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August 2005 Archives


The Great Raid film review

August 2005 -- In early 1945, a small group of U.S. Army Rangers and Filipino soldiers rescued 500 U.S. soldiers from the brutal, heavily guarded Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan, just ahead of the Allied advance in the Philippines. "The Great Raid" and the books on which it is based get credit for resurrecting this incredible World War II story. But despite competent direction and acting, most of the movie is bland and clichéd. The officers' leadership of the raid is the film's main thing. However, the principal character in an ill-conceived subplot is nurse Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen), an underground leader in occupied Manila. She is portrayed as a war hero for smuggling medicine to the desperate POWs. The real-life Utinsky was all that, but she does not deserve the fictionalized romance with a POW officer that the film supplies as her motivation. Instead, "Miss U"--as she titled her 1948 autobiography--would seem to merit her own movie. more...


The Enforcers

August 31, 2005 -- Today the Boston Globe published a persuasive op-ed piece by journalist Suzanne Gordon about the Tufts Health Plan's apparent return to the health care "micromanagement" of the 1990's, including placing nurses in Massachusetts hospitals to "patrol" treatment and patient stays. Gordon argues that this poisons nurses' relations with physicians and patients, exacerbates the nursing crisis, and does not even result in the cost savings that are its goal. Instead, she contends, only the kind of universal health care system that prevails in other industrialized nations will be able to contain the runaway expenses of the private insurance industry, prescription drug costs, and other wasteful features of the current system. more...


Anti-social behavior

August 29, 2005 -- Recent press articles in the U.K. and the U.S. have highlighted the ongoing physical security risks faced by nurses working on the front lines of health care. Today the BBC published an unsigned piece, "Rise in charges over NHS assaults," reporting a large increase in prosecutions of those who assault National Health Service staff. A short unsigned Associated Press piece published on August 21 in the San Jose Mercury News, "Newspaper: Psych nurses ask for additional security," reported that nurses are calling for heightened security after a "spate of attacks on employees" at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center's inpatient psychiatric unit. more...


Nursing the baby nurses

August 28, 2005 -- Today the New York Daily News ran a lengthy and fairly good piece, "Scandal of 'baby nurses,'" about the lack of regulation and awareness of the minimally-trained infant caregivers who market themselves as "baby nurses." The piece, by Pete Donohoe and Caitlyn Kelly, stems from the recent high-profile case of Noella Allick, the New York infant caregiver who has reportedly "confessed to violently shaking and seriously injuring two babies in her care." The piece rightly suggests that a key part of this specific problem is that anyone can call herself a "nurse," though it does not explore the deeper implications for global health posed by the endemic abuse of the word "nurse." In fact, the media commonly refers to female care givers as "nurses" no matter how little training they have, and whether they actually provide health care or not. Products doing so range from news pieces like those on the "baby nurse" case (including one in the Daily News last week by Donohoe himself) to marketing for popular Hollywood films (such as the "The Skeleton Key" and "The Grudge") to more arcane products in the media's vast sex-and-violence marketplace (such as the Japanese anime video series "Amazing Nurse Nanako"). This kind of confusion may be exploited not just by minimally trained caregivers, but even by some hospitals that may see a benefit in leading patients to believe they are getting care from "nurses" without having to actually pay for nurses. Legislation to make the word "nurse" a "protected title," which the Daily News reports is pending in New York, may have some positive effect. But the abuse of the word is so entrenched and widespread, and its common associations with breastfeeding and generic nurturing remain so strong, that some may wonder whether the profession of nursing should consider finding a new name. more...


Wages and conditions

August 26, 2005 -- Today Sierra Leone's Awareness Times ran a short piece by Tom S.E.C. Tommy describing the national nurses association's dismay over the recent "incorporation" of the National School of Nursing into the College of Medicine and Allied Health Services. The report, "Sierra Leone Nurses Blast College of Medicine," also describes the association president Patricia Abu's concern about the extreme lack of resources devoted to the nation's government hospitals. According to Mrs. Abu, 70% of the nurses at those hospitals are unpaid volunteers, with the result that most qualified nurses seek other opportunities, and those who remain are forced to "live on the income from the [medicines] they sell." more...


Could shortage-driven migration change nursing's gender gap?

August 23, 2005 -- Today the New Kerala web site posted an interesting unsigned piece about the apparent surge in interest in nursing among the men in the Indian state of Kerala. The story, "Kerala male nurses storm traditional female bastion," suggests that local males are being lured by the "[l]ucrative nursing options" overseas, with 20% of current Indian nursing school graduates going abroad. The piece is very positive about nursing, noting its intellectual components and at times sounding more like a recruitment ad in discussing how interesting and fulfilling the profession is. The piece does not explain exactly what nurses do to save lives and improve outcomes. And it seems oblivious of the larger context of the nursing shortage, and the effect this talent drain is having on health care in India. But the piece does--without seeming to realize it--raise the question of whether the huge pay differentials and transnational migration stemming from the shortage could alter the profession's gender makeup, potentially helping to empower the profession and ease the shortage. more...


From giants to just plain folks

August 23, 2005 -- In an essay in today's New York Times, "Practicing Medicine Without a Swagger," Columbia physician Barron H. Lerner suggests that the days when physicians arrogantly "ruled the roost" are over. He says that while those days "may have been fun," today physicians are more likely to be treated as "employees" than "royalty." And "most hospital employees, including physicians, believe that the humbling of doctors has been for the best." The piece suggests that all that's left of physicians' former power are "occasional reminders" and "periodic perks." Dr. Lerner deserves credit for his discussion of past abuses. But his piece trivializes the continuing problem of undue physician power, ignoring the extent to which the medical hubris it describes affects patient outcomes and undermines nursing practice, and offering a subtle whitewash of disruptive physician conduct, which is a significant factor in the global nursing crisis. more...


In the midst of life we are in death

August 21, 2005 -- Tonight's series finale of HBO's "Six Feet Under" was a fitting sendoff for the funeral-directing Fisher family. It offered a powerful, if at times overwrought, vision of human mortality. But the episode also marginalized nursing in two significant subplots, an ironic slight given that nurses may confront death and dying more directly and more often than any other clinical health care professionals. The finale, "Everyone's Waiting," was written and directed by show creator Alan Ball. more...


"Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear!"

August 19, 2005 -- Today the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal published a fairly long, interesting piece by Laura Cutland about hospital industry concerns over "generous" nursing compensation packages. The story focuses on a recent Catholic Healthcare West contract that raised nurse salaries and "codified" state-mandated staffing ratios in 12 Northern California hospitals. The piece, "Catholic Healthcare contract worries other hospitals," seems to place undue emphasis on management-side concerns. Much of it consists of vague, sky-is-falling assertions from some hospital executives about how unsustainable nursing salaries and staffing may become in the future. Nursing is presented as a troublesome cost of doing business, rather than a profession that is critical to patient outcomes and the main reason hospitals exist. The piece fails to supply any actual facts (e.g., widespread hospital closures) to support the impending doom scenarios, nor the piece's assertion that the state's "nursing shortage shows no signs of relief." more...


Latest verses in the "Nurses' Song": University of Alberta Medshow finished; CBC covers Center campaign; University promises Sigma Theta Tau "major emphasis" on interdisciplinary education

August 10, 2005 -- Recent weeks have seen several encouraging developments in the Center's campaign with regard to the "Nurses' Song" sung at the recent University of Alberta Medshow, though in our view the University's response still falls short of what is needed to eliminate the anti-nurse attitudes reflected in the song. On July 27, the President and the CEO of nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau International wrote a letter to the University's board of governors, and on that same day, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio ran a story about the Center's campaign by Adrienne Lamb. The University's board chair James S. Edwards today responded to Sigma Theta Tau with a letter promising that "[t]here will be no Med Show in future." He stated that former University nursing Dean Genevieve Gray had received a "full apology" from the 2005 show organizers and the Medical Students' Association. Edwards also stressed that the medical school will be "placing a major emphasis on interdisciplinary and interprofessional education" at a new "Health Sciences Ambulatory Learning Centre," and that the medical students already take part in an interdisciplinary student-led clinic for local street youth. The letter also repeats the medical students' defense that the song was merely intended to "mock an antiquated stereotype." This is a dubious position given the song's range of still-current slurs, including several that reflect very credible resentment of modern nurses' inclinations to weigh in on care plans and demand decent working conditions, all presented in a context that was at best ambiguous. Moreover, to our knowledge Dean Gray has not received a "full apology" from the 2005 MedShow organizers, who have yet to be publicly identified or disciplined. And none of this necessarily means that future medical students will receive any significant additional education by nursing experts as to the vital contributions nurses make. Thus, though we applaud the measures taken, we urge supporters to continue applying pressure to the University to ensure that it undertakes meaningful reform. more...


Let them drink clams

August 5, 2005 -- Global beverage maker Cadbury Schweppes has told the Center that it will make a limited effort to curtail the final two weeks of a Canadian television ad campaign for Mott's Clamato juice that features a naughty nurse image. The company released a statement today that assured nurses that it did not mean to disparage their profession. But the message seemed mainly intended to justify the ads through an explanation of the company's "fun and entertaining" marketing strategy, which has "one primary message: nothing is as spicy as Mott's Clamato." We're entertaining other slogans that would be equally relevant to the ad campaign, such as: "Nothing is as spicy as a deadly nursing shortage." more...


Can naughty nurse imagery launch a career?

August 2005 -- The cover of this month's issue of the Australian magazine Ralph features Gianna, a former contestant on Australia's "Big Brother" program, in a "naughty nurse" outfit that is essentially bikini underwear. Just an isolated effort to sell magazines by exploiting the nurse-as-sex-worker image that has contributed to the global nursing crisis? Hardly. Gianna, who hopes to make it in film and TV, apparently made a different naughty nurse outfit a major feature of her time on the popular reality show. She auctioned that outfit off very publicly last month for the benefit of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Whatever her other attributes, Gianna is an innovator: we are not aware of another high profile attempt to establish a mainstream entertainment career largely through naughty nurse imagery. more...

 

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