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News on Nurses in the Media
May 2005 Archives


Grey, green, and the thin white line

May 25, 2005 -- Today the Philadelphia Inquirer published a powerful op-ed by David L. Knowlton protesting the "I hate nurses" approach of ABC's huge new hit "Grey's Anatomy." Knowlton (right) is the former deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and he now heads up the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. The op-ed makes great points about how poor depictions of nursing in popular mass media products like the show harm nursing and public health at this time of critical shortage, and it urges everyone who works to improve the quality of health care to speak up about it. We were especially impressed with the piece's discussions of Dana Beth Weinberg's book Code Green and the "Grey's Anatomy" series premiere, both of which contained material lifted verbatim (but without attribution) from the Center's own recent reviews of those works. We commend Mr. Knowlton and the Inquirer for publishing the parts of the op-ed that he wrote, and the parts that we wrote! more...


Brand New Day

May 25, 2005 -- Today the Belfast Telegraph ran Nigel Gould's profile of uro-oncology nurse Jenny Kelly, who heads up Belfast City Hospital's Men Against Cancer Clinic, where she saves lives by "helping men overcome their embarrassment about going for a check-up." The piece is a generally good portrait of a nursing leader who is improving access to care by changing the way it is a delivered--a classic nursing intervention. more...


Live 8, Nursing Division

May 25, 2005 -- Today Business Day (Johannesburg) ran a short piece by Razina Munshi about the recent call of South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for local nurses to stop migrating to the developed world. The piece reports that the Health Minister stressed that such global migration undermines developing nations' investment in their health professionals, and threatens already weakened local health systems. more...


What's the differential diagnosis for chronic handmaiden-itis with persistent physician nursing? Quick! The patient is dying!

May 24, 2005 -- The season's last two episodes of Fox's hit House, culminating in tonight's finale (19.7 million viewers), continued the show's grossly inaccurate depiction of nurses as uneducated, peripheral subordinates and physicians as the brilliant providers of all meaningful health care. Both episodes mostly ignore nurses, showing physicians doing important work that nurses really do, notably monitoring patients, providing emotional support, giving medications, and doing defibrillation. But one short scene in the May 17 episode, show creator David Shore's "Three Stories" (17.7 million viewers), is a small masterpiece of anti-nurse distortions. It deserves close attention in an era in which the mass media plays a major role in driving the nursing shortage that threatens lives worldwide. more...


Let's put on a show!

May 20, 2005 -- Today NPR's Morning Edition ran a piece by Patricia Neighmond taking a remarkably uncritical look at what is reportedly the first web-based "reality show," a project produced by a California travel nurse agency that NPR says is called "Nurse TV" (promotional materials call it "13 Weeks"). Despite the project's stated goal of improving the nursing image at a time of shortage, the five-minute NPR piece treats it mostly as a new media convergence story. In fact, the show could spark some increased interest in nursing, though it is not yet clear whether it will tell the public much about the actual value of nursing work, as opposed to what we assume will be six attractive young nurses pursuing personal non-work goals and activities at a beach mansion. Of course, the project may do much to promote the business of sponsor Access Nursing, as well as the explosion of travel and temporary nursing, which some regard as a dangerous symptom of the current nursing crisis. The NPR piece--web-headlined "Reality TV Tackles Nurse Shortage"--appears to be utterly oblivious of this larger nursing context. more...


Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work

May 6-31, 2005 -- Can still photography convey nursing science? An exhibit of impressively diverse new photos on display at New York University (NYU) through May 31, "Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work," makes a valiant effort. At times, it succeeds. And many of the images that will not really give most viewers a sense of nursing knowledge and skill still show the human connection that is a key part of the profession. Yes, people already know that nurses spend time with patients, and given our shared assumptions, some of the photos are susceptible to an angel reading. But they remind us of the joy and pain that nurses can share with their patients, even in the managed care era. Some of the photos are more artistically successful than others, but most 3 starshave something to say about nurses and care today--even when the only "faces" you can see are those of the patients. read more and learn how to go see the exhibit...


Your Aspiring National Nurse

May 20, 2005 -- Today The New York Times published an op-ed by Oregon nurse Teri Mills arguing that the United States should address the nursing shortage by "dethron[ing] the surgeon general and appoint[ing] a National Nurse." The basic idea is that while the nation's "head doctor" has failed to connect with the public, nursing's focus on preventative care and patient education would enable the National Nurse both to teach the nation about health and to highlight the daily achievements of nursing. Despite its somewhat half-baked quality and a few other problems, the op-ed is a punchy piece of patient and nursing advocacy with some good, common-sense ideas to improve public health. We salute Ms. Mills for writing the op-ed and The Times for publishing it (however serious its intent in doing so may be). Oh, we almost forgot--though the op-ed fails to mention it, Ms. Mills is a vocal supporter of 2004 presidential candidate and current DNC Chair Howard Dean who has promoted herself in the blogosphere as "your aspiring National Nurse" since at least 2003. Is that a kooky coincidence or what? more...


Letter from Sioux Lookout: "Nurses help communities thrive"

May 19, 2005 -- Today the Wawatay News (Ontario) posted a very good Nursing Week letter to the editor by Lyn Button, RN, BN, the Zone Nursing Officer of the Sioux Lookout Zone for Health Canada, the nation's federal health department. Ms. Button's letter explains what nurses do for patients and what it takes to be a good nurse today, and it provides special insight into the vital role of nurses in remote rural communities, "where everyone knows everyone else." It is a good example of the kind of advocacy that can help the public--and decision-makers--understand the real value of nursing. more...


Nursing Against the Odds released; scores OK New York Times review

May 17, 2005 -- Suzanne Gordon's new book, Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care, has now been released. The book's subtitle extends its influence by supplying a nice 15-word executive summary even to those too busy to read it. Yesterday the New York Times posted a significant review of the book by science writer Cornelia Dean. The well-written review seems mildly positive and it presents a good, if somewhat rambling, description of some of the book's key points. However, it offers no critical analysis and seems to underplay the book's criticisms of health care players other than nurses themselves, ignoring, for instance, the book's lengthy discussion of the role of physicians in the crisis. Ms. Dean and the Times do deserve credit for giving the book such wide exposure. more...


Everybody Writes Raymond: Huge sitcom writing team comes up with hilarious new "naughty nurse" joke for series finale

May 16, 2005 -- Tonight's series finale of CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond" included a couple questionable nurse-related elements, including a nurse-as-sex-object joke so tired that it's hard to describe without falling asleep. The 10 writers credited with the episode are Philip Rosenthal, Ray Romano, Tucker Cawley, Lew Schneider, Steve Skrovan, Jeremy Stevens, Mike Royce, Aaron Shure, Tom Caltabiano, and Leslie Caveny. The long-running sitcom is now out of production, but the finale was reportedly seen by more than 32 million people. more...


"Nurse shortage hits health, economy"

May 13, 2005 -- Today the Post and Courier of Charleston, SC, published a reasonable, well-written op-ed by Medical College of South Carolina College of Nursing Dean Gail W. Stuart. Dean Stuart argues that her state's severe nursing shortage--and especially the lack of resources for advanced nursing education--threatens not only residents' health, but the state's economic wellbeing. This is an excellent point that is not often made. The op-ed does not really address the underlying causes of the shortage, and it steers clear of discussing more controversial potential solutions--omitting mention of short-staffing and staffing legislation, for instance. more...


The Varieties of Nurses' Day Experience

May 12, 2005 -- On May 12, nurses and supporters across the globe celebrated International Nurses Day (also Florence Nightingale's birthday) with an impressive range of activities. In South Africa, Xoliswa Zulu, a reporter for The Mercury, tried to follow nurses around on a 12-hour shift at a busy city hospital--but appeared to become overwhelmed with exhaustion (and appreciation) less than half way through the shift. In India, Lopamudra Maitra marked the day by publishing a May 11 piece on the expressindia web site about the changing demographics of Indian nurses and the increasing demand for them abroad. This piece lacked needed context. In the United States, noted journalist Suzanne Gordon published a strong op-ed piece in the Boston Globe arguing that nurses should be honored not merely with once-a-year "angel"-oriented lip service, but with passage of the mandatory safe staffing legislation currently pending before the Massachusetts legislature. And in San Francisco, the California Nurses Association (CNA) honored Nightingale (the "original nursing activist") by holding a protest against Johnson & Johnson--noted for its $30 million nursing recruitment campaign--because of the drug giant's alleged support of a statewide measure to "silence" nurses and other public employees in the political process, and its efforts to defeat measures designed to lower drug prices. The CNA story does not appear to have been covered by the mainstream media; perhaps it was just too difficult to reconcile with the prevailing angel image. Happy nurses day! more...


Boston Globe op-ed: "Nurse understaffing harms patients"

May 12, 2005 -- Today noted journalist and relentless nursing advocate Suzanne Gordon marked National Nurses Week with an important, well-written op-ed piece in the Boston Globe. The piece argues that the best way to honor nurses is not through more of the traditional lip service and self-sacrificing "angel" imagery that has often been used to exploit nurses, but through passage of safe staffing legislation like that pending before the Massachusetts legislature, which in her view would relieve the dangerous short-staffing that has driven many nurses from the bedside. The op-ed takes on some of the claims presented by Massachusetts hospitals and nurse executives who oppose mandatory staffing ratios, and although the piece might have done a bit more to counter these, it is effective in arguing that voluntary measures will not be adequate to address the current nursing crisis. more...


Serenading the unsung heroines in South Africa

May 12, 2005 -- Xoliswa Zulu's follow-a-nurse piece in The Mercury today is entitled "Have You Thanked a Nurse Today?" (subtitle: "The people who hold the health system together often go unacknowledged"). Its vision of nursing is largely limited to the "unglamorous" job's physical demands, the unpleasantness of some care tasks, and the nurses' connection with their patients. So readers will not get a sense that nurses are educated professionals with advanced skills. On the other hand, the piece is at least a strong portrait of the aspects of nursing it identifies. The author marvels at the nurses' endurance and their ability to tolerate things like foul-smelling wounds and bedpans, and concludes by paying "tribute to these unsung heroines whose shoes I could never fill." more...


The changing face of Indian nursing

May 11, 2005 -- Lopamudra Maitra's piece posted on the expressindia web site today reports that, as nurses celebrate Florence Nightingale's birthday, Indian nursing schools are seeing more young women and more men taking an interest in the profession, as well as an increased demand for Indian nurses in English-speaking developed nations. The piece appears to be based mainly on conversations with local nursing school leaders and teachers, and it provides some interesting and important information about these trends. Unfortunately, it lacks any sense of the broader context of such migration, and it also presents some regressive stereotypes of nursing--the most egregious of which appear to come from a local dean of nursing. more...


ONA Original Nurse Activist

May 11, 2005 -- Today the California Nurses Association (CNA) issued a press release vowing to celebrate Florence Nightingale's birthday by staging a protest at the downtown San Francisco offices of Johnson & Johnson, the company known for its massive nursing recruitment campaign. CNA's release argued that the pharmaceutical giant had supported recent efforts to limit the political participation of nurses and other public employees, and that it had also donated huge sums to defeat measures designed to lower drug prices in California. The union called the company's policies "hypocritical," and said its protest honored the "legacy of the original nurse activist." The press release appeared on a few web sites, including Yahoo Finance and Biospace.com, but we have seen no coverage in the mainstream media. more...


Do superbugs know more about nursing than humans do?

May 6, 2005 -- Today the Scotsman web site posted a Press Association piece by Lyndsay Moss about a new study finding that intensive care patients were seven times more likely to be infected with the deadly MRSA "superbug" when there was a "shortage of specially trained nurses." The brief piece, "Superbug Peril Higher During Nurse Shortages," does a pretty good job explaining one of the countless hazards of nurse short staffing. But it has expert comment only from physicians, and none from the intensive care nurses whose care is actually at issue--a small but telling example of the kind of attitudes that help make nurse short staffing possible. more...


Gene Weingarten apologizes to nurses

May 5, 2005 -- Gene Weingarten has now responded to many of the Center supporters who have written protesting his April 24 column. His responses to the original letters have been brief but generally conciliatory: many state that he intended no slur and include a kind of apology, along with assurances that he "loves" nurses and finds them all "beautiful." Mr. Weingarten also extended apologies in his weekly online chats on May 3 and April 26, and he even placed a full copy of the Center's initial letter to him in the May 3 chat, which we appreciate. In the chats, Mr. Weingarten again assured nurses that he values them highly, though he does not appear to believe his column was as harmful as we do, and it is not clear if he understands what nurses really do to save lives and improve outcomes. However, we remain in contact with Mr. Weingarten, who is commendably concerned that so many nurses were offended by his column. We have urged him to apologize in his column and do something more to make amends for the April 24 column, such as explain to his readers what nurses really do for patients. We are working together on this, so stay tuned to news alerts and we will keep you updated.


"And there wasn't even a doctor there!"

May 3, 2005 -- Today Nicole Brodeur's column in the Seattle Times told the story of local ED nurse Joanne Endres who, as the only health professional on a plane flight from Minneapolis, apparently saved the life of a man having a heart attack. The theme of the column, "Flying solo, nurse is enough," is that the public does not understand what nurses do, and it includes some excellent observations about that. The piece might have gone a bit deeper on how Ms. Endres actually helped the patient, but on the whole it's a commendable effort to highlight and remedy nursing invisibility. more...


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If Tomorrow Never Knows

May 1, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," written by Krista Vernoff, included an extraordinary scene in which a veteran nurse character guided one of the interns through treatment of a life-threatening cardiac tamponade. This is the kind of informal teaching of new physicians that experienced nurses commonly do but that Hollywood almost never shows, and we give the show credit for showing it. Unfortunately (you knew this was coming) the episode still manages to suggest that the intern alone saved the patient's life. It presents the unnamed and unrecognized nurse as a kind of humanoid how-to card, rather than a skilled professional whose expertise was the most critical factor in the patient's survival. When the episode isn't crediting physicians for work that nurses really do, it portrays them as physician helpers. The medical consultant was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. more...


This will hurt like hell

May 2005 -- This month Outside magazine printed a short but excellent letter from Julie McMahon Falk, R.N., protesting the magazine's March item "Get Well Soon." That item featured a large photo (right) of a naughty nurse as part of its description of several "feel better tools," products that relieve pain after intense physical activity. The Center had started a campaign about this photo, and the magazine did ultimately promise to print a letter reflecting nurses' concerns. Although this is not the apology we had sought, we commend Outside for at least printing the letter, and we salute Ms. Falk for her nursing advocacy. more...

 

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