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January, February and March 2011
News on Nursing in the Media

   

 

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It's the cure, baby! Naughty nursing with Hooters

Nurse Ashleigh Hooters AdMarch 31, 2011 -- The popular restaurant chain Hooters recently declared March 17 "National Hooky Day," in honor of the start of the U.S. men's college basketball tournament. The company's website promotion features photos of naughty nurse "Ashleigh," who wants to send you a "Doctor's Note" so you can take the day off work to recover from "Basketball Fever" and enjoy a free appetizer. "Ashleigh" herself signs the note, but don't get too excited about her expertise; the only professional qualities on display here involve the model's body. By contrast, the little cartoon owl "physician" who appears in the ad is a male who appears full clothed, with a white coat and tie. However, Ashleigh does display an impressive ability to manage this "basketball fever" in the campaign's 30-second television commercial. In that one, the naughty nurse quickly diagnoses and treats basketball fever (with the free appetizer) for broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who then bellows:  "Hooters! It's the cure, baby!" This kind of imagery impedes nurses' efforts to persuade the public that nursing is a modern profession for educated women and men, rather than a sex joke that has been repeated thousands of times. Let's ask Hooters to stop contributing to a work environment that encourages real nurses to play hooky. Thanks, baby! See the commercial and please join our letter-writing campaign!

 

No Good Deed coverNo Good Deed: A Story of Medicine, Murder Accusations, and the Debate over How We Die (2010)

      Guest review by Janice Reynolds, RN, BSN

March 31, 2011 -- Most nurses provide palliative care, whether we work in acute care or end-of-life care, because we manage the symptoms of critically ill people who may die. But moral distress, anger, and misinformation can abound when we forget that others do not necessarily share our sense of ethics and morality. There are those who see our goal not as quality of life, but quantity of life. Reading this book really opened my eyes and increased my understanding of those who oppose quality-focused end-of-life care. I recommend the book not only because of the subject matter, but because of psychiatrist Lewis Cohen's recognition of nurses as equals who practice at the forefront of end-of-life care. more...

 

Patients unattended

backstabbing the whistleblowerMarch 28, 2011 -- Today the New York Daily News ran a good piece by Alison Gendar about a New York City ED nurse who says she tried without success to get her colleagues at Roosevelt Hospital to treat a homeless man who was later found dead outside the hospital, and that she was then fired for trying to expose what happened. Nurse Danna Novak has sued the hospital, alleging that as a triage nurse in August 2009, she determined that the wheelchair-bound patient Daniel Iverson showed signs of a suicide attempt, not least of which was his claim that he had taken a lot of morphine. However, Novak says two other nurses argued that Iverson was faking and would have to wait. He was apparently an alcoholic who often visited the ED to complain of back pain or sleep off a bender. Iverson left the hospital and was found dead outside the next day, the victim of what an autopsy showed was an overdose of morphine and alcohol. The article is a sad look at the way urban EDs sometimes work, but it also shows readers that nurses can and must make complex, life-and-death assessments, and it suggests that nursing errors can have grave consequences. And of course, the piece also points up the vital role that nurses play as advocates and whistleblowers. Nurses are the skilled health professionals who spend the most time with patients, and they are probably the most likely to see when a patient is at serious risk. Needless to say, nurses should not be ignored, abused, or fired for trying to perform their vital role as patient advocates. The Daily News does not provide all this context, but it does offer readers a powerful example of the life-saving -- or life-losing -- potential of nursing care. more...

 

Why are those nurses hogging so much of the hospital budget?!

pigs feeding at a troughMarch 25, 2011 -- Recent press reports have highlighted the continuing debate over adequate nurse staffing in U.S. hospitals. A fairly good March 16 piece in the St. Paul Pioneer Press was among those reporting that a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine had found that nurse understaffing at the Mayo Clinic significantly increased the risk of patient mortality, and that high patient turnover had an even greater effect. Christopher Snowbeck's report also provided helpful context, noting that nurse staffing levels have been critical factors in recent labor disputes between hospitals and nursing unions. And today, the Boston Globe ran business columnist Steven Syre's piece about the "conundrum" hospitals face in trying to balance costs with the growing awareness that having fewer nurses threatens patients. It seems that nursing payrolls are the biggest single "expense" hospitals have. This piece also provides a pretty balanced look at recent labor disputes in which nurse staffing has been a key issue. But the writer seems puzzled about why nursing salaries are such a part of hospital budgets. No one says: "Yes, nursing salaries are a big factor because hospitals exist to provide professional nursing care, not to house physicians or machines. And nurses are not just 'expenses'; they create most of the value that hospitals provide." That basic reality might have been helpful for readers to know. In any case, we thank those responsible for these two pieces. more...

 

Nurses Without Borders: The Herald-Mail on a nurse's overseas work

African kidsMarch 11, 2011 -- Today the Herald-Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland) ran a generally helpful piece by Tiffany Arnold about veteran local nurse Linda Altizer, whose diverse career includes her current work as a "forensic investigator" as well as occasional trips to do development work overseas for the "medical missionary" group "Nurses Without Borders" (although the piece may mean the Georgia-based Christian charity Nurses for the Nations). The article focuses on Altizer's recent trip to rural Liberia, where she trained nurses and conducted malaria testing. The report also provides background about malaria, which affects hundreds of millions worldwide and is a particular threat to young children. The piece emphasizes the role that Christian faith plays in Altizer's work, though it manages to avoid the angel stereotype. It might have been good to hear more specifics about the teaching and malaria testing Altizer did, as well as her work in forensics. Still, the piece tells the public that nurses can use their skills to help society in a variety of important ways, from the cradle to the grave, and there is no suggestion here that physicians are directing nursing work. Indeed, the piece actually mentions that Altizer worked "alongside" her late husband, a physician, when they practiced at a local hospital. And we appreciate the names "Nurses Without Borders" and "Nurses for the Nations," since we assume those are more accurate descriptions of who is doing the actual work than "Doctors Without Borders," the name that group continues to use although nurses are the most numerous health professionals among its volunteers. We thank Ms. Arnold and the Herald-Mail for this article. more...

 

Open Up and Say...Naah!

Bret Michaels--PeopleMarch 7, 2011 -- The issue of People magazine dated December 27, 2010 includes Poison singer and reality TV star Bret Michaels as one of its "most intriguing" people of 2010, in a two-page layout dominated by a photo of Michaels surrounded by four naughty nurse models, a reference to his well-publicized recovery from a brain hemorrhage and other health problems. In Justin Stephens' photo, the models' outfits are not extreme by naughty nurse standards--very short white "nurse dresses" and high heels, caps 'n' cleavage. But their poses and facial expressions, along with the ways they are touching Michaels and brandishing basic health equipment, clearly present an image of generic seduction. This is not the first time the enterprising Mr. Michaels has used naughty nurse imagery in connection with publicity of his health problems. In a blog post following his emergency appendectomy in April 2010, he said that he had "hot nurses" taking care of him, referring to the "nurse fantasy" that "every man has." Maybe naughty nurse imagery helps Mr. Michaels meet some hair metal cliché quota and reduce the sense of illness-related vulnerability that might be bad for a celebrity whose image is built on strength and sexual attractiveness. But whatever it's fair to expect of Mr. Michaels, we can certainly expect People magazine--which "reaches more adult readers (more than 45 million as of fall 2009) with each issue than any consumer magazine ever"--to resist such an obvious reinforcement of the brainless naughty nurse image that has long undermined real nurses' claims to respect and resources. We contacted the CEO of Time Inc., and later, People editor Larry Hackett called us in response. He apologized and promised that People will use no other degrading images of nurses while he is there. People also published Truth director Sandy Summers's letter explaining why such images are harmful in the Mailbag section of today's issue. We commend the magazine for being responsive to our concerns about the image of nurses. We have given People some ideas about real nurses whose life-saving work it may wish to highlight. If you have any suggestions about such nurses, please send them to us, and we will collect them and present them to People. Thank you! more...

 

Ultrablue

Blue ValentineFebruary 22, 2011 -- Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine offers a bleak but compelling look at a broken love. Cindy and Dean live, if you can call it that, with their six-year-old daughter in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The movie mixes scenes of the couple's current alienation with flashbacks to the time when they fell in love. This flicking of the joy-pain switch can be punishing, but with great acting and mostly fine writing, the movie has the grainy, mysterious power of an ultrasound image that you don't quite want to see. When Cindy met Dean, she was a smart college student with dreams of becoming a physician. Now she is a beleaguered working mother who seems trapped by her life, and especially by Dean, who has become a devoted father but a sour, verbally abusive husband who hangs around smoking cigarettes when he is not painting houses. He wants only what he can't have anymore:  Cindy's love. She works at an obstetrics office, and some elements of the film suggest she is a nurse; others suggest she may be an ultrasound technician. Although this is not a major studio release, the film has won critical praise, and Michelle Williams has been nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Cindy. So the movie may be influential in reinforcing the stereotype of nursing as a job that ambitious women have to settle for if they can't become physicians. The film does not show how Cindy got into her work, but it clearly does not light up her life, and it seems like a job she took after she got pregnant and had to drop out of college, rather than a fulfilling profession that would itself require college training. And as Cindy might agree, even small flaws in an important image can make a big difference. more...

  

Helpful and caring and the whole sponge bath thing

Nurse on HouseFebruary 22, 2011 -- Although the physician handmaiden remains the main Hollywood stereotype of nursing, the unskilled female sex object is still there. This week she appeared in two popular prime time television dramas airing on successive nights. In tonight's NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), a cheerful but apparently unskilled Nurse Debbie is the subject of two leering "ready for my sponge bath!"-type comments from a wounded detective. And last night’s House (Fox) presented a nameless female nurse as a physician sex object in a fantasy scene, and later, in a “real” code scene, as a panicked lay person who needed physician rescuing. In neither episode does the nurse dress provocatively. But neither nurse objects to the sexual comments either. Debbie is not even present for the remarks, and in the House fantasy scene--a fantasy constructed by House himself--the nurse actually looks a bit intrigued by two physicians' propositions. In both shows it is a different female who does object--on NCIS: LA a detective and on House a medical student. Maybe these strong, smart other women recognize that sexual abuse even of the least of their sisters--nurses--degrades all females. On the other hand, the heroic characters who are actually responsible for the imagery--Greg House and the NCIS detective--may be more interested in tweaking these female peers than anything else. In any case, the nurse characters display no real health care expertise. And the helpless House nurse responds to her crashing patient in classic House-nurse style, as the physicians rush in to save him: "I don't know what's wrong, he was stable for a while, and then all of a sudden--!." Joseph C. Wilson wrote the NCIS: LA episode ("Personal"), and Thomas L. Moran wrote the House episode ("Two Stories").. more... and see the film clips!

  

Girl Talk

HijrasFebruary 20, 2011 -- Today a Press Trust of India piece reported on a plan to open a school in Uttar Pradesh to provide training in nursing and other fields for "eunuchs." By that the piece presumably means hijras, the minority of Indians who, generally speaking, were born with male physical attributes but behave in certain ways associated with females; they may or may not be castrated. Many hijras survive by providing sexual services or by begging, though they also play ceremonial roles in society, since they are thought to have spiritual powers. As the piece notes, hijras have long suffered ostracization and discrimination, and the new school is an effort to provide them with "general education" as well as "vocational training in sewing, nursing, computers, beauty care and cooking." This is a list of activities traditionally associated with females (except for "computers," but we doubt the students will be learning to write software). In fact, nursing is a modern science profession for men and women that requires intensive education, not just a series of "guest lecturers," as this school will have. We realize that in many places you need not get advanced training to have the word "nursing" in your job title, since many engaged in basic care tasks operate under nurses' supervision. But the effect of this lumping of the profession in with "sewing" and "beauty care" will still be to suggest that it is more of a traditional female pursuit than a modern profession, and of course, work that is a good fit for those with few other options. more...

 

Register Now for The Truth's First Annual Conference: Empowering Nurses and Improving Care

Cathedral, New OrleansJanuary 28, 2011 -- Register now with an early bird registration discount of $395 (student discount 35%) before February 10th. The Truth About Nursing's first annual conference will be held in New Orleans the weekend of April 15-17, 2011, at the beautiful Marriott Renaissance Arts Hotel, located in the heart of this fabulous city! The conference theme is "Empowering Nurses and Improving Care Through Better Understanding of Nursing." Speakers will include Kathleen Bartholomew, Donna Cardillo, Sandy Summers, and a representative of Rutgers University's 2012 Project, who will tell us how to get more nurses into politics! Other topics include enhancing public understanding of nursing through the media, educating decision-makers and physician colleagues about nursing, effective strategies to improve working relationships, and practical steps toward achieving nursing empowerment. This work is critical in helping the nursing profession get the respect and resources that it deserves and that patients need. Registration will open soon, and continuing education credits are anticipated. Exciting events include a welcome cocktail reception and a Riverboat Jazz Dinner Cruise on the Mississippi. Come enjoy the food and culture of the Crescent City as you explore how to move nursing forward! Get details here...

 

Sung and unsung

Physicians for Gabrielle GiffordsJanuary 25, 2011 -- Much of the press coverage of the tragic January 8 shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona, has focused on the responses of the local health care system. Unfortunately, as is generally the case in reporting about such mass casualty events, only physicians have been consulted about the victims' status, and the coverage has given the impression that physicians provided all the hospital care that mattered. A typical example is a 3,500-word report by Denise Grady and Jennifer Medina that ran on the front page of The New York Times on January 15. The long piece describes the experiences of a paramedic and the husband of one victim, but otherwise it is devoted to the actions, opinions, and feelings of five University of Arizona Medical Center (UMC) physicians, sending the message that physicians alone were responsible for the skilled hospital care the victims got, even though expert nurses kept them alive from the moment they arrived. No nurse is identified or quoted. This is not just a matter of fairness and accuracy. When millions of people are told, in riveting terms, that physicians alone save lives, it confirms that only physicians are worthy of real respect and resources to do their work. We did see one minor counter-example:  a 565-word piece that ran today in the Arizona Daily Star and was aptly titled, "UMC nurses who staffed ICU called 'unsung heroes.'" Becky Pallack's story--the result of a press conference commendably held by UMC--does show that nurses were involved in caring for the victims and includes comment from two of them. Unfortunately, nothing we hear in the piece shows that nurses are autonomous professionals who were just as responsible for saving victims' lives as physicians were. Instead, there are statements about bonding and hugs. No doubt these reflect good psychosocial care, but sadly, they are also fully consistent with the unskilled angel stereotype. One UMC nurse says that "all we want as nurses" is to see patients thrive. But patients can't thrive if their nurses aren't respected. more...

  

Neverland

Silvio BerlusconiJanuary 23, 2011 -- A few days ago the London Evening Standard reported that Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is now under investigation for alleged corruption and paying underage prostitutes for sex, had hosted parties at which young women were asked to don naughty nurse attire for "lesbian stripper acts." Today, a short item on the New York Times website reported that one wiretap had revealed a Berlusconi agent telling a young party invitee to wear a "nurse's outfit" with "nothing underneath except white garters." That must be what the prime minister was thinking of in December 2006 when he thanked his nurses at the Cleveland Clinic, where he had just had a pacemaker implanted, by noting that "Italian nurses are better looking. . . These ones scare me a bit. Don't even think about leaving me alone at night with one of them." It's encouraging to know that such national leaders, who make key decisions about funding for nursing practice and education, regard nurses so highly and have such a keen appreciation for their work. Anyway, we hope that the 74-year-old media magnate has more than teenage stripper "nurses" to take care of him should he ever require further health care. more...

 

Admiring their credentials

Ben Keeton January 12, 2011 -- Tonight's series premiere of ABC's new Shonda Rhimes drama Off the Map introduced the standard complement of seven smart, attractive physician characters saving lives, as the hot senior ones train the hot junior ones. Set at a clinic "somewhere in South America" that seems to be staffed mainly by U.S. physicians, the show does display a little more awareness of global public health issues than Rhimes' other surgeon-centric products. And it occasionally includes pointed criticism of the cultural insensitivity and narrow vision of health care displayed by a couple newly arrived physicians. But clinic boss Ben Keeton (right) was also supposedly the youngest chief of surgery ever at UCLA before starting the clinic, and one of the new physicians gushes that he's "one of the greatest humanitarians of our time." Whatever nuggets the show may include about U.S. arrogance and caring for the poor, the main theme still seems to be U.S. physicians saving native people and tourists, especially in trauma settings. We're not quite sure how to take the premiere's title, "Saved By the Great White Hope." Maybe the show is being ironic, but the show does reflect the basic Rhimes world view that physicians are demi-gods. Every clinical scene features physicians alone providing all skilled care, including lots of care that nurses do in real life. There are no significant nurse characters, and in the premiere, we saw only two notable references to nursing, both damaging, and both involving recently arrived U.S. physician Mina Minard. In one scene, Minard demands epinephrine for a clinic patient who is having an asthma attack, and a local nurse in patterned scrubs fetches and hands it over. Minard grabs the drug, saves the patient, and receives all the credit. In the other scene, Minard complains to a fellow U.S. physician that the other physician is lucky to have a seriously ill patient to care for, because Minard just "handed out Band-Aids today…like a school nurse!" Minard starts to learn that the clinic's less exotic care has value, and she will likely grow in other ways. But we doubt anyone will question the assumption that nurses are low-skilled lackeys who play no important role in health care, whether at elite hospitals or remote clinics--whose foreign health professionals are, incidentally, more likely to be nurses than physicians, as is the case with Médecins Sans Frontières. The series premiere was written by series creator Jenna Bans. more...and please join our letter-writing campaign! 

 

The 2010 Truth About Nursing Awards Rank Best and Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing

Nurse Jackie and Other Nurse TV Shows Among Best
Dr. Oz, Helen Mirren, and Mariah Carey on Worst Helen MirrenList

January 6, 2011 -- The Truth About Nursing announces the eighth annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses. The year 2010 featured the continuation of Nurse Jackie and two other nurse-focused U.S television shows, but it also included countless damaging distortions from long-running hits like Grey's Anatomy and a new crop of "naughty nurse" imagery from sources ranging from Mariah Carey to Helen Mirren to Dr. Oz. more...

 

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