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News on Nurses in the Media
September 2005 Archives


There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We, the AMA, are controlling transmission.

September 2005 -- Late this month, Slate posted a piece by two Boston medical residents (and clinical fellows at Harvard) entitled "Paging Dr. Welby: The medical sins of Grey's Anatomy." Authors Ingrid Katz and Alexi Wright make some good points about the ABC hit's medical inaccuracies and distortions. But their main theme seems to be that things would be better if the American Medical Association had never lost its tight control over how physicians and presumably all health care events are portrayed, which has supposedly led to unsavory depictions of physicians as deeply flawed humans, rather than the godlike Welbys of yesteryear. This, along with medical inaccuracies generally, assertedly works to undermine vital public trust in physicians. Evidently, the authors would entrust public understanding of health care errors, health financing, scope of practice, access to care, and health policy generally to a lobbying organization representing a small minority of powerful health workers who lack expertise in many key areas of modern health care. The authors also overlook the media's ongoing portrayal of physicians as the heroic (if human) providers of all important health care. And they ignore the enormous influence individual physicians--like them--continue to wield over such depictions, influence that has, sadly, been a significant factor in the ongoing representation of nurses as peripheral subordinates who make no meaningful contribution to health care. more...


Salon: "No school nurses left behind"

September 29, 2005 -- Today Salon posted a lengthy, generally good piece by Laurie Udesky about the denursification of U.S. public schools, which has come at a time when the number of children attending with serious, chronic health issues like asthma continues to grow. Udesky's story includes harrowing anecdotes illustrating the "often tragic results" as non-nurse school workers try to care for sick children. Part of the problem, Udesky reports, is the tremendous financial pressures that the No Child Left Behind program and local budget demands have placed on public schools. The piece might have focused more on the views and experiences of the nurses themselves, but it still provides a good sense of the value of nurses and the gravity of the problem. more...


We want -- We want your Bodies

September 29, 2005 -- Tonight BBC America will begin showing the intense U.K. drama "Bodies," which reportedly focuses on how one large hospital's staff reacts to health care errors, especially the dangerous incompetence of a powerful OB/GYN physician. Sound familiar? The show's "ripped from the headlines" quality may owe something to the recent scandals over hospitals' failure to act in the face of the alleged deadly incompetence of surgeons in Australia and Canada, despite nurses' warnings. "Bodies" has been compared to the early "ER" for its edgy refusal to hug or learn. Although its key characters seem to be physicians, the show does appear to include two--two!--nurses among its seven main characters. more...


Nursing's anatomy

September 28, 2005 -- Today the San Jose Mercury News ran a persuasive op-ed piece by Suzanne Gordon, "America's shortage of nurses gets no help from Hollywood." The piece argues that popular entertainment products like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" present a highly distorted vision in which physicians provide all meaningful health care and nurses are peripheral handmaidens. Gordon, who serves on the Center's advisory panel, stresses that research shows these products are a major influence on how the public views nursing, and thus a big factor in the crisis that threatens to leave the U.S. short hundreds of thousands of nurses--just as the retiring baby boomers will depend on nurses to save and improve their lives. more...


Beautiful

September 26, 2005 -- Today the Globe and Mail (Toronto) ran a simple but powerful "comment" by Corinne LaBossiere about the value of nursing. LaBossiere's piece compared the expert palliative care that her dying mother's nurse provided without fanfare, on the one hand, to the images on the TV in her mother's room, which showed celebrity Pamela Anderson getting quite a bit of male attention simply for parts of her body. The headline asked: "What assets do we value most?" more...


Hell hath no fury like a "bedded-then-rejected" nurse

September 23, 2005 -- Tonight's series premiere of the NBC fertility clinic drama "Inconceivable," written by Oliver Goldstick and Marco Pennette, presented one of the worst images of nursing to hit prime time in years. The one fairly major nurse character, the frivolous, sex-wielding Patrice LoCicero (Joelle Carter), spent the episode seducing the lead male physician, clinging as he pulled away, then betraying him in a way that was both insidious and pathetic. Elsewhere, while the other major characters faced major work issues, walk-on nurse characters snapped photos of new parents, discussed lunch plans, and commented cheerfully that a man who had chosen one of the clinic's naughty nurse porn movies to help him produce a sperm sample would take awhile, as he had chosen one with "a plot." (Maybe he should have just watched "Inconceivable.") The episode's ratings were poor, but it still drew more than six million viewers. And if they had no reason to regard nurses as unskilled twits or sexually degraded, back-stabbing vixens before the episode, they sure do now. more...


Gimme that nurse fever, nurse fever.
We know how to show it!

September 2005 -- A new TAG Body Spray television commercial features an attractive, provocatively dressed "nurse" who develops "highly contagious lusty-nurse fever" and climbs into bed with the stunned male patient wearing the product. The ad reinforces the nurse-as-sex-maniac image that continues to contribute to the devaluation of nursing at a time of critical shortage. TAG Body Spray is made by The Gillette Company, the Fortune 500 company that also sells Oral B, Duracell, Braun, Venus, Mach 3, and Right Guard products. We urge everyone to ask Gillette to pull the ad now and make amends to nurses. more...


Pull up the people

September 22, 2005 -- Today New Zealand's Stuff web site posted an unsigned piece about a new tactic by the national nurses' union to highlight short-staffing: placing a cardboard "nurse" called Mia (as in "Missing in action") on wards in which the staffing has fallen below the level nurses deem to be safe. The story is "Cardboard cut-out nurse to highlight shortage." It explains that the New Zealand Nurses Organization created Mia to focus attention on a "safe-staffing inquiry" by a joint union-management panel that the union hopes will lead to an improved staffing system. The Center commends Mia for her unusually creative patient advocacy. more...


Christmas in July syndrome?

September 22, 2005 -- Tonight's 12th season premiere of NBC's "ER" went out of its way to acknowledge that veteran nurses play a role in coping with "July syndrome," which occurs when new physicians arrive in U.S. hospitals to begin their internships. The episode included nurse character Chunie Marquez acting to prevent several dangerous intern errors, and nurse Haleh Adams critiquing a new second year resident's intern teaching. For a major network television show, this is extraordinary, and we thank episode writers John Wells, Joe Sachs, MD, and Lisa Zwerling, MD. Unfortunately, the episode seemed to present these veteran nurses mostly as assistants to the senior physicians. Rather than directly teaching the junior physicians and giving them a chance to improve, as real nurses generally would, the nurse characters simply reported the problems to the senior physicians. And of course, the whole focus of the episode's clinical scenes, as usual, was the training of physicians. The show has never addressed nurse training in any significant way. more...


NBC's "ER" starts 12th season, which will reportedly introduce nurse manager Eve Peyton; Center review of last season posted

September 22, 2005 -- Tonight NBC's enduring hospital drama "ER" will kick off its 12th season of codes and kisses. "ER" makes a more serious effort than any other prime time network show to present nurses as skilled, three-dimensional members of the health care team. The nurse characters at times display knowledge and skill, and they are not usually seen merely as casual romantic objects or clerks. One episode last year had nurse Sam Taggart caring and advocating for a rape victim with some autonomy; in another, she made a key diagnostic catch that had eluded an intern. Yet even these occasional efforts are undermined by the show's physician-centric vision of care. This includes the hopelessly lopsided nurse:physician major character ratio, the constant portrayal of physicians doing and getting credit for exciting, important work that nurses do in real life, the frequent suggestions that nurses are physician subordinates, the intense focus on physician training while nurses' professional development is ignored, the disproportionate emphasis on the one major nurse character's personal life, and the continued mishandling of slurs against nursing. Until these issues are addressed consistently (rather than for a few minutes once in a while) the show's portrayal of nursing will remain fairly poor. One glimmer of hope: reports are that the new season will include the appearance of an ED nurse manager, Kristen Johnston's Eve Peyton, who will be "inscrutable and unflappable" and act as a "mentor" to Taggart. See the Center's review of the 2004-2005 season, and our updated series review.


Checking up on Checkup Day

September 20, 2005 -- Today is the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) 2005 "Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day," a national campaign to improve the health of minority communities by encouraging people to visit health professionals. This year, HHS changed the name of the campaign in response to nurses' concerns that the prior one, "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day," excluded the advanced practice nurses (APRNs) who play a critical role in the primary care of the campaign's target populations. As the campaign day approaches, it's worth briefly examining the way in which HHS and its partners in government, the media and the health care community have reacted to the name change. HHS itself explains the change on its web site as an effort to acknowledge the efforts of all health professionals engaged in community health, whether they are "doctors, nurses, dentists, physician's assistants, or other health providers." This recognition of nurses and others is commendable, though it does not tell people that APRNs function in a way that is comparable to physicians in primary care settings. HHS has also given its partners the discretion to use any name they wish. Tom Joyner, whose ABC Radio show reaches millions, and who ignored nurses' concerns about the old "doctor" name, appears to have stuck with that name. On the other hand, it appears that many other governmental, media and health entities have gone with the new HHS name. more...


The baby man

September 18, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of Lifetime's "Strong Medicine" included two commendable subplots recognizing the autonomy and skill of hunky advanced practice nurse Peter Riggs. Peter got fed up with seeing yet another poor young mother getting inadequate support from her baby's gangbanging father, so he set up a "baby boot camp" for those fathers, which he ran with considerable skill. The episode also briefly highlighted Peter's skills as a midwife, setting him up in competition with surgeon Dylan West in caring for their pregnant colleague, physician Lu Delgado. But most of the episode offered the usual portrait of commanding physicians providing all important care. The anonymous nurses who did appear accepted their "orders" without comment, never speaking to patients or having an extended interaction with the physicians or other nurses. The episode, "It Takes a Clinic," was written by Darin Goldberg and Shelley Meals. more...


In juggling your hectic business schedule prior to your stay here at Ritz Memorial, did you forget to pack one of those little essentials, like toothpaste, shampoo, or a nurse? If so, our concierge is pleased to provide them with our compliments.

September 17, 2005 -- Today the New York Times ran a so-so piece by Alina Tugend in the "Your Money" part of its business section about the apparent trend toward hiring private nurses to compensate for hospital short-staffing. The piece shows that short-staffing is a problem that could endanger readers' health, focusing on the need to have someone around to spot obvious problems like respiratory failure and to help patients to the bathroom. And it relies heavily on several nursing leaders, who provide sensible advice on how to avoid the worst effects of short-staffing, including investigating nurse staffing ratios in choosing a hospital. However, even acknowledging that the piece's focus is practical advice rather than policy, it falls short in key ways. Despite its length, the piece fails to note the link between short-staffing and the nursing shortage, does not ask even in passing whether we really want to continue our apparent slide toward a Victorian era health financing system in which only the affluent can afford nursing care, and fails to explain what nurses can do that unskilled "companions" cannot. The piece's failure to appreciate the full nature of the staffing crisis is captured in its headline: "Going to the Hospital? Don't Forget to Pack a Nurse." more...


The Real World

September 14, 2005 -- Today the CTV site posted a short unsigned Canadian Press piece about a New Brunswick government plan to start having emergency department nurses "assessing, treating and discharging patients who don't require the immediate attention of a physician." The plan to give nurses "a lot more responsibility" is reportedly intended to reduce waiting times in crowded EDs. The piece has good quotes from the provincial health minister and the head of the New Brunswick Nurses Association, though it might have included comment from an ED physician as well. It might also have explained more clearly the roles of ED nurses and physicians, since parts of the piece may suggest that nursing is merely a subset of medicine. more...


Nursing advocacy

September 14, 2005 -- Today Prensa Latina released a brief unsigned item reporting that nurses at Peruvian public hospitals are continuing a national strike, which appears to be mainly over wages. Some of the striking nurses have reportedly set up tents in San Francisco de Lima Church, and at the time of the report, a dozen of these nurses had been on a hunger strike for six days. more...


"The greatest crime against humanity of this century"

September 11, 2005 -- In a lengthy comment in today's Observer (U.K.), Jonathan Dimbleby urges world leaders not to squander the chance to "end poverty" by "bickering" during the United Nations summit this week in New York. Dimbleby is a major U.K. news media figure and president of the charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). He illustrates his argument for releasing aid to Africa with a discussion of his recent visit to Malawi, whose 12 million impoverished people receive care from a grand total of 94 Malawian physicians and 300 Malawian nurses. By comparison Sweden, with a population of 9 million, has about 90,000 practicing nurses--that is, 400 times as many nurses per person for a far healthier population. more...


One nurse for every 40 patients

September 10, 2005 -- Today Kathimerini, "Greece's International English Language Newspaper," posted a short item on its web site by Thansasis Ouzounisiana about a protest by a Greek nurses' union over short-staffing. The piece carries a photo of nurses from the Panhellenic Union of Nursing Staff at a "sit-in protest during a 24-hour strike" held in connection with the nation's largest trade fair in the city of Thessaloniki. more...


Nurses evacuated from AP report on Katrina

September 9, 2005 -- Today many press organs ran a harrowing piece by Associated Press "medical writer" Marilynn Marchione about the plight of New Orleans hospitals after Hurricane Katrina. The Yahoo! headline, which was typical, was: "Doctors Emerging as Heroes of Katrina." Consistent with this headline, the AP piece depicts physicians as having done virtually everything of note for the patients at Charity, University and Tulane hospitals in New Orleans during the worst hours of the Katrina aftermath. Apart from a passing reference to RN's and EMT's, and one sentence about a Pennsylvania paramedic, the piece is all physicians all the time, with many references to what "doctors" did, and multiple quotes and/or description of no less than eight named physicians and a medical student. Not one nurse is mentioned. The lengthy piece is practically a primer on the ways a press account can deify physicians and scrub out all references to non-physicians in the delivery of care to hospital patients. more...


Daily Mail: "Nurses press for full smoking ban"

September 4, 2005 -- Today the Daily Mail (U.K.) ran a short unsigned piece reporting that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had petitioned the government for a full and immediate ban on smoking in enclosed public places. A potential ban is pending, but the RCN opposes the Government's proposed 2008 implementation date as well as a proposed exemption for pubs that do not serve food. RCN General Secretary Beverly Malone argues that whether a pub serves food is irrelevant to the "devastating effects of passive smoking," noting that "[e]ach day around 30 people die from second hand smoke in the U.K.," and that there is "no justification for this situation to continue a moment longer." The piece, which includes no response from the government, highlights aggressive public health advocacy by nurses. more...


Fiction, red in tooth and claw

September 2005 -- 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 short story "Chicxulub," which, if nothing else, cannot be accused of perpetuating the "angel of mercy" stereotype. "Chicxulub" is included in Boyle's high-profile new collection Tooth and Claw. The story originally appeared in The New Yorker in March 2004. The story compares the potential loss of a couple's beloved teenage daughter to the possibility that a big rock will strike the Earth's atmosphere, with catastrophic results. The story shows once again how even products of the cultural elite can casually reinforce harmful misconceptions about the nursing profession. more...


The world crashes in, into my living room

September 2005 -- The fall 2005 U.S. television season promises a lot of influential health-related serial programming. But since nearly every major character is a physician--literally dozens--it seems unlikely that nurses will receive their due. At the top of the list are the three hugely successful returning prime time hospital dramas: NBC's "ER" (premieres Sept. 22), Fox's "House" (Sept. 13), and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" (Sept. 25). Of the 25 major characters in these three shows, 24 are physicians, and only one--"ER"'s Sam Taggart--is a nurse. "ER" will reportedly add another nurse character--someone TV Guide refers to as a "take-charge nurse manager" who "mentor[s]" Taggart and, oh, is also a "bitch"--but it is not clear if she will be a major character. NBC's new fertility clinic drama "Inconceivable" (Sept. 23) focuses on two physicians and a therapist; it also includes one nurse character, but her only role in the extended preview now on the NBC web site seems to be seducing a physician. On the reality show front, ABC's new "Miracle Workers" (mid-season) will reportedly feature an "elite team of physicians" who help people with "revolutionary medical treatments." Ohio family nurse practitioner Margaret Bobonich is one of the 16 contestants on CBS' "Survivor: Guatemala" (Sept. 15), and as of this writing, Las Vegas ED nurse Maggie is one of only three guests left on CBS' "Big Brother 6." NBC's fading sitcom "Scrubs," which includes several major physician characters and nurse Carla Espinosa, returns in mid-season. On CBS' new sitcom "Out of Practice" (Sept. 19), four major physician characters look down on a family member for being "'just' a psychologist." Lifetime's "Strong Medicine," now in its sixth season, focuses on two physicians but occasionally features nurse midwife Peter Riggs, as it will in the Sept. 18 episode. The WB's small-town drama "Everwood" (Sept. 29), which has a physician lead character and includes "nurse and office manager" Edna Harper, returns for a fourth season. FX's nasty drama "Nip/Tuck" (Sept. 20), starting its third season, focuses on two plastic surgeons and has no recurring nurse character, but many viewers mistake its assertive, pro-women anesthesiologist Liz Cruz for a nurse, if that's any consolation. And staffing agency Access Nurses has selected the six cast members for its web-based "13 Weeks" (November), a reality series about travel nurses. more...


"I'm here full time, thank you God for that"

September 2, 2005 -- Today the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) ran a short but very good piece by Norman Miller about local school nurse Mary Lou Rivernider, who saved a six-year-old student's life after he had a severe reaction to a bee sting. The story, "School nurse praised for quick thinking," does not just offer the standard "hero" comments. Instead, in an era in which school nurses have been cut back despite the increasing complexity and importance of their care, the piece includes powerful quotes from Rivernider and a fire lieutenant that stress how critical it is that nurses be available at school. The article, unlike many, tells us several of the specific things Rivernider did for the boy. And we can't resist any piece whose headline includes the words "nurse" and "thinking." more...


O Pioneers!

September 1, 2005 --Today The Korea Times ran a generally good piece by Chung Ah-young headlined "Two Forensic Nurses Work to Help Sex Assault Victims." The report explains that 33-year-old nurses Youk Gi-young and Lee Kyung-a, the first forensic nurses in Korea, have begun to care for the victims of sexual assault and gather key evidence for the prosecution of perpetrators. more...

 


Please donate to help Hurricane Katrina victims

The devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf area of the US is overwhelming. We urge you to donate generously to either the American Red Cross or America's Second Harvest to help with emergency services and the public health crisis. Thank you. For volunteer information see the American Nurses Association or California Nurses Association. Nurse Practitioners click here for information on how you can volunteer to help in relief operations.


Charity in the eye of the aftermath

September 1, 2005 -- Yesterday the Associated Press released an astonishingly nurse-centric report on how New Orleans hospitals are coping with the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, especially the flooding and power outages that threaten the operations of the hospitals themselves. Adam Nossiter's piece, "New Orleans Hospitals Trying to Make Do," includes quotes from three local nursing leaders working to care for patients in horrendous conditions, including two nurse managers at the legendary Charity Hospital. Without saying it is doing so, the story suggests the central role nurses play in keeping patients alive. By contrast, today's stories from CNN and The New York Times rely solely on physicians for their accounts of the deteriorating conditions at Charity, which reportedly now include sniper fire and perilously scarce resources. more...


Skin

September 1, 2005 -- Today's Bangkok Post ran a short unsigned item reporting that five nursing schools and a medical school in the south of Thailand, where most of the nation's Muslims live, had banned female students "from wearing the Islamic headscarf, or nijab, and veil during clinical procedures." The piece signals the difficulty in balancing vital infection control measures, the need to avoid deterring nursing students in the midst of a critical shortage, and respect for a small minority's religious practice, especially in the context of the deadly sectarian tension in southern Thailand. more...

 

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