Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Q: Why do The Truth About Nursing's media reviews discuss overall merit, not just nursing?

A: In our view, the quality of a given work is an important indicator of how much overall influence it is likely to have, and in turn how much impact its depiction of nursing will have. This is not to say that the works we think are of high overall quality will necessarily get a large audience at the time they are released, though that is sometimes the case, as with Ian McEwan's book "Atonement" (2001). But high quality works that draw only a few viewers or readers at first may continue to generate interest for decades. Movies like "Talk to Her" (2002) and "Wit" (2001) may continue to attract viewers long after many more popular contemporary films have been forgotten. Influential works will continue to attract attention from artists, critics, academics, journalists and others with cultural influence, and will thus influence those who shape future works. One story about the seminal rock band The Velvet Underground was that only a few hundred people bought their records--but everyone who did started a band. Thus, a high quality work is likely to have a stronger effect on each viewer who does see it than one of lower quality will. In addition, in some cases, it may be difficult to convey the effect of a nursing portrayal without discussing a work's overall themes and characteristics.

Given all these factors, a quality work that includes a damaging vision of nursing (like the television show "ER") may be of special concern, whereas works of lower quality may be of less concern. In fact, the distressingly high extent to which even quality works promote an inaccurate and regressive vision of nursing tells us something about our society's overall view of the profession, and the work that remains to be done. Although the better depictions of nursing do tend to come from stronger artists (such as playwright Tony Kushner and filmmaker Mike Nichols) and journalists (such as Suzanne Gordon and Bernice Buresh), it is also true that countless works that are otherwise of high quality promote abysmal visions of the profession. On the whole, the artistic and media elite appears to have little or no better understanding of nursing than the average person. In fact, some in this elite group may actually have a particular contempt for nursing, to the extent they view it as menial and subordinate work. The attitudes of some influential media feminists, who appear to regard nursing as something ambitious and intelligent women have left behind, are an especially unfortunate example (e.g. 1, 2, 3).

Finally, we believe that media analyses may simply be more engaging, persuasive and even provocative when they also discuss overall merit. We hope that this adds to their overall influence. In particular, it is our hope that our analyses may have some increased influence on those who create nursing-related media because they at least try to show some understanding of what the creator is trying to do with a given work. We realize that a critical aesthetic analysis from us may run counter to the views of many in the media and the public generally that nurses are meek, intellectually limited servants. But of course, we don't see that as a bad thing.

last updated: January 18, 2005