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Judas in a lab coat: "ER" takes on that whole "female-physician-mistaken-for-a-nurse" thing

April 28, 2005 -- Most of tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," written by Lydia Woodward and Lisa Zwerling, M.D., was fairly unremarkable from a nursing perspective. It featured the standard portrayal of nurses as skilled but peripheral physician assistants. However, one scene did call upon intern character Abby Lockhart--also a nurse--to address a patient's dismissive reference to her as a nurse. So, did the show have Lockhart mount a brief but spirited defense of the widely disrespected profession-in-crisis in which she herself spent many years saving lives and improving outcomes? You make the call, based on her indignant response to the patient: "I am not a nurse. I'm a doctor." more...


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If Tomorrow Never Knows

May 1, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," written by Krista Vernoff, included an extraordinary scene in which a veteran nurse character guided one of the interns through treatment of a life-threatening cardiac tamponade. This is the kind of informal teaching of new physicians that experienced nurses commonly do but that Hollywood almost never shows, and we give the show credit for showing it. Unfortunately (you knew this was coming) the episode still manages to suggest that the intern alone saved the patient's life. It presents the unnamed and unrecognized nurse as a kind of humanoid how-to card, rather than a skilled professional whose expertise was the most critical factor in the patient's survival. When the episode isn't crediting physicians for work that nurses really do, it portrays them as physician helpers. The medical consultant was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. more...


Do superbugs know more about nursing than humans do?

May 6, 2005 -- Today the Scotsman web site posted a Press Association piece by Lyndsay Moss about a new study finding that intensive care patients were seven times more likely to be infected with the deadly MRSA "superbug" when there was a "shortage of specially trained nurses." The brief piece, "Superbug Peril Higher During Nurse Shortages," does a pretty good job explaining one of the countless hazards of nurse short staffing. But it has expert comment only from physicians, and none from the intensive care nurses whose care is actually at issue--a small but telling example of the kind of attitudes that help make nurse short staffing possible. more...


"And there wasn't even a doctor there!"

May 3, 2005 -- Today Nicole Brodeur's column in the Seattle Times told the story of local ED nurse Joanne Endres who, as the only health professional on a plane flight from Minneapolis, apparently saved the life of a man having a heart attack. The theme of the column, "Flying solo, nurse is enough," is that the public does not understand what nurses do, and it includes some excellent observations about that. The piece might have gone a bit deeper on how Ms. Endres actually helped the patient, but on the whole it's a commendable effort to highlight and remedy nursing invisibility. more...


A bug's life

April 28, 2005 -- Recent articles in Canada and the U.K. highlight the key role that nurses can play in reducing the number and severity of life-threatening infections hospital patients suffer. A fairly good piece by Celia Hall posted on the Telegraph site on April 27 examines calls by British nurses for more uniforms and improved laundry and changing facilities, in order to stem the rate of hospital-acquired infections, including the MRSA "superbug." On April 26, the Vancouver Sun published a piece by Amy O'Brian about one local hospital's efforts to reduce sepsis deaths through a joint medical-nursing monitoring team. The piece prompted a brief but effective letter by Center supporter Heather Bolecz protesting its highly physician-centric focus. The Sun published that letter today. more...


This will hurt like hell

May 2005 -- This month Outside magazine printed a short but excellent letter from Julie McMahon Falk, R.N., protesting the magazine's March item "Get Well Soon." That item featured a large photo (right) of a naughty nurse as part of its description of several "feel better tools," products that relieve pain after intense physical activity. The Center had started a campaign about this photo, and the magazine did ultimately promise to print a letter reflecting nurses' concerns. Although this is not the apology we had sought, we commend Outside for at least printing the letter, and we salute Ms. Falk for her nursing advocacy. more...


Gene Weingarten apologizes to nurses

May 5, 2005 -- Gene Weingarten has now responded to many of the Center supporters who have written protesting his April 24 column. His responses to the original letters have been brief but generally conciliatory: many state that he intended no slur and include a kind of apology, along with assurances that he "loves" nurses and finds them all "beautiful." Mr. Weingarten also extended apologies in his weekly online chats on May 3 and April 26, and he even placed a full copy of the Center's initial letter to him in the May 3 chat, which we appreciate. In the chats, Mr. Weingarten again assured nurses that he values them highly, though he does not appear to believe his column was as harmful as we do, and it is not clear if he understands what nurses really do to save lives and improve outcomes. However, we remain in contact with Mr. Weingarten, who is commendably concerned that so many nurses were offended by his column. We have urged him to apologize in his column and do something more to make amends for the April 24 column, such as explain to his readers what nurses really do for patients. We are working together on this, so stay tuned to news alerts and we will keep you updated.

 


Thank you for helping us to improve nursing's media image. Please circulate our news alerts to your colleagues or post them on a bulletin board at work or school if you can, to help empower other nurses and/or students, and encourage them to take a leading role in working to educate the world about the value of nursing. Thank you.

Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
office 1-410-323-1100
fax 1-410-510-1790
ssummers@truthaboutnursing.org

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