Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Nurse Ratched, Sarah PaulsonAmerican Horror Story: Ratched

Netflix and Ryan Murphy plan two-season TV origin story for one of the most damaging anti-nurse stereotypes in history

The New York Times reported that Netflix has committed to at least two seasons and 18 episodes of a television show on the "evolution [of Nurse Ratched] from a low-level nurse into the severe, manipulative tyrant who terrorizes mental institution patients in Ken Kesey's 1962 novel." We cannot see how this show could avoid damaging nursing. So please sign our petition to cancel the show before it starts production. Please add your own comments to it and ask all your colleagues, students, friends and family to sign. Thank you! more...


Ask Ontario's Minister of Health to investigate firing of CNO Vanessa Burkoski!

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) has told the media that London Health Sciences Centre fired chief nursing officer Vanessa Burkoski, RN, MScN, NP, DHA, because of her role as president of RNAO, which had recently issued a report criticizing denursification at the province's hospitals. The June 2016 article "An Ontario nursing group contends Vanessa Burkoski was fired to silence her about changes affecting patient safety," includes an account by Dr. Burkoski in which the large hospital's CEO Murray Glendining repeatedly offered her a cash settlement to resign quietly, which she declined to do. See our full analysis here. Or go straight to our petition here.

Abby Wambach & Terry Gross: Do you really think nursing is inferior to medicine?

September 14, 2016 — Today soccer star Abby Wambach appeared on National Public Radio's Fresh Air to promote her new memoir Forward. In discussing Title IX, Wambach asserted that the historic legislation was not intended mainly to strengthen women's sports, but instead "there was a ton of women who wanted to become doctors, they didn't want to just be a nurse." Of course, Wambach was characterizing the social attitudes that led to that 1972 statute, not necessarily expressing her personal views of the two health professions. But neither she nor Fresh Air host Terry Gross said anything to suggest that they disagreed with the assumptions underlying Wambach's description: that medicine is a much more important, substantial profession than nursing, and so any ambitious modern female would naturally choose to be a physician rather than a nurse. Even if this was in fact the way Title IX supporters thought, presenting such views with no apparent distance tends to reinforce them because they are still so commonly held, as a glance at Grey's Anatomy episodes of the last decade would confirm. By contrast, Wambach does not describe ignorant views of gender equality with no indication of whether she agrees–instead, she expresses strong disagreement. We realize that feminists tend to assume that jobs to which women were traditionally confined must be less valuable and desirable than the ones dominated by men, and nowhere is this more striking than with nursing and medicine. See our full analysis here. Or go straight to our petition here.

Fox News must make amends for attack on nurses in VA report

Friday, June 10, 2016 — Today we finally reached Doug Rohrbeck, executive producer of the June 1 Fox News segment about the proposed Veterans Administration (VA) rule that would allow advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to practice without physician "supervision." We spoke for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, we did not see much improvement in his understanding of APRNs, nursing in general, or the lack of balance in the network's June 1 piece–which relied heavily on the unsupported views of physicians that APRNs are unqualified to practice independently and included no meaningful response from nursing advocates. Mr. Rohrbeck insisted that his segment was "balanced" because it included a variety of people, as if "balance" could be achieved by having different people express the same views on an issue. But an item is not fair to nursing simply because different physicians, journalists, and politicians all express the same uninformed contempt for the profession. So we thought that we would try to explain and illustrate exactly why this piece was unbalanced. See our full analysis here. Or go straight to our petition here.

We have a few campaigns on but we are transitioning back to having our campaigns on our site to facilitate more letter-writing by nurses and nursing supporters. There was just not enough of an opportunity for that on

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Problems with Nursing

December 4, 2013 - Tonight's episode of the popular ABC sitcom Modern Family revealed that Dylan, the sometime boyfriend of character Haley Dunphy, was attending nursing school. That's great, right? Sweet, attractive Dylan, a straight guy who won't reinforce the stereotype that men in nursing are all gay! Except, umm...Dylan is clueless. Modern Family castActually, he's always been more or less an idiot, and a good match for the superficial Haley. Dylan's reveal about nursing school came at a football game where he also showed Haley some graffiti he'd once written for her on the stands--"HALEY DUNPHY DOME." Dylan said he'd meant that to read "do me," but he'd always had "problems with spacing." Dylan, a musician, also explained that the transition to nursing made sense because whereas he'd once healed with music, he'd now be "doing the same thing with drugs." That's cute, but on the whole, Dylan's pursuit of nursing reinforces the stereotype that any well-meaning dimwit can become a nurse. We would be fine with Dylan suddenly becoming a non-idiot, but assuming that show producers have any interest in continuity--Dylan has been this way since the 2009 series premiere--it seems best for Modern Family to quickly phase out his nursing career, ideally with some plotline emphasizing that (who knew?!) nurses actually have to be intelligent, savvy people with an education. See the film clips or go straight to the petition!


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J&J stops advertising on Scrubbing In, but keeps on advertising on Grey's Anatomy

J&J end sponsorshipNovember 25, 2013 -- Johnson & Johnson has sent the Truth correspondence that they have ceased advertising on "Scrubbing In." We checked episode #5 online and broadcast and have verified that all the J&J ads are gone. We would like to thank J&J for this. But we have asked J&J at least 5 times if they would cease advertising on the far more influential Grey's Anatomy and The Mindy Project shows and Andrea Higham, Director of the Campaign for Nursing's Future, responded "I do not have any control on our brands airing in the other shows – they are dramas and are looked at differently than reality shows featuring real nurses." We asked her who did have control over this advertising so we could follow up with that person and Ms. Higham still hasn't responded. We are keeping our campaign wide open to continue to pressure J&J to stop advertising on all media products that degrade nursing. Will you please join us? Here's the link to our petition. Please circulate to friends and colleagues. Thank you!


Quacks like you

Mindy and MorganDecember 4, 2012 -- Mindy Kaling's new Fox sitcom The Mindy Project, which is set at a small obstetrics practice in New York City, is bad for nursing. Kaling's lookin'-for-love OB-GYN character and the other physicians alone provide skilled care -- by coincidence, Kaling's late mother was an OB-GYN -- while the one minor nurse character Morgan Tookers is a goofy ex-convict. Well-intentioned but ignorant, very odd, and a little scary, Morgan doesn't show much health expertise, and he seems to be based mostly on The Janitor from Scrubs. But wait -- tonight's episode, written by Kaling, also includes a grossly inaccurate attack on midwives! In the main plotline, a holistic midwifery practice led by two New Agey men is "stealing" patients from the traditional OB-GYN practice that Mindy and her two male physician colleagues run. Mindy gets the patients back by telling them that midwives have no significant health training or skill and that only physicians can provide real health care to pregnant women, lies the show presents as hard but inescapable truths. The show's physician characters also caricature the midwives as seductive "charlatans" and "quacks" who are hostile to all "Western medicine," including drugs and vaccines. These seem to be lay midwives, but viewers are likely to apply the show's powerful messages to all midwives (it's not clear if Kaling actually knows that many midwives are nurses with graduate degrees). In fairness, the lead midwife in the episode is a strong, clever character who notes that midwifery predates obstetrics. And we realize that the show mocks everyone for one thing or another; Mindy and her physician colleagues are a bit self-involved and socially maladroit. But the episode never offers any serious criticism of physicians as health providers. And this episode is consistent with the economic and territorial fear some physicians seem to have for advanced practice nurses. The episode may also reflect a reactionary sense that traditional professional and educational hierarchies are under threat. And it is telling that Kaling targets male midwives, even though the vast majority of real midwives are female. Of course, showing that reality might have complicated her gender goals, which involve getting her character the respect of her male physician colleagues. And speaking of reality, in the real world all midwives receive years of health care training. And research shows that the care of certified nurse midwives is at least as good as that of physicians overall. We urge the show to avoid further attacks on nursing and midwifery. more... see the film clips and please join our letter-writing campaign by clicking here!


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Lucky Charms

Lucky CharmsJune 2011 -- Recently the drug company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) released a new batch of television advertisements as part of its Campaign for Nursing's Future, which began in 2002 as an effort to address the nursing shortage. The three new 30-second ads, like those released in 2005 and 2007, highlight different aspects of nursing practice and do a good job at promoting diversity. Each of the new ads also conveys something helpful about nursing skill. Unfortunately, each ad focuses mainly on the emotional support nurses give patients, and each concludes with the vaguely uplifting message "NURSES HEAL." One ad features an authoritative ED nurse reacting quickly to a trauma case, but even that ad is dominated by the nurse's returning of a lucky charm to the patient. And the other two ads will strike viewers as being mostly about hand-holding, by a hospice nurse and a pediatric nurse. Thus, despite some positive elements, each ad subtly reinforces the enduring image of nurses as low-skilled angels. The nursing crisis did not happen because people forgot that nurses hold hands. What decision-makers need to know is that nurses are autonomous life-saving professionals who need respect and resources, and in this regard the new ads are actually a step backwards from the 2007 ones. The new ads do at least omit the baby-soft voiceover and sappy music, which undermined the prior ads' good elements with vapid lyrics about how nurses "dare to care." The new ads are also more subtle about promoting J&J itself, though that cuts both ways; it distracts viewers less from the good and bad aspects of the ads. In any case, we thank J&J for its continued efforts to promote nursing, and we urge the company to focus more closely on telling the public that nurses are health experts who save lives. more...


Please write to television producers at the following addresses:

Grey's Anatomy

Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers, Krista Vernoff
Executive Producers, "Grey's Anatomy"
The Mark Gordon Company
12200 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste 250
Los Angeles, CA 90064 USA

Shonda Rhimes
Executive Producer, "Grey's Anatomy"
4151 Prospect Ave. 4th Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Channing Dungey, VP Drama Series
Touchstone Television
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521

Charissa Gilmore, VP Media Relations
Touchstone Television
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521


Also see our past campaigns; our success stories; action pages for Grey's Anatomy, House, Private Practice, ER and Scrubs