Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Q: Why do some of the Truth's media analyses include informal, irreverent or satirical elements? It's pretty rare to see an advocacy group take that approach.

A: We believe that advocacy can in some situations be enhanced by alternative or hybrid approaches. Though the Truth produces a good deal of serious analysis, we often include more playful elements, and some of our pieces may make use of satire or other comic devices. We believe that this can help our advocacy generate more interest in the media, and we hope that it makes it more engaging for our supporters and the public.

We also believe that advocacy that employs comic or irreverent elements may gain more attention from media creators and others not disposed to consider our arguments carefully. This is so in part because advocacy with comic elements may be more inherently interesting, but also because it may help to address a very common criticism of our work. Many of the media products that present harmful images of nursing are part of ostensibly "joking" or "comic" works. For instance, many "naughty nurse" images are presented in light-hearted settings, such as sitcoms, talk shows, advertisements, or medical school talent shows. Mattel's "Nurse Quacktitioner" precisely captured the main professional stereotype of NPs in a furry little doll. When we point out that such products exploit harmful stereotypes, the response is often that we have no sense of humor and nurses must learn to laugh at themselves. Of course, one answer is that it's not clear why nurses should have to endure decades of the same slurs when other traditionally less empowered groups are not expected to do so. And another is that a mocking "joke" repeated thousands of times to the same group of people is functionally indistinguishable from any other hate speech. But we also believe it may be helpful to employ humor ourselves. This suggests to the objects of our campaigns and other critics that the problem is not that we lack a sense of humor, but that we understand humor all too well. We know that many serious messages are delivered through comic works, as has been the case from "Lysistrata" to Shakespeare's comedies to "The Simpsons."

In our view, advocacy by charitable and social welfare organizations can grow tiresome and less effective if it is always the same message delivered in the same way. And the Truth, like many groups, often has a similar basic message to deliver: nursing is misrepresented and undervalued in the media, often in similar ways, and this is bad for nursing and public health. We hope to maintain the interest of the media, our supporters and the public by spicing our message up, to the extent we can consistent with our overall mission.

We understand that the use of such non-traditional elements in a serious advocacy context is not without risk. But there is certainly precedent for efforts to deliver serious messages through seemingly light or humorous vehicles, as we note above. In addition, the public health community has come to recognize the value of incorporating health information in popular entertainment, such as TV dramas and even sitcoms. This is sometimes called "entertainment education." We make no great claims for our work as entertainment, but some of our pieces could be described as attempts, however limited, at "entertainment advocacy." Of course, no matter what approach our items may take to get our message across, we hope it remains clear that the message is a very serious one.

last updated: January 15, 2006

 

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