News on Nursing in the Media
January 28, 2007 -- On January 11, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an excellent piece by Carol Ann Campbell on Hollywood's treatment of nursing. The article is headlined "Nurses urge TV dramas: Get real; Portrayals deceive public, groups say." The substantial piece features extensive comment from nurses (including Truth executive director Sandy Summers) who explain how popular U.S. television dramas regularly show physicians doing important work that nurses really do, while nurses are shown as peripheral subordinates, when they appear at all. As the piece notes, this widespread undervaluation is a factor in the critical nursing shortage. We thank Ms. Campbell and the Star-Ledger for this piece, which stands in stark contrast to a slew of recent articles in the major print media that explore Hollywood's "medical accuracy" but completely ignore nursing. more...
November 2, 2006 -- Recent plotlines of NBC's "ER" have tried to illustrate some of the importance of ED nursing care, and one even included a minor suggestion of the potential effects of short-staffing. The October 19 episode, Joe Sachs, MD's "Ames v. Kovac" (13.5 million U.S. viewers), focuses on a malpractice suit brought against attending Luka Kovac by a patient who suffered left side paralysis after a stroke in the ED. The show makes some effort to show the important role that the care of Chunie Marquez (right) and other nurses played in the patient's experience. However, it gives the impression that Kovac was ultimately responsible, legally and ethically, for all aspects of the patient's care, good or bad. Tonight, in Janine Sherman Barrois's "Heart of the Matter" (13.8 million viewers), a trial jury finds for Kovac. But again, all the focus is on him, and there's no real indication of nursing responsibility. This episode also suggests that nurse Sam Taggart would be qualified to appear on the local TV news on the ED's behalf, but that she would casually pass up a chance to do so because "nobody wants to hear from a nurse." more...
January 30, 2007 -- It can take a long time for us to get to items, and we are unable to get to some items at all, because we have so few resources and we operate under severe time constraints. Please support the Center so we can respond to nursing's needs in a more timely and comprehensive way. In our year-end fundraiser we have so far raised 16% of our $75,000 goal. Can you please help us meet our goal? Thank you! You can also get cool free gifts with your membership.
September 19, 2006 -- There's nothing the Center likes better than major newspaper headlines that link nursing and lingerie, and the Daily Mail (U.K.) obliged us today with a short item about proposals for new workplace clothing rules at an Essex hospital. The unsigned piece reports that Southend Hospital is considering rules that would require "[n]urses" to make sure they don't expose cleavage or underwear, and "[d]octors" to refrain from wearing stethoscopes around their necks because of the risk of infection. But just in case anyone missed the basic message--physicians are to health care instruments as nurses are to sexual markers--the piece also resurrects the Christina Aguilera naughty nurse ad for Skechers that nurses ended two years ago. The piece presents the ad with this caption: "Sorry guys: don't expect to see the likes of Christina Aguilera in this nurses uniform at Southend Hospital." more...
September 25, 2006 -- The cover story of this week's Business Week was Michael Mandel's lengthy "What's Really Propping Up the Economy." The piece offers a detailed argument that the massive growth in health care has been the only thing saving the United States economy from a "deep coma." Mandel stresses that the health care industry has added 1.7 million jobs since 2001, compared to "none" by the rest of the private sector. But he worries that the increasingly health care-focused U.S. economy is unbalanced. He suggests that "restructuring" and information technology may be able to streamline care, reducing spiraling costs--and the number of health jobs. Nursing is literally the poster child for the piece: the cover presents a version of the famous World War II "Rosie the Riveter" poster, but the tough-looking Rosie is now a nurse. Inside, the story points to the growth in nursing jobs, briefly describing the experiences of three enthusiastic second career entrants into nursing, two students and one recent graduate, who is male. But for expert commentary on what all this means, the piece turns to the usual suspects: economists, executives, physicians, and public health experts--and not one of these appears to be a nurse. More fundamentally, we're concerned about the presentation of the explosion in nursing vacancies as a measure of the strength of the profession. A key reason for this growth in vacancies is poor working conditions, like short-staffing. Pieces like this will not encourage society to allocate the resources nursing needs to resolve what is, in fact, a crisis. And while structural reforms and new technology can streamline care, it's important to pursue those with a full awareness of how nurses improve patient outcomes. more...
September 5, 2006 -- Today the Liberty Times (Taiwan) ran an unsigned piece about a young nurse at Taichung Hospital. The piece reports that Chuan Ya-lan is an unusually devoted, patient, and hard-working nurse. We appreciate the effort to highlight the value of Chuan's work. Unfortunately, the piece focuses heavily on what Suzanne Gordon has termed the "virtue script," rather than on tangible ways in which nurses improve patient outcomes. And the virtue script--which asks nurses to endure unendurable working conditions without protest--is a factor in the life-threatening nursing shortage. more...
September 29, 2006 -- Today the Ananova site posted a very short item headlined "Nurses in Romania to wear miniskirts." The piece continues Ananova's aggressive coverage of efforts by local hospitals in Southeast Europe to get their unruly nurses into skirts. One year ago, the site posted a remarkably similar piece about a Croatian hospital that had directed all nurses to wear skirts instead of the "untidy" trousers some had been wearing. That piece included a quote from the hospital director: "The length of those skirts, be they miniskirts or otherwise, is up to the nurses." Today's piece reports that "[d]octors" in a Romanian town have asked that "officials" order all female nurses and physicians (!) to wear miniskirts, ostensibly because it would be more "elegant." We have to wonder if someone at Ananova has a little software reminder pop up every fall ("Time to post miniskirt nurse story!"). But assuming the story is real, the effect of the new proposal would be to enforce an image of female health workers as sex objects rather than professionals, which would have a disproportionately bad effect on nursing at a time of crisis. more...
From Karen Buley, RN: "Your story is needed for an upcoming anthology--Nurses on the Run: Why They Come, Why They Stay. What brought you to nursing? What keeps you there? Do you have a story about one or more patients, or about family members, that highlights the essence of what nursing means to you? We need to attract others to our profession, and to inspire practicing nurses to continue their important work." See the full details and to submit your story...
Get your DVD copies of "Lifeline: The Nursing Diaries--The Rookies" (Part I) by filmmaker Richard Kahn. When we reviewed Part I of the documentary in Dec. 2004, we gave it 4 out of 4 stars for its nursing portrayal. From our review: "Part I gives an unusually good sense of the value of highly skilled nursing. It shows nurses working in three intensive care units at Mass. General: the cardiac surgical intensive care unit (CSICU), the neonatal ICU (NICU), and the surgical ICU (SICU). The episode shows nurses doing so many critical health tasks that the media commonly has physicians doing that it almost seems like it must have been a conscious goal of the filmmakers. However, it may simply be the natural result of taking a comprehensive look at what nurses really do. We see nurses autonomously managing patient care, detecting critical problems, formulating key interventions, explaining things to patients, families, and the viewer, and generally managing recoveries with little physician involvement." Read the full review here. Order a copy of Nursing Diaries Part I for US $10, which includes shipping. We are selling these essentially at cost in order to make access to this video as easy as possible. To order, please make a $10 payment here.
Because of the lack of overall understanding worldwide, nurses must sustain a collective effort to shape media portrayals of their work. We must educate society in order to obtain more social, political and financial support. As Florence Nightingale once said:
In our imperfect state of conscience and enlightenment, publicity and the collision resulting from publicity are the best guardians of the interest of the sick.
The Center's global media monitoring, analysis and advocacy is a huge challenge. It takes extensive research, writing, communication, and Internet efforts. We must pay for office equipment, supplies, transportation, Internet products, insurance, postage and telephone costs. Our office is donated by our staff. And our staff can undertake only a small part of the work that needs to be done to improve nursing's image.
So we urge you to make a donation to help us continue and expand our work. Just click here to learn about the great gifts you can receive for joining or renewing your Center membership, including our cool t-shirts and the Archie McPhee nurse action figure! It's quick and easy! And because the Center is a 501(c)(3) charity, your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.
Thank you for all of your support over the past year. You are the reason we've had a real impact on public understanding of nursing worldwide. Together, we can strengthen nursing, and give patients the kind of health care they deserve in 2007 and beyond!
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
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