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News on Nurses in the Media--January - March 2004

JCAHO and the marketplace of ideas

March 30, 2004 -- An item in Scott Allen's "White Coat Notes" column in today's Boston Globe, "Silencing debate on the nursing shortage," reported that the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) had "pulled the plug" on the scheduled appearance of Brandeis University sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg at a mid-April conference on the nursing shortage because of hospital complaints about her "perceived bias." more...

"Shortage of nurses can be deadly"

March 28, 2004 -- Today the Deseret News (Utah) and other U.S. papers ran a long, generally good AP piece by Linda Johnson about the tragic effects of nurse short-staffing and recent efforts to address the problem, along with a useful AP companion item listing "some of the tasks nurses say regularly get skipped or delayed." more...

Nurses, physicians and hospice care for dying infants

March 28, 2004 -- Today the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat ran a piece by Katy Hillenmeyer that does a fairly good job of highlighting Sonoma State University nursing professor Anita J. Catlin's prominent role in the debate over the care of terminal infants. Unfortunately, the article's frequent statements about what "doctors" do implies that only physicians provide significant care to critically ill infants, when nurses are central to such care, and its use of the "doctor" honorific for physicians but not nurses with doctorates is troubling. more...

Ontario nurses sue province over SARS

March 26, 2004 -- Today the Toronto Star published a short article by Karen Palmer reporting the 30 Ontario nurses infected with SARS and some of their family members have filed suit against the province for almost $189 million, claiming that the government failed to protect them adequately. more...

Headline News

March 25, 2004 -- Today the New York Times ran a generally good article by Celia W. Dugger about "[r]ampant absenteeism" among poorly managed, undersupplied government nurses and physicians in India, which has led to reliance on better supplied but potentially dangerous amateur "doctors." The piece's particular focus on absent nurses might seem unfair, but it does provide some explanatory context, and its clear recognition of the potential contributions of the nurses sends the message that they are (or should be) key primary health providers to the nation's poor. However, the story's misleading headline--which is all many people will ever read--reflects the traditional physician-centric bias the story itself avoids: "Deserted by Doctors, India's Poor Turn to Quacks." more...

Parade profiles leading nursing scholar

March 21, 2004 -- This week Parade magazine's cover story, Dianne Hales' "The Quiet Heroes," profiles six "superstars" of health care research, including Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, RN, FAAN, a nursing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a national leader in the prevention of HIV transmission. more...

San Francisco Chronicle op-ed: "Patient-ratio law ends 'nursing shortage'"

March 18, 2004 -- Today the San Francisco Chronicle published a strong op-ed piece by Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association (CNA), arguing that California's new nurse staffing ratio law has already improved care, despite what she describes as relentless, "deceptive" efforts by hospital industry representatives to weaken it. more...

Baltimore Sun: "RN applicants shut out"

March 17, 2004 -- Today the Baltimore Sun ran an article by Sandy Alexander about Maryland community college associate degree nursing programs that have been turning away as many as three quarters of their applicants, despite the critical nursing shortage, because of limited resources. The piece makes some valuable points about problems in nursing education and includes helpful profiles of current students. However, its unquestioning embrace of the idea that educational requirements must be streamlined in order to produce new nurses as fast as possible leaves no room for discussion of how to address the problems that have actually led to the shortage, such as short-staffing and the lack of workplace empowerment. The piece also seems to suggest that anyone willing to make some effort can and should be a nurse, an approach that we doubt would have been taken in an article about the training of physicians. more...

NY Times: "Use of Midwives, a Childbirth Phenomenon, Fades in City"

March 15, 2004 -- Today the New York Times ran a fairly balanced article by Richard Pérez-Peña that managed to convey the complexity surrounding the difficulties now confronting certified nurse-midwives, principally far higher malpractice insurance premiums and hospital- and insurance-imposed limits on their practices. The problems have reportedly resulted in slower growth in the use of nurse-midwives nationally, and an actual decrease in New York City. more...

The case of the disappearing clinical nurse specialist

March 10, 2004 -- Today's Wall Street Journal includes a lengthy article by Gautam Naik about the potential cost benefits of palliative care units, focusing on one set up at a Virginia hospital by clinical nurse specialist Patrick Coyne and oncologist Tom Smith. Unfortunately, despite some positive elements, much of the piece provides a distorted, physician-centric vision of palliative care, a field in which nurses actually play a central role. more...

Guardian: "Nurses who do house calls"

March 10, 2004 -- Today the Guardian (U.K.) ran a lengthy, interesting piece by Linda Jackson about a new initiative in Bath under which a "mobile nursing team" may be able to help ailing older persons avoid being forced into nursing homes. The pilot program, which the article says is being seen as a "revolution" in elder care, "brings front-line nursing staff into ordinary residential homes," allowing residents to avoid more costly and less comfortable nursing homes, and potentially reducing the number and duration of hospital stays. more...

Naughty

March 3, 2004 -- Today The Guardian ran an article by John Carvel about the negative reaction of U.K. nurses to a new Channel 4 drama called "No Angels" and an "image-repair exercise" that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) would be undertaking to show the public what nursing really is. Nurse Vici Hoban, writing in The Times of London on February 28, had explained that the new show about four young nurses in Leeds had purportedly aimed to "explode the myth of angels by the bedside" and provide "a witty and truthful expose of nursing in the modern [National Health Service (NHS)]," but the first episode in fact showed the nurses "laughing over a corpse that they have warmed up in the bath to disguise the fact that the patient died, unnoticed, hours earlier," as well as "tricking colleagues into taking drugs, showing off visible panty lines to doctors and having sex in cupboards." Well, is that all? Our British nursing colleagues are so picky. more...

Kiwi nurses call for staffing ratios

March 1, 2004 -- Today the New Zealand Herald ran a generally good article by Rebecca Walsh about the recent call by the New Zealand nurses' union for mandatory nurse staffing ratios "to assure patient safety and attract more nurses back to the profession," as well as the opposition to the ratios by the Ministry of Health and district health boards, who view the ratios as "too inflexible and costly." more...

Chicxulub

March 1, 2004 -- It's the end of the world as we know it, and nurses are still cold martinets who personify the mindless brutality of the universe. At least, that's how it is in T. Coraghessan Boyle's story "Chicxulub," which appears in the March 1, 2004 issue of The New Yorker, and which, if nothing else, cannot be accused of perpetuating the "angel of mercy" stereotype. The story shows once again how even products of the cultural elite can casually reinforce harmful misconceptions about the nursing profession. more...

"ER" and the patient advocate

February 26, 2004 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," written by Bruce Miller, was one of the show's better recent episodes for nursing, as major character Sam Taggart advocated for patients in several situations, displaying substantive knowledge and a concern for patients' overall wellbeing that is one of the hallmarks of nursing. Unfortunately, the presentation of Taggart's advocacy was problematic, and other aspects of the episode continued to promote the idea that nurses are skilled assistants to physicians. more...

Leading hospital trumpets Magnet status

February 2004 -- Johns Hopkins Hospital has placed an advertisement on at least one large billboard on I-83, a major highway entering Baltimore, congratulating its nursing staff on their achievement of Magnet hospital status. more...

Crazy school kids insist on staying alive, Part II

February 24, 2004 -- Today the Boston Globe published a very effective editorial opposing the plan of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to cut the state's school-based health program, which would reportedly mean layoffs of hundreds of school nurses. more...

Crazy school kids insist on staying alive, Part I

February 22, 2004 -- Today the Boston Globe published a powerful letter from 10-year-old Anthony J. Delmonaco protesting the plan of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to cut the state's school-based health program, which would reportedly mean layoffs of hundreds of school nurses. more...

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Nurses brainstorm cures for job issues"

February 20, 2004 -- Today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on a promising campaign by the Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Organization of Leaders in Nursing to encourage nurses to take the lead in improving their working conditions. The article, written by H.J. Cummins, explained how teams of nurses from three of the seven Minnesota participating hospitals created and implemented solutions to key problems. Ideas included improving career ladders and nurses' involvement in discharge planning, and making good interpersonal skills "a part of every job description." more...

NY Times: "Instead of Dr. Ruth, a Nurse Called Sue"

February 19, 2004 -- Today's New York Times included a fairly good article by Mireya Navarro about Sue Johanson, a Toronto registered nurse who is the host of popular television talk shows focusing on sex in both Canada and the United States. more...

Foreign physicians as one answer to the U.S. nursing shortage: from "giving orders" to "receiving orders?"

February 17, 2004 -- Today NPR's Morning Edition included a report by Alan Tomlinson about Florida International University's new program to train foreign physicians to become registered nurses, which the piece presented as a potential way to address the current nursing shortage. The story does at least suggest that foreign physicians require significant training in order to practice nursing in the U.S., though it is not clear if listeners will realize that would also be the case with U.S.-trained physicians. And the story largely fails to convey that nursing is an autonomous profession with its own scope of practice, and listeners may be left with the impression that nursing is mostly about "taking orders" from physicians and coordinating tests for them. more...

Nursing: good enough for media feminists' mothers, but not their daughters?

February 14, 2004 -- In a cover story in this week's TV Guide, the makers of NBC's "ER" claim credit for a huge upsurge in the number of female ED physicians, even as they deny any responsibility for the nursing shortage that now threatens the lives of ED patients. Mary Murphy's flattering profile, "The Women Who Revived 'ER,'" amounts to an argument that the characters played by actresses Maura Tierney (nurse/medical student Abby Lockhart), Parminder Nagra (medical student Neela Rasgotra), and Linda Cardellini ("strident" nurse Sam Taggart) have reinvigorated a veteran show that had already increased female empowerment in the ranks of real ED physicians. Though two of these three characters are nurses, the article ignores nursing. more...

Kill Bill, Vol. N

February 12, 2004 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," written by Yahlin Chang, focused on major nurse character Sam Taggart's professional and personal life. It features some of the show's increasingly common efforts to be sensitive to nurses' concerns, including a pretty good portrayal of Taggart's autonomous care for a sexual abuse victim. Sadly, most of these efforts are undermined by the show's physician-centric structure and approach. Notably, the episode touches on some important issues relating to violence against nurses and the potential for nurses with dangerous problems to evade detection, but in such a way that few viewers are likely to realize it. more...

"Passions'" creator responds to protests about use of monkey "nurse:" "If nurses knew how much we pay BamBam per day, they'd all be putting on monkey suits"

February 7, 2004 -- This week's TV Guide includes a special box below Michael Logan's "On Soaps" column about the efforts of NBC's soap "Passions" to have BamBam, the orangutan who plays Nurse Precious, be considered for a daytime Emmy award. The box also mentions the Center's campaign protesting the show's degrading vision of nursing--wrongly claiming that we had "blasted" BamBam himself, rather than the producers--and has a quote from "Passions" creator James E. Reilly (above) that beautifully captures the show's attitude toward nurses and monkeys alike. more...

"ER" nurse characters are suddenly mad that everyone thinks they're just handmaidens of physicians. But that doesn't mean they'd date anyone else!

February 5, 2004 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," credited to R. Scott Gemill--who also wrote the disastrous October 9 "Dear Abby"--includes several elements that seem specifically designed to show sensitivity to nurses' concerns about the show's damaging misportrayal of their profession. We salute the effort. But sadly, the episode itself is full of damaging anti-nurse distortions, proving that there's only so much "ER" can do to overcome its overwhelmingly physician-centric approach without more major nurse characters and meaningful advice from real nurses. more...

Homeland security

February 5, 2004 -- Today Salon posted a powerful piece by San Francisco school nurse Elisabeth Ochs, who details her efforts to manage an extraordinary range of serious health and social problems among elementary school students, despite being responsible for about 800 of them in two different schools. Ochs' matter-of-fact description underlines both the serious skills required of school nurses and the dangerous nurse understaffing many schools now face, even as more and more students attend with increasingly serious problems. more...

Monster trucks and dress shoes

February 4, 2004 -- Today Newsday and others posted a very good Associated Press story by Joshua Freed about a Mayo Clinic nursing study published in this month's American Journal of Nursing that included findings and ways to reduce hospital noise so loud that it made it "nearly impossible for patients to sleep." Though we would not expect the mainstream press to realize it, this strikes us as important research that only nurses are likely to have conceived and conducted. more...

"Did I kill anyone today?" ED nurse sounds alarm on short-staffing in Newsweek

February 2, 2004 -- This week Newsweek's "My Turn" column was a powerful piece by Michigan ED nurse Paul Duke about how short-staffing frequently has him "praying like mad that I didn't make any mistakes that hurt anyone." more...

Denver Post: Rise of the "servant-leader?"

February 1, 2004 -- Today's Denver Post carried a very good, nurse-driven story by business writer Marsha Austin about how the severe nursing shortage and construction of new suburban hospitals have given some Denver area nurses--but not others--unprecedented influence over their working conditions and how their hospitals are run. The piece also describes the accompanying pressures placed on some older urban hospitals, which may have difficulty holding onto nurses in the face of tight budgets and (apparently) a greater reluctance to listen to the nurses. more...

Professional errors

February 2004 -- Karen Cicero's lengthy and generally helpful article about health care errors in this month's Child magazine makes several valuable points about how nursing can affect patient outcomes. But because the story reflects the magazine's physician-centric approach, it fails to convey the central role nurses actually play in protecting patients, or that nurses are autonomous professionals with their own ideas about improving patient safety, not least of which is to end rampant nurse short staffing. more...

Spleen

January 2004 -- The Center for Nursing Advocacy understands that some nurses have objected to a poem called "Learning the Bones," which was published in the "Art of Nursing" feature in the January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Nursing, of which Diana Mason, RN, PhD, FAAN, is the editor-in-chief. We have been asked to add our voices to those protesting the publication of this somewhat explicit poem in AJN, which some feel was an inappropriate venue. Though for resource and other reasons we focus on improving public understanding of nursing through the mass media, rather than nursing media, we will explain our views on this issue. more...

Birmingham News: "Nurses' healing hands control hospitals' care"

January 25, 2004 -- Today Alabama's Birmingham News carried a positive, generally good article by Anna Velasco about three nurses who have become CEO's of major area health care institutions, suggesting that the rise of nurses to top hospital management positions shows that "[n]urses are becoming top leaders in health care." The piece does not provide much of a sense of where nursing as a whole is today--ignoring the current crisis completely--but Velasco deserves credit for pursuing the theme of nursing leadership, which is rare in the mainstream press, and for carefully relating the success of these CEO's to their nursing backgrounds. more...

Toronto Star: "Street nurse earns prestigious honour"

January 22, 2004 -- Today the Toronto Star ran a lengthy piece by Scott Simie about the awarding of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation's Economic Justice Award, which includes up to $100,000 of funding per year for 3 years, to Toronto "street nurse" Cathy Crowe, who has become one of Canada's most prominent and powerful advocates for the homeless. more...

Fear of nursing?

January 20, 2004 -- Today's Orlando Sentinel carried a generally good article by Linda Kleindienst about an ongoing battle between physicians and nurses over whether Advanced Practice Nurses should be able to prescribe controlled substances to relieve pain in Florida--apparently one of only six states that does not yet allow the practice. However, the article included no rebuttal to the Florida Medical Association's implication that Nurse Practitioners are less qualified to prescribe these substances than physicians. more...

Hartford columnist makes "long-overdue toast to undervalued nurses"

January 19, 2004 -- Today Hartford Courant lifestyle columnist Gina Barreca offered a tribute to the nursing profession in which she describes the important work of nurses she knows. more...

NPR: "Hospitals Dropping Nurse-Midwife Programs"

January 17, 2004 -- Today NPR's Weekend Edition ran a generally good piece by Janet Heimlich reporting that hospitals in some places have been ending certified nurse-midwife programs at the behest of physicians, who (depending on whom you believe) are either concerned about supervising and incurring liability for the work of the nurse-midwives, or about stifling competition and billing for their residents to deliver the babies. more...

Two views of nurses from South Africa's "The Star"

January 16, 2004 -- An article by Solly Maphumulo in today's edition of The Star highlighted the serious health effects of a shortage of nurses in South Africa's clinics, while in a piece two days earlier, Nalisha Kalideen had cited nurse Dr. Connie Kganakga, a leader in providing HIV/AIDS care, as one of the "50 women to watch in 2004." more...

Dear "ER": some protests more equal than others?

January 16, 2004 -- One plotline in the January 22, 2004 "ER" episode "Dear Abby," originally broadcast on October 9, 2003, sparked a letter of protest from the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA), which argued that the show's inaccurate portrayal of pulmonary hypertension as offering only a "slow and agonizing death" had a "very negative and disturbing impact" on sufferers and their families. In stark contrast to "ER"'s refusal even to respond to the many nurses who have written at the Center's urging to protest this same episode's damaging misportrayal of nursing, "ER" story editor and physician Lisa Zwerling wrote a substantive response to PHA. more...

Physician-Intensive Care Unit

January 15, 2004 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," credited to story editor and physician Lisa Zwerling, follows medical students Abby Lockhart and Neela Rasgotra on a harrowing rotation in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that seems to be staffed mainly by physicians and medical students, rather than the highly skilled nurses who do it in real life. In this physician-intensive care unit, one of the two nurse characters is a battle-axe who leaves the impression that veteran NICU nurses are petty martinets obsessed with rules and terrorizing medical students, whereas the noble medical staff provides not only most of the bedside care, but virtually all the emotional support to the agitated parents. more...

Are nurses under-confident or over-confident? Choose one!

January 10, 2004 -- Today BBC News Online ran an important though flawed story about a new computer test British psychologists have developed to measure nurses' ability to handle stress and make decisions, as part of a National Health Service program to train "First Contact Practitioners," a "new breed" of graduate-prepared nurse who will "perform medical duties in GP surgeries." more...

Masters and commanders: physicians sail the roiling ED

January 8, 2004 -- "Hollywood has no obligation to be accurate whatsoever." That was the reported reaction of "ER" medical advisor Mark Morocco to the 2002 Kaiser Family Foundation study showing how seriously viewers take the show's depiction of health care. This attitude also seems to be reflected in the show's refusal even to respond to the many nurses who have written recently to object to its damaging misportrayal of nursing. more...

It's just the nearness of you...nurses

January 7, 2004 -- Tonight's episode of the CBS sitcom Becker, which focuses on the regret of nurse Margaret Wyborn (Hattie Winston) at not having become a singer instead, ends up as a paean of sorts to the character's worth as both a nurse and a singer. But consistent with the rest of the series, the vision of nursing is of a low-skilled, subordinate job that mainly requires compassion, logistical skills and a lack of squeamishness. Viewers with long memories may recall that Winston also played nurse Toni Gillette on CBS' comparatively well-regarded 1981-82 drama "Nurse." more...

Can Penelope the robot solve the nursing shortage?

January 6, 2004 -- Laurie Tarkan's article in today's New York Times, "Nursing Shortage Forces Hospitals to Cope Creatively," describes fairly well the dangerous short-staffing that has driven the nursing shortage, and predictions that the shortage will worsen in coming years. It also manages to paint a remarkably rosy picture of the present and future, exploring the measures some hospitals are apparently taking to improve nurses' working conditions and benefits. Though the piece is serious and generally seems to reflect understanding of the importance of nurses, it also opens and closes with discussions of health care robots like Penelope that seem to suggest nurses are gabby, shiftless subordinates who could be replaced by more efficient machines. more...

The Center ranks best and worst media portrayals of nursing for 2003

December 31, 2003 -- The Center for Nursing Advocacy has issued its list of the best and worst media portrayals of nursing during 2003. The list highlights a variety of depictions of nursing--from television to the print media, from fiction to news, and from Milwaukee to Malaysia--that the Center believes deserve recognition, for better or worse. more...

 

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