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The mythbuster

Quick clinic NP appears on CBS TV�affiliate as health expert!

Anne Pohnert NP 
January 6, 2013 – Today the Richmond (VA) CBS television affiliate WTVR (Channel 6) ran a short segment in which CVS Minute Clinic nurse practitioner Anne Pohnert debunked common myths about the flu in a friendly exchange with one of the channel's news anchors. The channel conveyed respect for Pohnert as a health expert, identifying her as a nurse practitioner. And Pohnert came off as professional and articulate, explaining in a direct, clear way that you can't get the flu from the flu shot, that there are no serious side effects from the shot, that it's important to get the vaccine every year, and that it's not too late to get the shot this year, particularly since the early incidence of flu suggests it will be a bad year for the disease. The short text matching the online video adds a fifth myth, namely that "natural immunity or living a healthy lifestyle is better than getting immunity from the flu shot"; we assume there was no time to discuss that one on the air. (Speaking of living a healthy lifestyle, recall that the Heart Attack Grill's first spokesman died of the flu at age 29. He weighed 575 pounds.) Pohnert's appearance is remarkable not just because it represents an appearance by a nurse as a health expert on broadcast television--still a rarity even on local affiliates--but because the station makes a point of mentioning that Pohnert practices at CVS Minute Clinics. In the early days of quick clinics, the major players almost seemed to apologize for staffing their clinics with NPs. But the explicit references to CVS here suggest that the company may now actually be promoting its clinics through the expertise of their nurse practitioners, at least in this case. We commend WTVR for this segment.

FluThe segment lasts a little less than three minutes and is now available at the WTVR website under the headline "Nurse busts top 5 flu myths." The short text, credited to Victoria Lushbaugh, explains that the flu season is the "meanest" in a decade and that "nurses at the CVS Minute Clinic" say there are some myths about the flu and its vaccine. The text briefly lists them, including the fifth one that did not make it into the video segment. The segment itself begins with the news anchor noting that it's the "meanest" flu season that "doctors and nurses" have seen in decades, citing the CDC for the flu's prevalence in many states. Then the anchor notes that the "CVS Minute Clinic" says there are a few myths about the flu, and joining him to explain them and what families need to know to stay safe is "Nurse Practitioner Anne Pohnert." He greets her enthusiastically. Pohnert appears in a white coat, smiling and looking professional. As the segment proceeds, Pohnert and the anchor stay on screen, though at times they recede to a small box as we see images of people who may have the flu. Pohnert's onscreen identifier is "ANNE POHNERT, NURSE PRACTITIONER CVS MINUTE CLINIC."

These framing and introductory elements may not make a big conscious impression on viewers and online visitors, but they signal respect for nursing in several ways. Obviously, the multiple references to nurses are helpful since they suggest that nurses play a key role in dealing with the flu and that they have health knowledge. The references to Pohnert as a "nurse practitioner" tell viewers that she is qualified to give expert advice about the flu and the vaccine. And it is also helpful that she appears in a white coat, since that will likely convey expertise to most viewers.

Starting off, the anchor asks Pohnert why the flu is so bad this season.

Pohnert:  You know, it's very interesting year-to-year why one season we get more of the flu than the other. You know, different strains are going around the globe at all times, and you never know who's going to get on an airplane with the flu and bring it to the U.S. They usually start in Asia, and we just happen to have a bad strain going around this year.

Anchor:  Tell us some of the myths that are surrounding the flu season.

Anne Pohnert NPPohnert:  Well, we certainly hear a lot of myths around the flu vaccine, and why to get it, why not to get it. I hear every single day, "I don't want to get the flu shots, I never get the flu shot, if you get the flu shot, you get the flu." Those are all really inaccurate ideas about the flu shot, so, one of the things that I'd like to say is that, in terms of getting the flu from the flu shot, maybe 20, 30 years ago that might have been possible, but the current vaccine is an inactivated part of the virus, a very small piece of the chain of the virus, and so you can't actually get the disease from the flu shot. Usually if you're getting sick around the time you get a flu shot you've either been exposed before you got it, after you got it, and the flu shot takes about two weeks for full immunity to develop.

Anchor:  Anne, tell us if you get the flu shot this season, do you need it next year as well?

Pohnert:  Generally every single year you should get a flu shot, I know I certainly do, as I'm exposed to the public a lot, getting a lot of flu in my office. And at the Minute Clinics we do recommend a flu shot every year, as the CDC does. And every year, there's different strains of the flu, and the flu shot is made and designed to really try to target the flu strains that are out in the community. So, each year you want to get a new flu shot. Each year your immunity will wane actually as well. So getting a booster every year is important.

Anchor:  How about some of the side effects from the flu shot?

Pohnert:  There really are no side effects from a flu shot. Occasionally you might be a little sore in your arm. You know, I always say that the day after a flu shot, I really want to take a nap. And that means to me that your immune system's been stimulated to fight the flu whenever you encounter it in the public.

Anchor:  Is it too late to actually get the flu shot that will help fight this season?

Pohnert:  It is not too late. Usually the flu peaks around February or March. We're seeing a lot of early flu this year, so, really good to get it as soon as you can.

Anchor:  Anne, thank you so much for the tips, we appreciate it. CVS Minute Clinic.

Pohnert:  Thank you.

On the whole, this a very helpful demonstration that nurses are authoritative health experts who can convey knowledge that people need in a clear and direct way. Pohnert gets right to the point in her responses, but she has an easy, conversational style that works well on television. She refers to things like the CDC recommendations, the origins of the flu, and how the vaccine works, but she does so in a way that shows her main goal is to convey information so that the public will understand, rather than to impress anyone with her technical knowledge or use of scientific words. Patient education is a critical nursing role, and the segment shows how effective nurses can be in that role in a broad public health context. And in doing that nurses also show that they are serious health professionals who deserve respect and the resources for their work--thereby busting the persistent myth that nurses are low-skilled physician subordinates.

We are especially impressed with the segment in light of the obvious role the CVS affiliation played in it, including the repeated references to CVS. Beyond simply promoting the company, those references probably add to Pohnert's credibility. Many will likely think that because she represents a big company, she must know what she's doing. But when quick clinics first appeared in the last decade, the companies generally seemed to try to mask the nursing role in their media interactions. CEOs would assure the media that the scope of practice was limited, that they were not seeking to replace primary care practices, and that physicians were consulting or supervising. The companies rarely seemed to defend nursing expertise or give the NPs a chance to explain what they did or what they knew. So this is clearly a step forward.

We thank WTVR for this flu segment and Anne Pohnert for telling the public what nurses really do.