News on Nursing in the Media
September 2006 -- This fall's U.S. television season has less health-related serial programming than last year, but the top hospital dramas--Fox's "House" (premieres Sept. 5) and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" (Sept. 21)--will soon resume spreading their misportrayals of nursing to tens of millions each week. These dramas depict physicians providing all key care, and the few nurses who appear are insignificant handmaidens. NBC's long-running "ER" (Sept. 21) returns with a slowly shrinking audience and major nurse character Sam Taggart. The show remains physician-centric, but last season its vision of nurses as skilled sidekicks who are at least capable of challenging physicians presented a sharp contrast to the other hospital dramas. In general, shows with nurse characters often emphasize their ordinariness, using them to set off the more interesting characters around them, and they also focus on the nurses' personal lives, presumably because producers don't know that nursing itself is interesting. NBC's sitcom "Scrubs," with relatively normal nurse character Carla Espinosa, will again return in mid-season. It had a few good episodes for nursing last year, though its overall depiction remained fairly poor. One character in NBC's new drama "Heroes" (Sept. 25) is hospice nurse Peter Petrelli, one of the "ordinary" people who discover they have an extraordinary power (in Peter's case, it's flying). The show web site says Peter has always lived in the shadow of his high-achieving politician brother, but he feels "destined for something bigger" than lowly hospice nursing. Imagine our excitement. HBO's raw sitcom "Lucky Louie" includes major nurse character Kim, who is essentially Alice Kramden's granddaughter. Like Carla, the tough Kim is the fairly normal one in a crew of misfits, though the show is not really about her work life. "Lucky Louie" was a summer show, but HBO is re-broadcasting episodes into the fall. FX's plastic surgery drama "Nip/Tuck" (Sept. 5) kicks off its fourth season, still with no recurring nurse character. And staffing agency Access Nurses may produce another season of its web-based "13 Weeks," an inadequate reality series about travel nurses. more...
July 20, 2006 -- Today The New York Times ran a piece about the physician recently arrested, along with two nurses, for allegedly using lethal injections to kill several patients at Memorial Medical Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year. "Louisiana Doctor Said to Have Faced Chaos" was written by Christopher Drew and Shaila Dewan. The piece weaves details about the legal action into an account of Dr. Anna Pou's background and what she did at the New Orleans hospital after the storm. It includes many quotes from her attorney and supportive colleagues. Unlike many pieces, this one does give some sense of why the patients' deaths may have been excusable. Indeed, its tone and content clearly favor Dr. Pou rather than the Louisiana attorney general's office. However, the piece is typical of national media coverage of the case in barely managing even to name the two nurses--Lori Budo and Cheri Landry--and in sending the clear message that only Dr. Pou's actions were of any consequence following Katrina. more...
August 12, 2006 -- Today some sites posted an unsigned UPI piece about new research on the important role nurses can play in helping patients stop smoking. The piece, "Nurses can help patients quit smoking," is extremely short. But it is an example of very good press coverage of nursing research, underlining the key contributions nurses make in addressing one of the most urgent global health problems. more...
August 24, 2006 -- Today The Age (Melbourne) ran an unsigned Agence France Presse item headlined "Nurses and firemen top fantasy poll." It reports that a new poll has found that 54% of British men have fantasies about nurses. No other profession hit the 50% mark for male or female fantasizers, though 47% of women apparently dream about "firemen." The results seem to show that nursing leads a list of traditionally female, service-oriented jobs about which men fantasize. That list contrasts sharply with the objects of popular female fantasies, namely traditionally male jobs associated with heroism and/or socioeconomic power, including medicine. The poll underlines why nursing remains in the midst of a life-threatening global shortage--daunting professional difficulty and hyper social contempt is hardly a winning combination. We would urge the media to stop relying so heavily on ghty nurse imagery, if we weren't so concerned that there's no other way to sell beer and stuff to male consumers. more...
June 4, 2006 -- Today the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) posted a generally strong, balanced piece by Ashfaq Yusufzai about the distressing state of nursing in Pakistan. The headline is: "Pakistan: Nurses Get Little Training or Respect." Relying on an impressive variety of sources, the article paints a grim portrait of a profession confronting a severe shortage, an abysmal lack of training, poor working conditions, and a public image as a group of disposable female objects. The piece also includes anecdotes of assaults of nurses leading to no action by authorities. Though the piece might have further developed some points, we commend Ashfaq Yusufzai and IPS for highlighting these important issues in a powerful way. more...
June 2, 2006 -- Today The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a long piece by Dawn Fallik, "Hospital 'boot camp' is a challenge to a young man's maturity." The article describes student Ryan Sholinsky's arduous year in Thomas Jefferson University's accelerated nursing program. The piece includes a wealth of information about what it's like to begin pursuing a nursing career today. And it conveys some of the intellectual, physical, and emotional demands of nursing, things that may surprise many readers. However, the piece is surprisingly thin when it comes to showing the major positive differences nurses make in patient outcomes, such as saving lives, advocating for patients, and teaching them how to stay well. Instead, it associates being a "good nurse" more with emotional support and resilience. At the same time, the piece's portrayal of the stress and fear Ryan experiences is so strong and so melodramatic that it may be the main thing most readers take away. We get a great sense of what it's like to screw up and almost take a life, but what's it like to save one? Perhaps a piece on medical school could rely on the pre-existing public understanding that physicians save lives and that medicine is at the very top of the socioeconomic order to provide context for such persistent negativity. We cannot say the same about a piece on nursing. Even so, those responsible for the piece deserve credit for telling readers much about the serious nature of nursing education. more...
May 31, 2006 -- Today the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site posted a short unsigned piece about the stress nurses experience. "Mental strain showing on nurses: union" reports that a new study by Brenda Sabo of Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia) describes the "compassion fatigue" that may afflict nurses after years of developing close caregiving relations with patients. That fatigue can undermine patient care. The piece also relies on Prince Edward Island Nurses' Union president Mary Duffy. She notes that in addition to compassion fatigue, the stress of chronic overwork has caused an increase in long-term disability claims by nurses. The piece is pretty short for such complex and important issues, but it is a helpful look at a serious problem. more...
May 5, 2006 -- Today the Ithaca Journal published a strong, well written Nurses Week op-ed by Nancy Banfield Johnson, RN, MSN, ANP. Johnson is a nurse manager at Kendal at Ithaca (a Quaker continuing care retirement community in New York). Her piece argues that nursing remains poorly understood, particularly given the inadequate vision the public gets from the media, and it asks nurses to dispel key myths about their profession. In particular, Johnson points to the common misbeliefs that all members of the nursing team are the same, that nurses are managed by and dependent on physicians, and that nursing is simply a part of the medical profession. In reasonable terms, the piece explains why those are just myths. And it highlights the real importance, diversity, and unique nature of the profession. It's an excellent way to celebrate Nurses Week. And we're not just saying that because Johnson cites the Center web site as a good place to learn more about the challenges nursing faces. more...
August 27, 2006 -- The Center has asked celebrities from Hollywood hospital shows to donate the valuable "swag" (gift bags) they receive from tonight's Primetime Emmy Awards to schools and charities working to ease the global nursing crisis. Why? Because entertainment television affects how people view nursing, and shows like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "House" (both nominated for Best Drama) have profited by presenting viewers worldwide with a vision of hospital care that grossly undervalues nursing. see our full press release here...
Bring your health expertise to the radio! "Health in 30" radio host Barbara Ficarra is actively looking for nurse experts to present their areas of expertise on her weekly radio show. She is looking through our nurse expert database to find nurses of interest, so if you have something you think you could speak on for 30 minutes, please sign up in our nurse expert database and send Ms. Ficarra an email as well, to pitch her your story.
We are looking specifically for a public health nurse expert from the Chicago area for a specific project. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Please join all our campaigns, especially our Johnson & Johnson campaign, which addresses the company's focus on emotional "angel" imagery in its influential television ads. The ads continue on television as of this week. Thank you!
In order to continue speaking honestly about media images of nursing--even if it displeases major corporations and their nursing allies--the Center needs your help. Help us show that there is a place for independent voices in nursing. Help us overcome the limited "angel" and handmaiden images that have contributed to the nursing crisis. We must tell the public that nurses save lives and improve patient outcomes, so we can get the resources we need to resolve the nursing shortage. Please help us do that by making a contribution today.
The Center for Nursing Advocacy fights inaccurate media images of nursing because those images affect how decision-makers and members of the public value the profession. For most people, the media is the major source of information about nursing. But because the profession's image is so inaccurate and degraded, decision-makers tend not to fully fund nursing clinical practice, education or research. Short-staffing is one result. If we want to resolve the global nursing crisis, we must change the way the world thinks about nursing. Nurses save lives and improve outcomes every day, but few people outside nursing know that. Right now the Center has the resources to address a few of the most influential images of nursing. But we need far more funding to do what really needs to be done, including working proactively to create better images.
The Center stands ready and willing to lead that effort. But the tiny staff that donates almost all of its Center labor cannot do this without your help. We need money to pay for office supplies, internet fees, and other expenses. Most importantly, the long-term sustainability of the Center depends on core staff receiving a living wage. Please help us improve the nursing image by making a generous contribution to the Center today. And when you join, you will get cool free gifts, including t-shirts. Please join or renew your membership today. Thank you for your help. When the Center has a success, all of our supporting members should feel very proud, because we absolutely cannot do this without you. See our free member gifts.
Can you help us by circulating our brochures and asking your colleagues and friends to become donating members of the Center? If so, please email me and let me know how many brochures you would like, and we'll send them out to you. Thank you!
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
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