even with the focus on errors and the portrayal of a few characters as insensitive, arrogant, or even abusive. The show really cared only about what the surgeons were doing, and only they interacted with patients and families. Nurse characters were unusually scarce. In many scenes, they were not even vague shapes in the background, as you might see on Grey's Anatomy. When nurses did appear, they were anonymous helpers, and it was rare to see their faces, though there was the occasional sound of vital signs being reported. One of the few scenes in which a nurse did briefly assert herself came in the series finale, when a crusty ICU nurse tried to limit the number of the surgeons who could see a sick surgeon colleague. The chief of trauma surgery dismissed the nurse's concerns, reminding her to pick her "battles"--a well-chosen word because she was indeed a "battle"-axe, an unpleasant bureaucrat enforcing hospital rules the show presented as trivial. On the whole, Monday Mornings followed the traditional Hollywood hospital show model in which physicians are the heroes who do everything that matters and nurses are, at most, peripheral subordinates. more...


If you have the autonomy

home care nurse and farmerAugust 7, 2013 -- U.K. press reports on recent developments in health care systems have highlighted the autonomous contributions nurses are making to patient care. On May 27, the BBC News website posted a piece by Adam Brimelow describing the community nursing model employed by the rapidly growing Dutch home care firm Buurtzorg, founded and run by nurse Jos de Bloc. The article explains that the non-profit firm's "district nurses," who now number about 6,500, work in teams of 10 per neighborhood to provide comprehensive and cost-effective home care, doing everything from coordinating medications to washing and dressing patients. A weekly health advice radio show complements their work, which the nurses see as important community building. And today, the Stoke Sentinel (U.K.) reported that University Hospital, Staffordshire's largest, has launched a program in which senior nurses are allowed to discharge patients. Dave Blackhurst's piece explains that the new system allows patients to be discharged when they are ready, rather than having to wait for physicians to sign off. That system is reportedly making patients happier and reducing delays in making beds available to new patients from the accident and emergency (A&E) department. The report indicates that the nurses are well-qualified to assume this new work, in part because they are so familiar with the patients. Both articles quote nurses extensively on the merits of the projects. And taken together, the pieces suggest that despite the challenges of our cost-cutting era, nurses can still improve health care by using their skills in new (or old) ways. We thank those responsible for these reports. more...


We crave a different kind of buzz

posterMay 8, 2014 -- The American Nurse is a fine feature-length documentary about five nurses from director Carolyn Jones's 2012 book of portraits with the same name. The nurses, three women and two men, work in varied settings: a home health nurse in Appalachia, a prison nurse in Louisiana, a nun at a nursing home in Wisconsin, a military nurse working with veterans in San Diego, and a labor and delivery nurse at Johns Hopkins. The movie consists mainly of commentary from the nurses and footage of them in clinical interactions, particularly end-of-life care. It has a quiet, restrained power, reflecting the evident strength and dignity of the nurses and the moral gravity of their work. Without fanfare, Jones reveals that nurses today do far more for patients than would be expected under the traditional conception of nurses as smiley hand-holders. And the film is extraordinarily good at conveying nursing autonomy, without saying anything about it directly. These nurses come off as strong, committed people who are thinking holistically and making their own decisions; there is no suggestion here that nursing is about following physician orders. The nurses are articulate in describing how they got into the profession, what they do for patients in a basic sense, and what it takes to keep doing it. And the film highlights their psychosocial care, while avoiding the angel stereotype. Sadly, there is far less to show that the nurses have advanced physiological skills and virtually nothing about their nursing educations, although the film does reveal that at least some of the nurses were academically adrift in high school. And despite the diversity of care settings, the film's focus is a bit narrow for one called The American Nurse. These are all direct care nurses. There are no advanced practice nurses, nurse managers, or union activists, and there is little or nothing about nursing research, innovation, or policy leadership, the profession's history or care model, or its recent challenges. It's a collection of personal stories, and no one says much about "nursing." Still, the film is an engaging, affecting look at how modern nurses can improve lives. more...


Lab Rats experiment a success!

Lab Rats castFebruary 11, 2014 -- After many Truth supporters signed our petition about the attack on nurse practitioners (NPs) on Disney XD's Lab Rats, and our good friends at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) added their voices, Disney apologized and edited the episode to remove the attack on NPs. In a 2013 episode of the tween series about a trio of bionic teens who live with their inventor father, the father mocked his brother by noting that he had turned into "Dr. Evil...or should I say Nurse Practitioner Evil, since you flunked out of med school!" Of course that's absurd. But the underlying assumption that NPs are wannabe physicians is not uncommon, despite all the research showing that NPs provide care that is at least as good as physician care. In any case, in recent letters to AANP and the Truth, Disney apologized and stated that it had removed the NP reference for all future airings of the episode. The company also said that it had shared our concerns with its programming team "in order to raise awareness about portrayals of the nursing profession." We thank Disney for taking these positive steps, and we have closed our petition. But in our response to Disney we renewed our request that the company make amends, perhaps by having an NP character appear as an expert clinician on a future episode of Lab Rats. We thank AANP and the more than 1,500 Truth supporters who signed our petition! more...


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Nurse 0D: Nurse 3D finally released

Nurse 3D posterJanuary 27, 2014 -- On February 7, Lionsgate will finally release Nurse 3D, an erotic thriller about a vengeful nurse who uses her sexuality to target "dishonest" men for "severe" punishment. We expressed concern about the film when production began in 2011 and were hoping it would never see wide release, but now the film's site states that it will be in AMC theaters in some major U.S. markets and on demand just in time for Valentine's Day 2014. Despite suggestions by Lionsgate executives that the film's theme is novel and original, it is really just a variation on the classic naughty nurse stereotype that has become well-established in other horror films and ads, such as the posters used to promote the 2006 release of Lionsgate's own Saw III--posters on which Nurse 3D seems to be based. Such imagery, which we call the "naughty-axe," unites the profession's naughty and battle-axe images in one unsavory package of sex and violence. So it suggests that nursing is all about mindless feminine extremes, rather than life-saving work for skilled professionals of both genders. We always hesitate to criticize media when we have only seen the trailer, but these two and a half minutes make it pretty clear that the main character is a sadistic, sexually aggressive killer with severe psychological issues (new tag line: "your pain is her pleasure"). Sign the Petition!It's hard to see how a film with that basic outline could avoid reinforcing these enduring nursing stereotypes. Please join us in urging those involved in the release of Nurse 3D, including the prominent theater chain AMC, to pull the film from theatrical and on demand release and to make amends for the damage the film will likely cause. Click here to go straight to our letter-writing campaign! (Put your comments to the filmmakers in the "Why is this important to you" box.) Thank you!


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Problems with Nursing

December 4, 2013 - Tonight's episode of the popular ABC sitcom Modern Family revealed that Dylan, the sometime boyfriend of character Haley Dunphy, was attending nursing school. That's great, right? Sweet, attractive Dylan, a straight guy who won't reinforce the stereotype that men in nursing are all gay! Except, umm...Dylan is clueless. Modern Family castActually, he's always been more or less an idiot, and a good match for the superficial Haley. Dylan's reveal about nursing school came at a football game where he also showed Haley some graffiti he'd once written for her on the stands--"HALEY DUNPHY DOME." Dylan said he'd meant that to read "do me," but he'd always had "problems with spacing." Dylan, a musician, also explained that the transition to nursing made sense because whereas he'd once healed with music, he'd now be "doing the same thing with drugs." That's cute, but on the whole, Dylan's pursuit of nursing reinforces the stereotype that any well-meaning dimwit can become a nurse. We would be fine with Dylan suddenly becoming a non-idiot, but assuming that show producers have any interest in continuity--Dylan has been this way since the 2009 series premiere--it seems best for Modern Family to quickly phase out his nursing career, ideally with some plotline emphasizing that (who knew?!) nurses actually have to be intelligent, savvy people with an education. See the film clips or go straight to the petition!


Nurse X confronts a cutting-edge technique

cutting to find bloodDecember 14, 2013 -- Today the Irish Examiner ran a report by Kevin Keane that featured a remarkable piece of patient advocacy by an unnamed nurse:  snatching a scalpel from a physician's hand as he was about to "cut into an elderly patient's vein in order to take a blood sample." The piece describes evidence presented at a recent "medical council inquiry" into allegedly poor care by the physician in 2009 at Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. The nurse, identified only as Nurse X, had apparently asked the physician to insert and draw the blood from a tube. After she took the scalpel away, he reportedly "mumbled something under his breath and had a blank look on his face." Although it may not have taken a lot of health care knowledge to see that this method of drawing blood was a danger to the patient, it did take courage to take a scalpel away from him, particularly in a setting in which nurses apparently are not permitted to draw their own blood samples. The report includes some additional comments from Nurse X to the effect that the physician "just hadn't a clue how to treat a patient," as well as information from a senior physician along the same lines. The scalpel anecdote is brief, but it's a great illustration of the role that direct care nurses can and should play in protecting patients from any threat. We thank Mr. Keane and the Irish Examiner. more...


Kickball and tummy aches:
The 2012 Truth About Nursing Awards for Best and Worst Media Depictions

Best and Worst Media Depictions 20122013 -- The Truth About Nursing announces our 10th annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses! The year 2012 featured the popular BBC/PBS series Call the Midwife, which showed skilled and autonomous nurses caring for the poor in 1950's London, as well as valuable new seasons from Showtime's Nurse Jackie and Channel 4's documentary series 24 Hours in A&E in the U.K. Mainstream press sources published good items ranging from Tina Rosenberg's excellent New York Times piece about the value of APRN-run clinics, to Julian Guthrie's San Francisco Chronicle profile of UCSF nursing dean David Vlahov, to Ronan McGreevy's Irish Times report about the University College Dublin study of nursing imagery on YouTube, to an Indian Express piece about a recent study on the appalling working conditions that Indian nurses confront. And many nurses advocated strongly for better public health and for better media about nursing, including Massachusetts nurse Wendie Howland, who monitors the "Help a Reporter Out" website to educate journalists when they seem to assume that only physicians can provide health expertise for their stories. On the other hand, the year also included the usual onslaught of damaging distortions from the media. The U.S. prime time landscape remained dominated by shows with little respect for nursing, including ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Fox's House, each of which featured a slew of strong, expert physician characters providing all meaningful care, while nurses were handmaidens who did little more than fetch things. Fox's new sitcom The Mindy Project focused on quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians, but also included nurse Morgan Tookers, a goofy ex-convict with little apparent health skill. On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in a segment about re-integrating military medics into the civilian workforce, the host insisted that the medics were vastly overqualified to be school nurses and mocked school nurses as being all about "kickball" and "tummy aches." And the "naughty nurse" remained a staple of the entertainment industry, appearing in everything from a Dallas Mavericks Dancers routine to an actual job ad from a Swedish hospital. Despite these problems, we thank those responsible for the best media and encourage others to keep trying. see the full awards...


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J&J stops advertising on Scrubbing In, but keeps on advertising on Grey's Anatomy

J&J end sponsorshipNovember 25, 2013 -- Johnson & Johnson has sent the Truth correspondence that they have ceased advertising on "Scrubbing In." We checked episode #5 online and broadcast and have verified that all the J&J ads are gone. We would like to thank J&J for this. But we have asked J&J at least 5 times if they would cease advertising on the far more influential Grey's Anatomy and The Mindy Project shows and Andrea Higham, Director of the Campaign for Nursing's Future, responded "I do not have any control on our brands airing in the other shows – they are dramas and are looked at differently than reality shows featuring real nurses." We asked her who did have control over this advertising so we could follow up with that person and Ms. Higham still hasn't responded. We are keeping our campaign wide open to continue to pressure J&J to stop advertising on all media products that degrade nursing. Will you please join us? Here's the link to our petition. Please circulate to friends and colleagues. Thank you!



Scrubbing Less                                                                                    See our press release

Cast Scrubbing InNovember 17, 2013 -- Since MTV's 10-episode reality show Scrubbing In premiered last month, tens of thousands of nurses, as well as the Truth and other nursing groups, have worked to persuade MTV to cancel the show or at least reduce the damage it is causing. See our original analysis. After these collective efforts, MTV reached out to The Truth About Nursing to engage in extensive discussions about how to ameliorate the situation. MTV has agreed to take several helpful steps, including airing the show at a less prominent time, some re-editing of episodes, and other efforts to convey accurate information about nursing, although the last six episodes will air. Thank you to those who protested the show's focus on very personal details of the lives of the nurses with little suggestion of nursing skill or knowledge, all of which tends to reinforce nursing stereotypes. Below we explain the five main steps MTV has agreed to take, including a "Day in the Life of a Nurse" MTV website feature. We also ask that you join us in urging Johnson & Johnson and others to stop sponsoring Scrubbing In; despite promises to stop, J&J has continued to place ads for its products on the show up through at least the fourth episode. Please click here to sign the petition to ask J&J to cease its advertising on Scrubbing In and other shows that degrade nursing. Thanks again! more...


Scrubbing Out

Cast Scrubbing InOctober 24, 2013 - MTV's new reality show Scrubbing In, which premiered tonight, focuses on nine young travel nurses in California, but it isn't really about nursing. Sure, the show created a firestorm in the nursing community before it even aired because of advance indications that the nurses might come off as twits 'n' sluts. The first episode does suggest that the nurses were not selected to appear because of their nursing experience or ability to convey an accurate and comprehensive picture of the profession. Instead, they seem to have been chosen for their strong personalities, physical appearance, and eagerness to embrace reality show culture. The vast majority of the episode is the nurses' personal interactions, with a focus on partying, romance, and sex (e.g., "I have big fake boobs!" "Did you guys bring your vibrators?"). Well, that's a different vision of Nursing's Future for show sponsor Johnson & Johnson, whose Neutrogena products were advertised during the episode, isn't it? The episode's limited depictions of nursing are pretty awful. At one point, two nurses do a passable job caring for a patient who looks like she is faking a seizure for the camera, but the scene does not exactly inspire confidence in their skills or knowledge. Another time, a nurse who is apparently on duty is shown practicing starting IV's in a way that suggests she has little idea what she's doing. Another nurse spends significant time trying to help her and is later chastised (rightly) by his supervisor for abandoning his unit. Two nurses show up in California without California nursing licenses (apparently those DUIs were creating a delay!). A nurse sits on her bed wearing dirty scrubs, heedless of the potential for bringing deadly organisms into her personal surroundings, as another nurse points out to her--and to viewers. There is virtually no mention here of nursing education, practice specialties, research, or policy leadership. Nurses, like anyone else, should be allowed to discuss and engage in social activity in any lawful way; nurses are not angels and holding them to regressive personal moral standards actually undermines the profession. But associating nursing with frank sexuality does risk reinforcing the naughty nurse image that the average reality show participant does not face. And watching several of the nurses giggle about looking for "hot doctors" calls to mind the related stereotype that nurses are physician golddiggers. On the whole, the show fails to convey that the vast majority of nurses are serious professionals who save and improve lives with their advanced skills. And because the show's focus and structure is personal drama and self-reflection among reality-show twenty-somethings, many viewers may conclude that nurses in general are not especially serious about their work--and that they don't need to be. The show is likely to reinforce ideas that have long undermined nurses' claims to adequate resources for education and clinical practice and that now threaten the health of millions worldwide. We urge MTV to cancel the show, and we hope that at a minimum, the producers will try to give some sense of real nursing skill. read more...and please join our letter-writing campaign!


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A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray

Penny with syringeOctober 3, 2013 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's Glee included an abysmal depiction of school nursing. In the Beatles-themed episode ("Tina in the Sky with Diamonds"), the McKinley High School principal apparently hired a college student named Penny--who had not yet even begun nursing school--to give vaccinations and other school nursing care. Penny described her work as part of "an internship" that would help her gain admission to nursing school later. Penny was dangerously incompetent; her "care" included mistakenly injecting urine instead of vaccine. And the episode implied that a real nurse would be better. But Penny was still repeatedly identified as "Nurse Penny," and the overall effect was to make a mockery of school nursing. Such media disinformation, even as a "joke," contributes to the undervaluation that has already led to rampant understaffing of school nurses and now takes the lives of students everywhere. Please urge those responsible to make amends! more or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!


Mighty Med meets Nurse Nation

cast of fall characters September 2013 -- The fall TV landscape has plenty of physician-centric health shows, but nurses are in the mix. Sure, ABC's popular Grey's Anatomy (premiering Sept. 26) will be back for its 500th season with a dozen brilliant, sexy surgeons and some almost-invisible handmaiden nurses. Mindy Kaling's Fox sitcom The Mindy Project (Sept. 17) will return for a second season with three quirky but skilled OB-GYNs and three demented and/or nasty minor nurse characters. The CW's Hart of Dixie (Oct. 7), about a young New York physician in a small Southern town, will be back. And the cable arts network Ovation will offer A Young Doctor's Notebook (Oct. 2), a "darkly humorous" new series about the travails of a young physician at a remote hospital during the Russian Revolution. But ABC's Private Practice and Body of Proof are gone, and all four of the godlike-physician hospital dramas that premiered on other networks last year failed (Do No Harm (NBC), The Mob Doctor (Fox), Emily Owens, MD (CW), and Monday Mornings (TNT)). CBS will offer the thriller-drama Hostages (Sept. 23), in which a rogue FBI agent kidnaps the family of a surgeon who has been chosen to operate on the President and demands that she kill the chief executive in surgery. An equally plausible new tween sitcom called Mighty Med, about the "superhero" wing of a local hospital, will appear on Disney XD (Oct. 7); it's not clear yet whether superheroes need physicians or nurses. Other shows will clearly have nurses. MTV has a new reality show called Nurse Nation (now called Scrubbing In) that "follows nine twenty-something travel nurses all assigned to work at a new hospital in a brand new city for 13 weeks." NBC's Parks & Recreation (Sept. 26), the local government sitcom with respected nurse and public health official Ann Perkins, returns. Ricky Gervais's new Channel 4 "comedy-drama" Derek, available in the U.S. on Netflix (Sept. 12), focuses on the "quirky" staff and residents at a nursing home, whose director Hannah is sometimes described as a nurse. Channel 4's documentary 24 Hours in A&E has just finished its third season in the U.K., with skilled nurses among its cast, but only the first season has aired in the U.S., on BBC America. Also in the U.K., ITV Studios is filming a new drama called Breathless (early 2014) "about a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital in the 1960s, a world in which everything and everyone has their place." In spring 2014, Showtime's powerful Nurse Jackie will return for a sixth season of clinical expertise, creative patient advocacy, and perhaps more unfortunate suggestions that nurses report to physicians. And returning for a third season on PBS will be the BBC drama Call the Midwife, which focuses on eight (!) skilled, autonomous nurse midwives caring for poor women in 1950's London. So on balance, the new season could sound worse for nursing. Join us in tracking it! See the full review of the upcoming television season!

Want a historical look? See our fall TV previews from:

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
2007 2006 2005 2004 2003


Ring of Power

Frey from Elysium in uniformAugust 2013 -- Elysium isn't just another dystopian action movie. In this one, unequal access to health care is a central part of the brutal oppression of the 99% by the privileged few, and a skilled nurse character is one of the hero's allies in his mission to subvert the Earth's selfish overlords. South African writer-director Neill Blomkamp presents the planet in 2154 as an overpopulated, overheated mess controlled by bullying androids. Meanwhile, the wealthiest humans reside on a luxurious orbiting ring called Elysium, where "med bay" machines can cure any illness short of death. Yet no one on Earth itself has access to a med bay. Instead, people crowd overburdened hospitals like the Los Angeles facility in which nurse Frey works, apparently in the emergency department, when she is not caring for her leukemia-stricken daughter. After Frey's childhood sweetheart, the combat-ready ex-convict Max, runs afoul of the machinery of the state and seeks Frey's help, she becomes part of a desperate plan to challenge the evil order. The movie's structure owes something to Robocop, The Matrix, and Iron Man, and it's full of bloody violence and multi-level intrigue, plus Jodie Foster speaking French. So there isn't much time for nursing. Still, Frey does handle Max's serious abdominal knife wound on her own, even though she initially tells him that he "need[s] a doctor." We also see in flashbacks that when she and Max were kids, she was the clever, literate one. The film suggests that Frey reports to senior nurses, not physicians. And she is strong enough in trying to protect her daughter, though she also spends a lot of the film's second half needing to be rescued, and her character could have been further developed. But many of the human characters are somewhat underdone or overdone; the androids get most of the best lines. In any case, the striking and often compelling movie shows a nurse as someone with real health care ability and aligns nursing with those seeking a more just world. more...


Nurse Practitioner Evil!

Lab Rats castAugust 5, 2013 -- Today's double episode of Disney XD's tween series Lab Rats included a brief but powerful attack on nurse practitioners. The live-action show, which is kind of a sci-fi / action sitcom, focuses on a trio of bionic teens who live incognito with their brilliant inventor father and, you know, fight evil. In this episode, the father's exiled brother and former business partner returns to take revenge and use the teens for nefarious ends. At one point, the father mocks his brother by noting that he has turned into "Dr. Evil...or should I say Nurse Practitioner Evil, since you flunked out of med school!" The brother admits that he was "dismissed" from school for "screaming too loud when I saw the needles." Of course, it's absurd to suggest that failing medical school qualifies you to be a nurse practitioner--despite not being able to handle needles, no less. But the insult will register clearly with the 9-14 year-old males who make up the show's main audience; they will likely absorb the basic message that NPs are losers who can't hack medical school. It's actually a mark of progress that NPs are now well-established enough in U.S. culture that the show creators assumed this audience would get the reference. But it's not surprising that the content of the reference is consistent with the wannabe physician stereotype and the baseless anti-NP messages sent by physician groups and too much of the mainstream media in recent years. In fact, a great deal of research shows that NPs provide care that is at least as good as physicians. NPs are nurses with graduate degrees in nursing who, as a class, have no desire to be physicians. But NPs can and do play a critical role in delivering high-quality, cost-effective care in these difficult times. more...see the film clips or go straight to our petition--please tell Disney and the show creators not to be evil!



Slim Jim murseAugust 2013 --  In recent months ConAgra Foods has been running video ads for its "jerky snack" Slim Jim that feature a self-identified "murse" distributing the product in a hospital waiting room to men suffering from different forms of "male spice loss." That malady is the subject of a broader ad campaign ostensibly aimed at helping men who have chosen to forego accepted macho pursuits in favor of weird, vaguely feminine activities like yoga and matching outfits. That is, the ad campaign is aimed at selling jerky to young males who might actually fear such an absence of traditional maleness. For nursing, the ad is surprisingly complex. The term "murse," used at least as early as 2003 on the sitcom Scrubs, is basically a cute contraction of "male nurse." And like that term, it may imply that men in nursing are not simply "nurses," but something else, questionable both as nurses and as men. On the other hand, we know that some men in nursing don't object to "murse" and may even use it themselves. Anyway, the Slim Jim nurse in this ad is not exactly displaying great health care expertise. And when he notes that "it's my job to distribute Slim Jims to patients suffering from male spice loss," there may be an implication that he's just doing what someone else told him to. But on the whole, the ad is laughing with the nurse, not at him. He projects traditional masculinity, with his authoritative voice and military fatigue pants. And he says and does things viewers are supposed to be amused by, mocking the "patients" by publicly labeling them (e.g., "tantric yoga guy") and throwing their prescribed snacks to them (naturally, they can't catch). The nurse also uses relatively large, clinical-sounding words, suggesting some level of education. We wondered if men in nursing were being singled out, but traditionally male health care figures play similar roles in other ads in the company's "spice loss" campaign (see ads featuring physicians and first responders). The idea seems to be simply that men help men be men. And so, despite the "murse" term and the gender-role intolerance in the ad, it may actually be a small step toward normalizing the idea of men in nursing with some of the ad's target audience. We're not suggesting anyone thank ConAgra, but it's food for thought. more...



Julia Bucher, Ann GallagherJuly 3, 2013 -- Although the New York Times remains far more likely to consult physicians as health care experts, in recent times the paper has occasionally consulted nurse experts as well. For example, today the paper ran a very long and very helpful "Ask an Expert" column featuring York College nursing professor and advanced practice nurse Julia Bucher (right), who gave practical, sensitive advice to readers caring for relatives with cancer. Bucher addressed difficult topics and advised the often distraught family members asking the questions with a great deal of tact, yet she still managed to provide real support and critical information, with links to additional resources, particularly social workers and nurses. Bucher advocated a team-oriented, problem-solving approach, with a focus on practical options, to help readers cope with tasks and emotions that can seem overwhelming. Sometimes her responses included general questions that readers should consider in evaluating their own situations. And in some cases, the questions were longer than Bucher's responses, as if some of what she was doing was giving questioners a supportive ear (and the ears of Times readers) in airing concerns about which there may be no easy answer. A couple months earlier, on May 1, the Times ran a much shorter "Room for Debate" feature about the ethics of force-feeding inmates on hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The paper included Ann Gallagher (right), director of the International Centre for Nursing Ethics at Surrey University and editor of the journal Nursing Ethics, as one of five "debaters." Gallagher's short contribution argued, with restraint and sensitivity, that nurses who decline to force-feed are acting in accord with their ethical obligations as caregivers and that the prisoners have the right, as autonomous individuals, to refuse treatment, including hydration and nutrition. Both Times features allow articulate, diplomatic nursing leaders to give readers a sense of an important aspect of health care--and the nursing that plays a central role in that care. We thank the Times. more...


Chapter Action Ideas

Place FREE Truth About Nursing posters at your school or workplace -- it's good fun and good for you!

I am your RN poster Tell colleagues and patients the truth! Our "I Am Your Registered Nurse" poster presents nurses as autonomous professionals on whom patients can rely. The poster explains that nurses are modern science professionals who protect and advocate for patients and empowers nurses to meet those challenges. Designed for the bedside, the poster comforts patients by educating them about the care environment and assuring them that nurses are there to fend for them.

Short dresses posterOr consider the Truth's "Can Short Dresses Cause Short Staffing?" poster. This one takes humorous aim at the naughty nurse image that continues to haunt advertisements and other media, especially those aimed at males. The poster connects the naughty nurse image with the broader undervaluation that leads to gross underfunding of nursing education, research, and practice, ultimately threatening patients.

We'll send you up to 20 posters free to hang at your school or workplace. Just email us at to tell us how many you'd like and where to send them. If you'd like more, they are just 50 cents each! Thank you!


Megan LeClairTeach medical students about the value of nursing

June 2012 -- Megan LeClair, RN, BSN, of the University of Wisconsin's Trauma and Life Support Center, recently performed a study based on a program from Dartmouth University in which medical students follow nurses at work to learn about the life-saving skills that nurses have. Her study was effective and we urge you to design your own! See the original Dartmouth program designed and led by Ellen Ceppetelli, RN, PhD. See Megan's abstract and results.


Elizabeth Winslow, RN, PhD, FAANEncourage nurses who speak publicly to identify themselves as nurses!

August 2012 -- Elizabeth Winslow, RN, PhD, FAAN, wrote a great opinion piece in the August issue of the American Journal of Nursing entitled "We Silence Our Profession When We Fail to Identify Ourselves as Nurses." Winslow encourages nurses who speak publicly to weave into the message that the speaker is a nurse. We are reminded of a similarly great piece, "Pick Up That RN Flag and Wave It" by Pam Meredith, RN, NP, which appeared in Nursing Spectrum in December 2002. Get up, stand up, nurses!


Nursing: Isn't that Sweet?!

The new Truth movie has everything...Sexual content! Raw insults! And odd, computer-generated voices! Watch now!

Wendy and JimCheck out the Truth's movie "Nursing: Isn't That Sweet?!" It's all about what happens when nurse Wendy encounters her old high school classmate Jim at a restaurant, many years later--after the two have taken their lives in very different directions! Can Wendy and Jim make a new connection? Or will things get a little ugly? Made using xtranormal software for Halloween 2011, the short video explores some chilling stereotypes that still infect public understanding of nursing. And for a different take on nursing stereotypes, check out the Truth's classic 2005 report "Nursing: Who Knew?" about a groundbreaking study in which leading researchers discover nurses' real contributions for the first time! See the video! Or if you can't access YouTube at your workplace, click here to see the video on our site. Thank you!


New Truth About Nursing FAQ:

Money differences between medicine and nursingJust how undervalued and underfunded is nursing?

In our new FAQ, we explore a few dramatic comparisons that illustrate how poorly nursing is valued and funded relative to medicine and other professions. See the comparisons...


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In our imperfect state of conscience and enlightenment, publicity and the collision resulting from publicity are the best guardians of the interest of the sick.

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