Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Speaking abstract:

How Media Portrayals of Nurses Put Us All at Risk and What We Can Do To Improve Them

Speaker: Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing

Sandra Jacobs SummersThe nursing shortage is a public health crisis that is one of the biggest dangers for patients and the public at large. Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, Executive Director of the Truth About Nursing, will explore some overlooked roots of the nursing crisis and its effects, and offer strategies to help nurses respond. By reconsidering how our society thinks and acts toward nursing, we can empower nurses to improve safety for patients, reduce turnover, and enhance public health.

Media products have long shaped and reinforced inaccurate perceptions about the nature of nursing work. Public health research shows that even entertainment media products have a significant effect on how people think and act with regard to health care. But today too few decision-makers, from government to the public at large, know that nurses are skilled professionals who save lives and improve outcomes. Resources flow accordingly.

The media commonly presents nurses as handmaidens, sex objects, angels, or battleaxes. Advanced practice nurses are often ignored, or portrayed as cut-rate physician substitutes, even though studies show their care is at least as good. While there are exceptions, the most influential media rarely conveys the importance of nursing. Indeed, the media often not only fails to portray nursing accurately, but depicts physicians doing nurses' work.

Such depictions suggest to the public that physicians are the only health care professionals whose work matters, and that nurses lack substantive knowledge and autonomy. They discourage talented, self-respecting people, especially men, from entering the profession, legitimize the dilution of nursing care delivery with under-educated technicians, demoralize practicing nurses and legitimize the chronic under-funding of nursing education, residencies, research and clinical practice. These are all factors in the nursing shortage that is taking lives worldwide. For the shortage to end and public health to improve, we must increase the public's understanding of nursing, and only nurses can make that happen. Sandy Summers will explore strategies to help nurses reach out to the media, including through the Truth About Nursing's web site and her book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk, in order to increase the value placed on nursing to make patients safer, and move the image of nursing toward that of a profession that's second to none.

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