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April 2005 Archives


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Judas in a lab coat: "ER" takes on that whole "female-physician-mistaken-for-a-nurse" thing

April 28, 2005 -- Most of tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," written by Lydia Woodward and Lisa Zwerling, M.D., was fairly unremarkable from a nursing perspective. It featured the standard portrayal of nurses as skilled but peripheral physician assistants. However, one scene did call upon intern character Abby Lockhart--also a nurse--to address a patient's dismissive reference to her as a nurse. So, did the show have Lockhart mount a brief but spirited defense of the widely disrespected profession-in-crisis in which she herself spent many years saving lives and improving outcomes? You make the call, based on her indignant response to the patient: "I am not a nurse. I'm a doctor." more...


A bug's life

April 28, 2005 -- Recent articles in Canada and the U.K. highlight the key role that nurses can play in reducing the number and severity of life-threatening infections hospital patients suffer. A fairly good piece by Celia Hall posted on the Telegraph site on April 27 examines calls by British nurses for more uniforms and improved laundry and changing facilities, in order to stem the rate of hospital-acquired infections, including the MRSA "superbug." On April 26, the Vancouver Sun published a piece by Amy O'Brian about one local hospital's efforts to reduce sepsis deaths through a joint medical-nursing monitoring team. The piece prompted a brief but effective letter by Center supporter Heather Bolecz protesting its highly physician-centric focus. The Sun published that letter today. more...


BBC: "Nurses say reform prostitute law"

April 26, 2005 -- Today the BBC News web site posted a fairly good piece by Caroline Ryan reporting that the "overwhelming majority" of nurses at a Royal College of Nurses (RCN) conference had supported a call to end criminal prosecution of prostitutes, arguing that this would greatly increase the vulnerable population's access to health care. This is a striking example of patient advocacy, especially in view of the 19th century association of nursing with prostitution and the profession's ongoing struggle against "naughty nurse" stereotyping. more...


You're with stupid now

April 24, 2005 -- Today the Washington Post's female-taunting Gene Weingarten devoted his "Below the Beltway" column to a mock list of the circumstances under which he would decline to be kept alive with "extraordinary measures." He asked that, following any removal of his feeding tube, he be "lovingly asphyxiated by a buxom honey-blonde nurse in a short skirt and one of those cute little caps." This comment and others suggest that Mr. Weingarten is already in a persistent vegetative state, and may explain why the rest of his column shows little evidence of voluntary brain activity. Of course, we would not presume to offer a definitive evaluation at this distance, but we would urge his family to consult their nurse practitioner immediately. more...


Kansas City Star profiles long-serving "Ask-A-Nurse" telephone resource center

April 20, 2005 -- Today the Kansas City Star ran a generally good piece by Edie Hall about the Shawnee Mission Medical Center's Ask-A-Nurse Resource Center, which has been dispensing important health information for nearly two decades and will soon log its two millionth call. Despite a troubling passage that suggests the nurses just follow a computer program and don't handle "serious" problems, most of the piece is a good look at the life-saving work of the nurses who staff the resource center. more...


Chaos and fractals

April 20, 2005 -- A brief unsigned item dated today on the 123bharath / India News Channel web site reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Bahrain faces a nursing shortage. The piece indicates that the shortage is due at least in part to the growing competition from Europe and the United States for the skilled nurses that the tiny but wealthy Gulf nation used to recruit easily from Asia. more...


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The scrubbed nurse

April 17, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" actually presented a significant nurse character, dying pancreatic cancer patient Elizabeth Fallon. We have to give the show credit for a nurse character who was not a huge problem at first glance. Indeed, the bedridden Fallon was formidable and savvy, and the show suggested that she was an excellent nurse, though it has never offered viewers any hint as to what excellent nursing might consist of. The bad news is that Fallon was also seen as a career physician appendage, and her main professional focus seemed to be gruffly charting the progress of the physicians around her. Otherwise, the show's physician nursing continued unabated. Surgeon characters provided all monitoring, emotional support and advocacy for patients, practiced hospice nursing, and even handled deceptively difficult nursing tasks like enemas and colostomies. The episode was written by James Parriott, and the medical advisor was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. more...


Better living through disclosure

April 15, 2005 -- Today the Kansas City Star published a brief but persuasive editorial by Mary Nash supporting draft Missouri legislation to require disclosure of the ratio of patients to nurses and other direct care workers in the state's hospitals. Ms. Nash is the president of Nurses United for Improved Care. more...


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ABC's Touchstone sends a response to nurses' concerns on "Grey's Anatomy"

April 14, 2005 -- Today Charissa Gilmore, the Vice President responsible for Media Relations at ABC's Touchstone Television, sent the Center a letter in response to the outpouring of letters from nursing supporters on "Grey's Anatomy." Ms. Gilmore's letter expressed appreciation for nurses and appeared to take their concerns fairly seriously. But it stressed that a nurse advisor was involved in the show's production and that diverse nurse characters did appear on screen, noting that the episode scheduled to air Sunday April 17 would feature a "much loved former nurse" returning to the hospital as a patient. In response, the Center sent a letter explaining that its concern was with what viewers actually saw on screen, and that so far the show had been full of anti-nurse slurs and physician characters performing tasks that nurses do in real life, while nurses were wrongly seen as peripheral subordinates, when they appeared at all. Please read Ms. Gilmore's letter, see our response and send our instant letter or one of your own.


Reuters: "Nurses in Nighties Stage South Africa Pajama Protest"

April 14, 2005 -- Today Reuters posted a short unsigned piece reporting that nurses in South Africa's North West province are protesting what they view as inadequate uniform allowances by wearing "pajamas and nighties" to work. Government health officials are reportedly not amused. While the protest could be problematic in view of the enduring "naughty nurse" stereotype, and nurses' long campaign for public respect, we can't help but be impressed with the nurses' unusually creative action on a potentially important issue. more...


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"You should reprimand him...make him change bedpans."

April 10, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" featured rampant physician nursing, as the show's surgical interns did many important things that nurses do in real life, while nurses themselves were portrayed as peripheral subordinates. At the same time, the show doesn't seem able to get through an episode without at least one specific expression of contempt for nursing--in this case, a playful remark that associates a certain well-known nursing task with punishment for a junior staff member. Once again, show creator Shonda Rhimes wrote the episode, and the medical advisor was Karen Lisa Pike. ABC is already calling "Grey's Anatomy" one of the biggest new hits of the season, and this episode had a reported 18 million viewers. more...


Who should provide your intimate care?

April 5, 2005 -- Today Newsday ran an interesting AP story by Timothy Inklebarger about a bill pending in the Alaska legislature that would allow mental health inpatients to express a gender preference for "intimate care." The piece, "Bill would let patients pick nurse gender," does a good job of including brief comments from supporters and opponents of the bill, but it could have explained the bill better and explored some of the issues presented in more depth. more...


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"You're the pig who called Meredith a nurse...I hate you on principle."

April 3, 2005 -- Proving that its series premiere was no fluke, tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" offered 18.2 million viewers more of its surgical intern characters' explicit contempt for nursing. But perhaps the episode's most notable feature was its relentless portrayal of physician nursing, as the physicians basically handled all meaningful patient care by themselves. Show creator Shonda Rhimes wrote the episode. The show's attractive lead actors and yearning guitar pop soundtrack seem to be persuading viewers to overlook some bogus writing and less than credible plotting, and it is shaping up to be a major new force in fostering inaccurate attitudes toward nursing. more...


"New breed" of nurse? Or just new to you?

April 3, 2005 -- Today the Sunday Times (U.K.) ran a fairly good piece by Richard Brooks about a new documentary film produced by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to explain nursing to the public and close the gap between the profession's image and reality. The story, entitled "Ooh matron, this is a new breed of nurse," discusses the profession's traditional "battleaxe or bimbo" image and (briefly) its current recruiting problems. more...


Staffing ratios in the Sunshine State?

April 3, 2005 -- Today the MSNBC site posted a substantial piece from the South Florida Business Journal about bills now pending in the Florida legislature that would set specific nurse-patient ratios and ban mandatory overtime. The piece, by Brian Bandell, is a somewhat management-focused look at efforts to impose such ratios, with opponents arguing the measures are costly and impractical in the midst of a critical shortage, and supporters arguing that they will improve care without raising costs in the long run. The piece touches on many of the major issues and even mentions the recent federal staffing bills, though it fails to explore fully certain aspects of the nursing crisis, notably the role of hospital short-staffing as a primary cause of the shortage. Similar bills were reportedly filed in past years in Florida, but this year they are likely to be heard. more...


Center persuades Wal-Mart to change "brain surgeon" ad

April 2, 2005 -- Wal-Mart recently agreed to change a print advertisement for its scrubs, placed in some March 2005 nursing journals, that suggested that nurses are intellectually inferior to surgeons. The ad featured a nurse dressed in scrubs standing behind a patient's leg cast. Writing on the cast read: "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to recognize a good deal on scrubs." Even if you aren't a brain surgeon, we're sure you can see that this ad implies that nurses, despite their limits, can at least recognize a bargain when they see one. more...


14 Hours to air on TNT this coming week

April 2005 -- "14 Hours" is a fact-based cable drama about Memorial Herrman Hospital's efforts to protect patients from the deluge that Tropical Storm Allison dumped on Houston in June 2001. The main character is warm, supportive nursing supervisor Jeannette Makins (JoBeth Williams), who joins arrogant surgeon Tom Foster (Rick Schroder) to coordinate the hospital's response to massive flooding, which ultimately involves an amazing logistical feat. Despite generally adequate work by the cast and crew, this is a mostly bland and at times gooey disaster story. But the movie deserves credit for placing skilled (if only marginally assertive) nurses at the center of patient care and the hospital's response to a life-threatening emergency. We gave the movie three out of four stars for nursing; tune in and see what you think. more...


Landmark JAMA study finds nurses to be autonomous, skilled; nation reels

April 1, 2005 -- Registered nurses are autonomous professionals with years of college-level training, and their clinical skills are critical to patient outcomes, according to researchers writing in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. The massive study "Nursing: Who Knew?" was based on extensive research by physicians at the Harvard and Johns Hopkins medical schools. For the "Who Knew?" project, physicians did field work in hospital locations ranging from so-called "nurses' stations" to the more rarely seen "patients' rooms." They also conducted the first detailed interviews with the recently discovered "nursing scholars" and "nurse practitioners." Among the key findings were that nursing was a distinct science, that many nurses had graduate degrees in nursing, that most nurses had no particular wish to be or to date physicians, and that nurses performed critical health tasks long thought to be the sole province of physicians. more...

 

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