Changing how the world thinks about nursing

Join our Facebook group

News on Nurses in the Media
January 2006 Archives


Nurse short-staffing in Bahrain

January 30, 2006 -- Today the Gulf Daily News ("The voice of Bahrain") posted a short piece by Soman Baby about a severe shortage of nurses in the accident and emergency department at a local hospital. The article, "SMC stretched by nurse shortage," makes some good points about how a lack of nurses affects patient care, and about factors that may influence nurse staffing. more...


Nurse short-staffing on the roads of Long Island

January 29, 2006 -- Recently the New York press has run good articles about the critical shortage of Suffolk County public health nurses. Today Newsday ran a piece by Ridgely Ochs, "Debate on public health services," that explained some of the effects of this situation on needy patients and the overwhelmed nurses. It also included comments from local politicians and health care figures as to how the problem should be addressed. This followed a very good and more comprehensive January 22 story in The New York Times, Julia C. Mead's "On the East End, A Nursing Shortage Is Felt Most Deeply." The Times piece powerfully conveyed both the key role the public health nurses play in patient outcomes and the desperate state of the program, following what some describe as years of neglect by the County government. Both pieces suggest that the nurses get lots of verbal support, but that they have not received the resources and real respect they need to do their jobs, even though their work is cost-effective in the long run. We commend those responsible for these two helpful pieces. more...


Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

January 29, 2006 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's hit "Grey's Anatomy" featured the conclusion of the nursing strike plotline begun last week. "Break on Through," written by Zoanne Clack, MD, seemed to be an effort to show nurses some respect, and we give the show credit for that. The episode did manage to convey that the nurses' complaints about short-staffing and forced overtime had merit, that nurse staffing had been sacrificed to short-sighted cost-cutting, and that the hospital needed the nurses in order to run efficiently. Ultimately, the hospital agreed to hire more nurses and the strike ended. Unfortunately, the episode wrongly presented the chief of surgery as managing all the nurses. More broadly, the episode continued the show's tradition of damaging misinformation and unrebutted anti-nurse slurs. Nurses were seen as focused on administration and care tasks that the episode's 18.5 million viewers are likely to find trivial, like changing bedpans, handing things to physicians, minor handholding, and tracking little patient quirks. Physicians were depicted as saving lives, and handling exciting work that nurses do in real life, including all key patient relations, all monitoring, all significant clinical interventions--and of course, managing the nurses. Indeed, since physician characters on the show do all the nursing that matters anyway, the strike made virtually no difference in the episode's clinical scenes. more...


CVS pharmacist returns from Matrix; can now download entire nursing curriculum into your brain in four hours!

January 24, 2006 -- The CVS drug store company has recently run a 30-second television ad in which a pharmacist explains how he spent several hours of his own time helping a patient's husband figure out how to administer her 20 different medications. That's great, except that the pharmacist twice stated that the husband was now "a nurse." Of course, we know what he probably meant--modern drug regimens are very complex, and (we might add) the current health financing system has left many patients and their families with the impossible task of trying to nurse themselves. But it's possible that some viewers, lacking knowledge of the nursing crisis, would simply see the ad as a criticism of nurses for failing to do the teaching the pharmacist had to step in to provide. And given the poor public understanding of nursing, we fear that people might think nurses really can be trained by pharmacists in a matter of hours. Last week, the Center persuaded CVS to pull the ad. Today, CVS told the Center that it will edit out the "nurse" comments and run the ad without them. We commend CVS, especially the helpful VP of customer service Mark Kolligian, for listening to nurses' concerns and responding to them in a timely and constructive way. more...


Nurses strike Seattle Grace Hospital? What nurses?

January 23, 2006 -- The Jan. 22 episode of ABC's hit "Grey's Anatomy" (analysis pending) actually had a minor subplot in which nurses expressed frustration with short-staffing (!). And the episode set to air on Jan. 29 will evidently feature a nursing strike, with a focus on the struggle of the show's 10 physician characters to cope without nurses. Of course, since these physicians already provide virtually all the nursing on the show, including key procedures, monitoring, and patient relations that nurses do in real life, you might well ask just what additional things the physicians are going to do in this episode. If the Jan. 22 episode is any guide, we'll see the pretty intern stars trying to do their important jobs as well as what the show will likely present as the nurses' annoying administrative and grunt work. In the Jan. 22 episode, the nurses' jobs seemed to consist of managing room occupancies and paperwork. The show's few, generally nameless nurses are often associated with problems (bureaucracy, petulance, infidelity, STDs, porn, failure, strikes, we could go on), but not with important patient care. And while we appreciate the show's nod at the short-staffing that now threatens many nurses' practice, the Jan. 22 episode wrongly told viewers that the disgruntled nurses reported to the chief of surgery--a damaging inaccuracy for an autonomous profession in the midst of what may be the worst shortage in its history. By the way, none other than TV Guide noted in its preview for the Jan. 29 episode (Jan. 23-29 issue) that it had "hardly even noticed there were nurses on this show. (Except for the syph-giving one...)" Right. Anyway, we urge all to watch the episode, and let the show creators know whether it gives a good sense of what happens to patients when nurses are not there. more...


Brown physician salutes Mary Breckinridge and her "indomitable nurse-midwives"

January 23, 2006 -- Today the Providence Journal ran a glowing profile of nurse-midwife Mary Breckinridge by Stanley M. Aronson, MD, dean of medicine emeritus at Brown University. The piece, "Kentucky's intrepid nurses on horseback," gets off to a bit of a slow start, with detail about Breckinridge's ancestors' Scottish roots. But we soon hear about many of the key elements of Breckinridge's globally influential work in founding and leading the Frontier Nursing Service, which has provided skilled, life-saving care to poor mothers and children in rural areas since 1925. The final line of the piece notes that today, fourth-year Brown medical students "may spend up to three months in rural service supervised by these indomitable nurse-midwives." We thank Dr. Aronson and the Providence Journal for this valuable profile of a true nursing pioneer. For more on Mary Breckinridge and FNS, see the Center's 2003 online profile, which makes some remarkably similar points, and lists materials for further reading. more...


Nails

January 23, 2006 -- Today Reuters issued a short unsigned piece reporting that a Japanese nurse had just been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison for pulling the fingernails and toenails off six female patients. The piece is predictably running as an "oddly enough" item; Reuters' own headline is "Whatever you do, don't call for the nurse." But the Kyoto sentencing court's reported finding that the woman committed her inexcusable acts "to relieve stress she was under from extra work forced on her by supervisors" might be worth a little more serious consideration in an era of rampant nurse short-staffing. more...


Sweet Little Lies


A lie is the worst thing in the world. Art is the ability to tell the truth, especially about oneself.

                                                                           -- Richard Pryor


January 22, 2006 - Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" included a surprising (if minor) subplot in which nurse characters complained about short-staffing, began a sick-out, and even threatened to strike--which will actually occur in the Jan. 29 episode. In the Jan. 22 episode, the nurses try desperately to cope, while the hospital ignores their concerns. We haven't seen these issues addressed in any significant way on a U.S. prime time show since a January 2002 episode of Lifetime's "Strong Medicine." We give "Grey's Anatomy" credit for trying. But we also note that: (1) in this episode, the nurses' jobs seemed to consist of managing hospital room occupancies and paperwork, with no hint that they play any important role in direct care; (2) the show's 10 physician stars continued to provide all significant care, including much that nurses do in real life; (3) the episode wrongly told its 21.3 million U.S. viewers that the disgruntled nurses report to the chief of surgery, and nurse managers remained nonexistent; and (4) the episode continued the show's association of the few, unpleasant nurses who do occasionally appear with problems (bureaucracy, infidelity, STDs, failure, strikes, and so on). The show seems to be saying that the nurses are bitter serfs, but if physicians ignore or abuse them enough, they will strike back. The well-named episode, "Tell Me Sweet Little Lies," was written by Joan Rater and Tony Phelan. more...


No magic number

January 21, 2006 -- Today the ABC News site posted a useful report by Laura Marquez under the headline "Nursing Shortage: How It May Affect You." The sub-head was "Family Awarded $2.7 million over Alleged Nursing Neglect at Kansas Hospital." The piece tells the story of a hospital patient who was admitted for pneumonia and went seven hours without seeing a nurse, apparently because her nurse had 20 patients. The patient was actually having a heart attack; she became paralyzed and suffered brain damage. This is a powerful illustration of the potential effects of nurse short-staffing. The piece also describes an important new Health Affairs study, conducted by nursing scholar Peter Buerhaus and others, showing that having more registered nurses in hospitals could not only save lives, but save money as well. The piece includes some good points about the nursing shortage. It might have described the lawsuit in a way that did not suggest it was the only successful one ever based on a failure of nursing care, which may imply that nursing is not a very hard or responsible job. And the piece might have explored potential solutions to the shortage and short-staffing in more depth, perhaps describing the various legislative proposals, and the minimum ratios now in effect in California. more...


In landmark ruling, nursing students win right to marry

January 20, 2006 -- Today the New Kerala (India) site reported that the Kerala High Court had declared illegal a state nursing council rule requiring that nursing students be unmarried. The unsigned piece, "Kerala HC says marital status no bar to studying nursing," notes that the court also declared minimum height and weight requirements to be unlawful. We thank the newKerala.com web site for running this helpful story. more...


Crystal town

January 18, 2006 -- Today the New York Times ran Kate Zernike's story about the "sharp increase" in methamphetamine-related cases that is straining emergency rooms across the U.S. The piece is a remarkable one for the Times in that it relies on quotes from Iowa ED nurse manager Jeri Reese to explain the burden the cases put on hospitals. Reese was also set to speak at a news conference explaining the results of two new studies that document the growth in meth. cases. We commend Ms. Zernike and the Times, and Ms. Reese for speaking up about important care issues, which shows the public that nurses are health care experts. more...


Are there any hot nurses at Walter Reed? Sean Hannity is on the case!

January 18, 2006 -- Today popular talk show host Sean Hannity reportedly had on his ABC radio show a U.S. soldier who had been wounded in Iraq. The soldier was an inpatient at Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington DC, where he had undergone many leg surgeries. We understand that Sean, apparently reading from an instant message one of his friends had sent him, asked the soldier whether there were any "hot nurses" at Walter Reed. The soldier reportedly replied that there were "a few pretty ones," but that most were "motherly." Center supporter Kerry Scott immediately notified us, and we called Sean's office to express concern about this exchange. Twenty minutes later, Sean himself called us back. He initially denied that the exchange could damage the nursing image, noting that his three sisters are nurses. We asked him if his sisters were hot. He hesitated--it seemed to us that he was squirming--before telling us that they were indeed hot. We talked about harmful nursing stereotypes for some time, including the "naughty nurse" and the motherly "angel" without health care training. In contrast to our experience with most national media figures, Sean actually appeared to listen to our concerns. He assured us that he is a big nursing supporter, and noted that he has discussed nursing on occasion on his show. He declined our offer to come on the show to clarify what nurses really do. Even so, according to Center member Patricia Andronica, Hannity made a few supportive comments about nurses on the air within a couple days after our conversation. We thank Sean Hannity for responding so quickly, taking the time to listen to our concerns, and making some effort to make amends. And we urge supporters to let us know whenever you see or hear something about nursing that you think is worth our efforts, so we can take quick action. Thank you.


Take Action!
Mattel on the "Nurse Quacktitioner": Problem? What problem? Oh--and did we mention the new Nurse Barbie?

January 11, 2006 -- Mattel has now received letters from over 2,000 nurses and supporters, and the Center has held discussions with Vice President of Corporate Communications Lisa Marie Bongiovanni, about the Furryville "Nurse Quacktitioner" doll. Sadly, the company still refuses to remove or buy back any dolls. Mattel has suggested that nurses aren't really that upset about the doll because some unspecified number have actually told the company they like it, and because it thinks all the negative letters it has received are form letters. (In fact, we know the company has received and seen the hard copies we sent of 400+ different original letters). The company stresses that it had no malicious intent in creating the doll, and that the name of the duck doll includes the word "quack" because ducks quack, a point that had eluded us completely. Mattel still does not seem to understand that the doll exploits a pernicious stereotype of nurse practitioners, and that it has infuriated thousands of nurses, many of whom control or influence the purchasing decisions of countless family members, friends, patients, and students. Please: (1) call Mattel as often as you wish, using this contact information, and explain that you are really are upset about the doll, and that you will urge everyone you know to boycott all Mattel products until the company pulls or agrees to buy back all remaining dolls and issues a genuine apology; (2) if you have written an original letter, send a copy directly to Ms. Bongiovanni; (3) if you have not written an original letter, send one to Ms. Bongiovanni, even if it is only one sentence; (4) in all communications, urge Mattel to consult the Center and other nursing organizations in creating the forthcoming Nurse Barbie. Thank you very much! more...


Some U.K. physicians to Mattel: Keep that anti-nurse hatred coming!

January 9, 2006 -- The Center made no effort to publicize its campaign to have Mattel's "Nurse Quacktitioner" dolls removed from U.S. store shelves, because we suspected that the doll's name might prove irresistible to those lacking wit and maturity. Our fears were confirmed after the campaign become known to a group of physicians, probably through the huge Doctors.net.uk network, which is not accessible to the general public. As of this writing, at least 11 U.K. physicians have sent letters to Mattel urging the company to keep selling the doll because it will foster contempt for nurse practitioners. Their letters (excerpted here) display varying levels of ignorance and disregard for public health. Many are primary school-level inversions of language from our model letter. But all provide powerful support for nurses' argument that the doll will reinforce widespread stereotypes that threaten lives worldwide by exacerbating the nursing crisis, encouraging health care errors, and reducing access to care. We trust that those 11 ugly letters, though a drop in the bucket of 2000+ letters Mattel has so far received urging it to withdraw the doll, will be a persuasive advocacy tool in our effort to help the company see just how damaging the doll is and why it must go. Incidentally, the Center thanks and salutes several other physicians who have written to Mattel in support of their NP colleagues. more...


"[H]uman interaction is not value-added, and might be slightly detrimental."

January 9, 2006 -- An Associated Press piece headlined "Study: Alone time with dogs helps seniors," which reported on research by nurse Marian Banks and physician William Banks, ran today in The Press (Atlantic City). Cheryl Wittenauer's AP article also appeared in other papers, and the story got network television coverage. The AP piece reports on a study to be published in the March 2006 issue of Anthrozoos, a journal focusing on the "interactions of people and animals." The study found that nursing home residents "felt much less lonely after spending time alone with a dog than when other people joined in the visit." We commend Ms. Wittenauer and the AP for covering this research, and giving Marian Banks significant attention in the piece. The story raises interesting issues about the differences in media attention to medical and nursing research--including the piece's reference (in accord with "AP style") to only the physician as "Dr. Banks," even though Marian Banks has a doctorate as well. more...


"Condoms, vaccines and games"

January 8, 2006 --Today the Detroit Free Press ran a long, generally good story by Patricia Anstett about Wayne State University (WSU) nurse practitioner Mary White. The piece focuses on the innovative methods White uses to teach the students "how to take care of themselves." These include health-oriented "Jeopardy!" contests and "condom bingo" in the dormitories. Despite some maternal and angel imagery, the article is a pretty good portrayal of the work of an effective public health nurse. more...


Take Action!
Nurse Follies...well, we can't improve on that for a headline

January 2006 -- The Center has learned that a video reel slots game called "Nurse Follies" has been placed in casinos throughout the United States. The game appears to present the hospital as a kooky den of lust and greed, relying on several nursing stereotypes, including the young naughty nurse, the older battleaxe, and the financial enforcer. Such images, while endlessly amusing, are the last thing the nursing profession needs during a critical shortage that is claiming lives worldwide. "Nurse Follies" is sold by IGT (International Game Technology), a Nevada-based Fortune 500 company that claims to be the world's leading gaming machine maker, with 80% of the U.S. market and more than half a million machines in place worldwide. We were first alerted to the slot machines appearing at the Wynn Las Vegas casino. But when we called to register our concern, we learned that Wynn had just finished reconfiguring its Nurse Follies machines to exclude any reference to nurses because of a prior letter from just one nurse. However, manufacturer IGT insists the machines are good for nursing, and is unwilling to do anything to eliminate Nurse Follies from Las Vegas or any other gaming resort. more...


"Every year, nurses are responsible for thousands of patient deaths."

January 5, 2006 -- Today U.S. News and World Report ran Marty Nemko's long feature "Career Center: Most--and least--rewarding careers." The feature classifies different jobs as excellent, good, fair, or poor careers for 2006. "Registered nurse" makes the "good" category. Nemko identifies some of the real benefits of nursing, including good pay and job security, and the "nice reward" that nurses are "often critical to patients' recovery." However, his brief description is marred by some language that is sloppy, if not disrespectful or inaccurate. Nemko's only "caveat" about nursing is that people should consider it only if they are "truly caring and detail-oriented" because "[e]very year, nurses are responsible for thousands of patient deaths." Of course nursing errors (like physician errors) do result in patient deaths. But many nurses will bristle at the suggestion that the major problem in nursing today is that nurses themselves are so lethally careless. Indeed, short-staffing and other workplace difficulties nurses have faced in the last decade have made the job virtually impossible for many nurses to do well. more...


Dogged, petulant, bloody-minded renegade...nurses

January 4, 2006 -- Today the Sydney Morning Herald posted Robin Oliver's short but very positive review of the new six-part SBS television drama "RAN," which stands for Remote Area Nurse. The premiere is tomorrow. The lead character is "young and much-loved" nurse Helen Tremain (Susie Porter), who runs a health clinic for the inhabitants of a small, remote Coral Sea island. It's not clear to what extent the show will portray nursing as the highly skilled profession it really is. But we are at least encouraged that it seems to highlight the work of the intrepid RAN nurses who care for remote underserved populations, and to portray Tremain as caring and autonomous. We encourage all who can to watch. more...


"Pioneer nurse wins award for life-saving heart scheme"

January 3, 2006 -- Today the Scotsman site posted a very good Evening News piece by Alan McEwen about a life-saving initiative by an Edinburgh nurse to enable paramedics to treat heart attack victims with "clot-busting" thrombolytic drugs. The nurse, Scott McLean of the Edinburgh Royal Informary, has received an Excellence Award from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for his "pivotal" role in the project. The piece is especially impressive in that it recognizes a nurse for taking the lead in actually saving patients' hearts, rather than simply having a good heart himself. more...


"Why not tell it the way it is, for a change?"

January 3, 2006 -- Today the lead health stories on the New York Times site illustrated some of the more subtle ways in which the public's notion that nurses are peripheral may be reinforced. A "Cases" piece by Abigail Zuger, MD, "Cleaning Up the Mess of Medicine in the Pages of Posterity," describes the essential human struggles, screwups, and dramas of front-line health care that are not recorded in the "medical journals." Though Zuger never explicitly takes credit for nurses' work, her persistent use of the undefined term "we" in describing care activities in which nurses actually take the lead, along with her almost complete failure to mention nurses, will reinforce the impression that most readers already have that physicians do everything of importance, including handling difficult, abusive, messy ED patients, and providing the full range of bedside care. Of course, a significant part of the problem is that physicians provide the vast majority of expert health content to the mainstream media, and as if to prove this, two of the three lead health pieces on the Times site today were written by physicians. The other, Richard A. Friedman, MD's "Well-Served as Patients, Dissatisfied as Customers," manages to discuss hospital patient satisfaction without using the word "nurse." It seems to us that nurses will never get full credit for their work by waiting for others to provide that credit. Instead, nurses must do everything they can to speak up for themselves in the media. more...


"Govt tames nurses"

January 2, 2006 -- Today the Daily Times (Malawi) posted a story by Anthony Kasunda reporting that there appeared to be some reduction in the number of nurses emigrating from the impoverished nation to the developed world, perhaps as a result of recent foreign aid-financed measures to improve pay and other aspects of local working conditions. Despite the unfortunate implications of the headline above, the short piece is a generally fair look at the problems faced by the "few remaining" nurses in Malawi, and what is being done to address those problems. more...

 

See our archives of news and action:

<<<More recent (2006 February) ------------------ (2005 December) Previous >>>

See range of archive dates

See current news page

 

to top

 

‚Äč