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October, November and December 2011
News on Nursing in the Media

   

 

December 2011 Archives

 

public health advocatesWicked local public health advocates: Coverage of nurses speaking out worldwide

December 2011 -- Over the past year, news items from around the world have shown nurses speaking out on important health issues and getting good coverage in the media. On February 24, the Wicked Local Sharon (Massachusetts) website posted "Sharon nurses lead no-tan pledge," a good report by Paula Vogler about a high school nurse and town nurse who are (together with the Melanoma Foundation) urging local students to pledge not to get tans, so they can avoid skin cancer. On August 7, USA Today ran a very good piece on the importance of asking questions about hospice options by Kelly Kennedy, who relied entirely on a hospice nurse and a Wisconsin nursing professor for expert comment. On November 25, the Harrow Times (UK) ran a helpful article by Suruchi Sharma about local hospital nurses who had organized a "mouth cancer exhibition" in order to help the local Asian community get "clued up" about the health risks posed by tobacco products.And on December 5, the Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia) published a good piece by Stephen Drill reporting that nurses in Victoria were protesting apparent plans to reduce nurse-to-patient ratios, which the nurses said would lead to an increase in antibiotic-resistant and potentially deadly "superbugs." These short press reports don't just give readers health information that could save their lives. They also show the public that nurses can be strong, knowledgeable health professionals. We thank those responsible for the pieces. more...

 

Desperate Housewives: "Seriously? Male nurse."

Gaby and Rehab nurseDecember 4, 2011 -- In tonight's episode of ABC's Desperate Housewives, major character Gaby tried to get past access restrictions at the rehabilitation facility where her husband was a resident by flirting with a male nurse, but she failed when the man simply pointed to his chest and said, "Male nurse"--meaning that he was of course gay and so not interested in Gaby. The nurse was articulate and sympathetic, but he did nothing a lay person could not do, and the first thing he did when Gaby approached was to complain that she was keeping him from reading The Help. That might have been an early hint about his sexual orientation, but it also suggests that nurses are just attendants who enforce minor rules and have time to sit around reading novels. Unfortunately, past episodes of Desperate Housewives have also reinforced nursing stereotypes. In an October 2007 show, Gaby donned naughty nurse attire as a cover to rub lotion on her husband, to covertly heal a case of the crabs she had given him. And in an April 2008 episode, the show presented a hospital nurse as a mousy, pathetic physician lackey who could be bribed into revealing sensitive patient information with free lunch at a French bistro, and who had time to leave the hospital mid-shift to eat that lunch. In tonight's episode, the show has told viewers that all men in nursing are gay, which undermines efforts to increase diversity in the profession. It almost seems like the show is on a mission to reinforce every major nursing stereotype, but if so it had better hurry up--this is its final year, and there are still some big ones that it has not yet exploited for a cheap laugh, notably the angel, the battleaxe, and the wannabe physician! We urge Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry and the other producers to make amends for the damage they've caused and to try to avoid nursing stereotypes in the future. This episode, "Putting It Together," was written by Sheila R. Lawrence. more...

 

2011 Annual Report: So, what have we done this year to change how the world thinks about nursing?

annual reportDecember 2011 -- Using many strategies, the Truth raises public awareness of how nurses save lives and improve health around the world. When decision-makers understand the value of nurses, it brings more funding for clinical practice, education, research, and residencies. This year, we continued our work to influence the widest possible audience, including in the following ways. See the full report...

 

The talk of the town: nursing in The New Yorker

The New YorkerDecember 2011 -- Items appearing in the The New Yorker over the past year offer amazingly varied portraits of nursing. They range from John Colapinto's relatively good December 2010 portrait of the powerful Duchenne muscular dystrophy advocate and nurse Pat Furlong ("Mother Courage"), on the one hand, to physician Jerome Groopman's October 2011 article about the NICU ("A Child in Time"), which reflects the writer's physician-dominated vision of health care. A short letter printed in late November in response to Groopman's NICU piece offers a more holistic vision, describing a mother's appreciation of the breastfeeding and kangaroo care initiatives her child received in the NICU. Another notable item is Ian Frazier's fair, if somewhat bemused, April 2011 "Talk of the Town" piece about a Brooklyn event held by Caribbean-American nurses to celebrate the achievements of Mary Seacole ("Two Nurses"). And a full-page University of Phoenix ad in the same issue presents a real nurse as a leading health expert and executive. But business writer Ken Auletta's October 2011 "annals of communication" piece about Jill Abramson's ascendancy to the editorship of The New York Times includes a brief description of the extensive health care Abramson received after a bad vehicle accident that suggests that only physicians played any role. All in all, The New Yorker remains fairly typical of the elite media when it comes to nursing. The magazine is certainly capable of providing its influential readership with helpful and accurate information about the role nurses play in health care, especially in shorter, less prominent items like the "Talk of the Town" piece and the mother's letter in response to Groopman. But it's more likely to ignore or condescend to nursing in "serious" articles about health care or other matters, especially when the magazine relies on physician contributors or experts. We urge the New Yorker's editors to think carefully about whether the work of the magazine's writers reflects the real nature of nursing. more...
   

The ends and the means: John Colapinto on Duchenne advocate Pat Furlong

Pat FurlongJohn Colapinto's piece "Mother Courage" about Duchenne advocate Pat Furlong ran in the magazine's 2010 year-end issue (December 20 and 27). The piece explains that Furlong is "a health educator and a former nurse" whose sons Patrick and Christopher developed Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a "rapid, fatal muscle-wasting disease that affects males almost exclusively." Furlong fought for years to increase attention and research funding for the relatively rare disease, continuing even after both her sons had died. The piece presents Furlong more as a fierce and extraordinarily effective parent activist in the Lorenzo's Oil tradition than a health expert (thus the title "Mother Courage"). Other nurses have had a major impact on health care, but it's hard to imagine a New Yorker piece about any of them as nurses. Still, the Furlong piece does link her success to her nursing background at a few points, and the overall portrait of her as a smart, ruthlessly resourceful health leader (who acts like Nurse Jackie at some points) clearly has value. more...
 

DiasporaThe nursing diaspora: Ian Frazier checks out a tribute to Mary Seacole

Ian Frazier's short "Talk of the Town" item, which appeared in the April 25, 2011 issue, was headlined "Bedside Manner:  Two Nurses." The two nurses in question are Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale. But the piece is really about Seacole, and a recent Women's History Month tribute to her held at St. Francis College in Brooklyn by the Society for the Advancement of the Caribbean Diaspora. more...
 

Diane Wilson adTomorrow's health care leaders: University of Phoenix ad upstages magazine content

Later in the same (April 25) issue, a surprisingly helpful full-page ad for the University of Phoenix appears. The ad shows a woman in a business suit looking upward and the headline: "Offering a faculty of industry professionals to inspire tomorrow's health care leaders." This woman is identified at the bottom of the page as "Diane Wilson, MSN/MHA, College of Nursing, Chief Operating Officer, Community Tissue Services." more...
 

Groopman on NICU nurses: Swaddling, handing, sitting, walking, placing candles, helping, and letting

Jerome GroopmanThe October 24, 2011 issue includes "A Child in Time: New frontiers in treating premature babies," a "medical dispatch" by regular New Yorker contributor and Harvard physician Jerome Groopman. The piece focuses on decisions to treat or not treat NICU patients. Groopman presents a typically physician-centric vision of health care, with physician work dominant and only physicians consulted as experts (along with one social worker, briefly). No nurses are even named. This is especially striking in the NICU context, where highly skilled nurses play a leading role. more... 
 

Times not changing enough: Surgeons administered Jill Abramson's blood transfusions

rolloverIn the same October 2011 issue as Groopman's NICU article, business writer Ken Auletta has an "annals of communication" piece titled "Changing Times:  Jill Abramson takes charge of the Gray Lady." The article describes Abramson's recent ascendancy to the editorship of the New York Times. She is the paper's first female editor. One anecdote, included to demonstrate Abramson's resiliency, is about injuries she suffered after a truck knocked her down and rolled over her in the street, crushing her foot, snapping her femur, breaking her pelvis, and causing "extensive internal injuries." more...

Take Action! Write to the authors of these articles to let them know how you think about them. Click here for contact info. Thank you!

 

November 2011 Archives

  

Dr. Oz: Ridiculously easy tricks help local nurses save lives!

Oz and OprahNovember 21, 2011 -- A year after The Dr. Oz Show featured naughty "nurses" dancing with Oz to promote exercise, the popular U.S. daytime program today offered what may have been an effort to make amends. In a 20-minute segment called "NURSES' SECRETS That Can Save Your Life," Oz paid tribute to nurses' knowledge. And the many nurses who appeared did convey something of nursing expertise, especially the articulate, poised career guru Donna Cardillo, who gave a capsule summary of the roles of modern nurses and the need for adequate staffing, and the nurse midwife Paula Jean Greer, who offered tips on reducing pain during certain procedures and how to use cabbage for home wound care. The nurses were admirably diverse and they all had something valuable to offer. At times Oz did seem to be humoring them a bit, but in general he conveyed a genuine respect for their health insights and a desire to learn from them. At the end, Oz even told the audience that he had learned much of what he knew in medicine from nurses! The segment was marred somewhat by the constant, condescending "secrets" approach, which presented nurses less as college-educated professionals than as a group of low-skilled helpers who had hung around health care settings long enough to have picked up basic tips 'n' tricks, some of which might strike viewers as pretty minor and hardly "life-saving." Aside from Cardillo's general summary, there was little about the advanced assessments and interventions that nurses make every day, and there was no real discussion of nursing education or advanced practice nursing. The segment seemed to be based in part on the November 2011 Reader's Digest cover story "50 Secrets Nurses Won't Tell You." Some of the secrets in the two items overlap, such as a questionable one suggesting that nurses are skeptical about all patients' accounts of their use of things like alcohol and tobacco. Today's Oz segment may have been in part a reaction to the Truth's early 2011 campaign about the show's dancing "nurse" segment, which received global press coverage. In any case, the Oz segment was vastly superior to Dr. Phil's deeply flawed effort to make up for its host's 2004 nurse-as-gold-digger comments, which conveyed almost nothing of nursing expertise. We thank Oz, the producers, and the nurses who played a part in the show. more... 

 

Heart Attack Grill: Successful protest in Las Vegas November 12!

RD imageNovember 12, 2011 -- Today the Truth's Las Vegas chapter held a peaceful rally in front of the new Las Vegas Heart Attack Grill to protest the anti-health restaurant's naughty nurse waitress outfits. A group of nearly 20 nurses, nursing students, and even a respiratory therapist joined forces to hand out hundreds of flyers to Grill customers and passersby. Thank you to our chapter leader Dee Riley, RN, MSN, Faculty, Nevada State College, for organizing the successful rally! Since the Grill first opened in Arizona in 2006, it has been failing and re-opening at new locations. And from the beginning, we have pursued a campaign to persuade the restaurant to stop with the naughty nurse costumes already. Although we have yet to convince the Grill to do the right thing, we have generated global press coverage about why the naughty nurse image undermines the nursing profession's claims to the respect and resources it needs to save lives. See more information on the protest on our Las Vegas chapter page.

 

Reader's Digest: The experts

RD imageNovember 2011 -- The cover story in this month's issue of Reader's Digest is "50 Secrets Nurses Won't Tell You." But in fact they will tell you . . . in this feature by Michelle Crouch, though many do so anonymously. The sub-head:  "Doctors are clueless about what really happens in the beds, rooms, and halls of our hospitals. That's why we went to the experts." Actually, physicians emerge from the piece as worse than clueless. They are presented as people with a basic lack of regard for other humans, particularly in failing to provide adequate pain relief. But the broader focus of the piece is to give readers helpful tips about what happens in hospitals and how to survive there. Some of the 17 nurses quoted convey the challenges of nursing today, and they make good points about nursing skill, from saving lives to psychosocial care. One nurse points out that ABC's Grey's Anatomy is a laughable fantasy, in part because in real life nurses do most of what surgeon characters do on the show. Another nurse asks not to be told that she is "too smart to be a nurse," noting that she is not a wannabe physician. To a limited extent, we even hear about nursing autonomy and advocacy, with several references to questioning physician care plans. Some comments do suggest the great stress of nursing, and there are references to the practice of stacking long shifts, the danger of under-staffing, and the very high overall level of acuity today. Yet the piece does not quite say that nurses often confront dangerously high patient ratios, and most readers aren't going to put it together. Not all of the quotes are helpful. One nurse warns that nurses will gossip about personal details patients reveal because "we're here for 12 hours with nothing to talk about." And the piece's focus on advice from hospital direct care nurses means it does not convey the scope of nursing education or practice. Advanced practice nurses, scholars, and public health nurses are largely unrepresented. But the piece does provide a lot of valuable information about nursing. We thank Michelle Crouch and Reader's Digest. more...

 

The media on "nurse robots": That leg brace graduated first in its nursing school class!

robot leg braceNovember 3, 2011 -- Recent media about the increasing role of robots and lay persons in health care has persisted in referring to those novice health actors as "nurses." Today a TechNewsDaily item on the CBS News website described some machines Toyota is developing to help those with mobility problems--including computerized leg braces--as "robot nurses." On March 18, an Associated Press story reported that "Purdue University researchers are developing a gesture-driven robotic scrub nurse prototype that may one day relieve the nurse of some of her technical duties or replace the scrub technician who is at times responsible for fulfilling those tasks." The piece repeatedly calls the machine, which currently recognizes five hand gestures, a "robotic scrub nurse." But those robots are not thinking health professionals with years of college-level science education. On February 17, Forbes health blogger Michael Millenson described efforts to use IBM's question-answering machine Watson as a "physician's assistant." The post suggests that IBM consider "a pleasing, deferential, higher-pitched voice, the experienced and trustworthy nurse who knows her stuff, but also knows her place." The headline: "Watson: A Computer So Smart It Can Say, 'Yes, Doctor.'" Millenson claimed that he was just using "droll, tongue-in-cheek understatement" to suggest that physicians might respond better to the "deferential manner" in which nurses have traditionally treated them. But his piece exploits the handmaiden stereotype, and the headline is a weak joke about this "smart" computer being used in a role that consists mainly of saying "yes, doctor." The media seems to assume that anything or anyone who assists in health care can be called a "nurse." A current lobbying campaign by the U.S. long-term care industry to protest potential federal budget cuts includes an ad that blares: "Today, you're an accountant. Tomorrow, you're dad's nurse." Actually, no, you're not. We urge all these media creators to avoid glib statements that suggest nursing consists of performing a few simple tasks. more...

 

"Led Changes in Nursing": New York Times obituary for Joyce Clifford

Joyce Clifford November 1, 2011 -- Today The New York Times published a very good obituary for Joyce Clifford, who led the nursing staff at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital for 25 years. Clifford pioneered the application of the "primary nursing" care model, in which one nurse is mainly responsible for each patient during the course of the patient's stay, and she advocated what the Times describes as a "partnership of equals" between nurses and physicians. Clifford later founded the Institute for Nursing Healthcare Leadership. Paul Vitello's obituary does a fine job explaining the basic significance of Clifford's work in a limited space. And the piece relies on input from nursing scholars Linda Aiken of Penn and Margaret Grey of Yale, in addition to physician and former Beth Israel CEO Mitchell Rabkin and sociology professor Mary Beth Weinberg, whose 2003 book Code Green: Money-Driven Hospitals and the Dismantling of Nursing described the demise of primary nursing at Beth Israel following its 1999 merger with Deaconess Medical Center. Rabkin, a longtime Clifford supporter, notes that he realized on the first day of his internship that "the nurses knew a hell of a lot more than I did," a statement that is impossible to imagine coming from a physician character on any current Hollywood television show. The obituary makes clear that Clifford had a masters degree in nursing and a doctorate in health planning, referring to her as "Dr. Clifford" throughout. We thank Vitello and the Times for this tribute to an innovative and influential nursing leader. more... 

 

October 2011 Archives

 

Grey's Anatomy: Who's the man?

Eli and Bailey on Grey'sOctober 13, 2011 -- Episodes in the seventh and eighth seasons of ABC's Grey's Anatomy include the forceful "Nurse Eli," the sort-of boyfriend of star surgeon Miranda Bailey and perhaps the best nurse character the show has ever had. Yet even this extended plot arc ultimately decayed into a reinforcement of the idea that nurses are physician subordinates unworthy of being treated as equals, professionally or personally. Eli appeared in eight episodes aired over a 10-month period, ending tonight. On a few occasions he played a more robust patient care role than any other Grey's nurse has, displaying some health care skill and some spirited patient advocacy, standing up to physicians several times. But Eli was more of an intuitive traditional healer than a modern science professional. Physicians still provided virtually all important care in his episodes, and Eli eventually seemed to concede that the senior physicians were in charge. Some of his advocacy was absurdly shrill (nursing advocacy seen from a physician perspective, perhaps). And if "Nurse Eli" ever got a surname, we didn't catch it. Before long, Eli became little more than a hunky romantic / sexual interest for Bailey. Ultimately she ended the "it's complicated"-type relationship with Eli and, although the show allowed him some dignity in that process, it also implied that there was no real future for the two of them because Eli was just a nurse. Over the years, we have been somewhat torn about what to seek from Grey's. In theory, we would like the show to introduce nurse characters to reduce its wildly unbalanced vision of health care, in which physicians do everything that matters. Yet when the show does include a nurse, and even when it shows some empathy for the nurse, the plotline still ends up being overwhelmed by the producers' biases--and arguably does more damage than if the show had simply continued to pretend that nurses don't do anything but say "yes, doctor." So it was with Eli. more...and see our many film clips...

The doctor who cured fistulas

The doctor-nurse protocol

You see all these people around you? They're doctors!

 

Busch Gardens teaches kids about nurses

Busch Gardens naughty nurse dancersOctober 2011 -- For an extended period this month, the popular theme park Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, entertained visiting families with dancers dressed in naughty nurse Halloween outfits. Although this image is damaging in any context because it undermines real nurses' claims to respect and resources, it's especially unfortunate when directed at kids, who may have more trouble separating the common image from reality than adults do. Truth supporter Shawna Mudd, DNP, reports to us:

In the spirit of Halloween, the park had many events with a Halloween theme. How shocking was it that we went to lunch (yes in the middle of the day) to a Frankenstein themed show. Out came a number of women in "ghoulish" type costumes. It wasn't long before the costumes were flung off to reveal scantily clad women in the infamous "naughty nurse" costumes with visible bras and underwear, gyrating to the onlookers (and yes, there were many children in the audience). This continued through the entire show. My group felt as though we were at a strip club, not a family theme park. Later that evening, the same "nurses" were out in the park selling shots from their "syringes." more... and please join our letter-writing campaign!

 

Nursing the debt machine: Orlando Sentinel on NNU's call for Wall Street tax

Nurses protest on stepsOctober 10, 2011 -- Recent news items have highlighted some aggressive policy advocacy by major nursing groups on health issues related to current U.S. economic problems. Since June, long before the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, the National Nurses Union (NNU) has been protesting the financial industry's role in the nation's economic woes and calling for a one-percent tax on Wall Street transactions in order to fund improved health care and other vital needs that are under threat. Over time, NNU's efforts have generated increasing and often helpful press coverage. For example, on September 1, the Orlando Sentinel ran a good piece by Marni Jameson about the 61 protest rallies NNU had coordinated the day before at the district offices of Members of Congress nationwide. The rallies urged legislators to impose the one-percent tax. The article quotes one local nurse as saying that she is seeing sicker patients because people can't afford their medications and those without health insurance wait too long to seek care. We commend the Sentinel for this significant coverage of nursing advocacy. And we salute NNU for advocacy that reflects a holistic focus on some roots of the nation's health problems and shows that nurses can be courageous public health leaders. more... 

 

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