News on Nursing in the Media
March 1, 2007 - NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep has recently made statements in on-air interviews with disaster health experts that assume only physicians matter, presumably because they provide all important health care. On February 22, Morning Edition ran an interview with a former U.S. Coast Guard officer who argued that the nation was not well prepared to provide health care in the event of a disaster. When this expert said that a community had to ask whether it could handle hundreds of thousands of casualties, "all requiring triage and other kinds of life and death care," Inskeep (below) asked if that meant asking whether such a place had "hundreds of vacant beds ... hundreds of idle doctors?" Today, when the "chief of medical affairs" at a New Orleans hospital noted that a lack of "health care providers" was hampering efforts to restore area hospitals to full capacity, Inskeep wondered whether even hospitals like his that had remained open "don't have enough doctors available." In both stories, the experts sooner or later worked nurses into the conversation. In fact, while physician care is of course very important, most of the critical care in such emergencies (such as skilled triage) is provided by nurses. And it is the severe shortage of nurses that would likely present the most urgent health care human resources problem during a mass casualty event. more...
March 5, 2007 -- Check out a good article in today's Salem News (MA) about the flawed depiction of health care on popular U.S. television shows like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." Julie Kirkwood's piece focuses on nurses' arguments that such shows can distort the public's view of health care and health workers, with negative effects on the real world. The story aims to debunk some of the key "myths" such shows present, and it includes extensive comment from Truth executive director Sandy Summers about how the shows undervalue nursing care. The piece is "As seen on TV: Real-life health care workers say medical shows aren't telling the real story."
November 9, 2006 -- Tonight ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" included a plotline in which the "nurse's job" of "dig[ging] through crap" was used relentlessly as a symbol of professional disaster for the show's smart, ambitious surgical interns. Intern Cristina Yang spends most of the episode sifting through the stool of a boy who has swallowed Monopoly pieces. This is presented as a brutal punishment from Cristina's chief resident. Intern Izzie Stevens joins Cristina, in a desperate effort to avoid her own mandatory peer counseling. The plotline equates nursing with disgusting, trivial work that no educated, ambitious person would ever want to do (ewww!). Later, nurse Moe pages Cristina when the boy starts vomiting. Cristina quickly diagnoses a perforated bowel and directs the clueless Moe to page the chief resident. Thus, nurses do alert physicians to obvious changes in patient conditions, so the physicians can give life-saving care. Physicians also provide all other important care on the show, though nurses may be present at the edge of the main action, silently doing some little nurse thing. The episode, Mark Wilding's "Where the Boys Are," was seen by 20.6 million viewers in its initial U.S. airing and millions more around the world. more...
October 17, 2006 - Today The West Australian reported on an effort by Royal Perth Hospital nurse Diane Harrison to publicize "critical bed shortages," and an apparent government move to "silence" her, despite legal protections for such public sector whistleblowers. Anne Calverley's article highlights (but does not discuss) the particular difficulty bedside nurses may face in pushing for sufficient resources. Nurses spend more time with patients than any other health professionals, and patient advocacy is central to their profession, yet nursing has long been associated with unempowered meekness. Ms. Harrison's decidedly unmeek advocacy is apparently linked to overcrowding in her hospital's emergency department. The piece might have explained how such conditions can affect patients and staff. Even so, we thank Ms. Calverley and the West Australian for coverage of these important issues. more...
October 11, 2006 - Recent press items have underlined the remarkable political influence that the California Nurses Association (CNA) has built in recent years. On September 28, KGO-TV (the Bay Area ABC affiliate) ran Ken Miguel's "Nurses Association Carries Political Clout." The report describes CNA's victories over California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on staffing ratios and other legislative issues, and the union's recent push for the state campaign finance initiative, Proposition 89. Today, The Los Angeles Times' blog "Political Muscle" reported that CNA would run an ad during an upcoming "The Tonight Show"--on which Schwarzenegger was to be a guest--accusing the Governor of failing to rid the state of special interest influence. CNA's use of political and media tools is not what people expect from nurses, but it may be an effective way for nurses to advocate for patients and themselves during this difficult time. more...
March 9, 2007 -- We have created a web page to help you follow the story of the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian physician who remain in a Libyan jail because of allegations that they intentionally infected hundreds of children with the HIV virus. Click here for the latest news on their case. These health care workers were again sentenced to death in December 2006, although it appears that European governments remain focused on the issue, and there are suggestions that the prisoners will at least be spared execution. Please write a letter to ask (politely) for their release. Thank you.
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 at cost in order to get the widest possible distribution of this video. To order, please make a $10 payment here ($15 for non-members).
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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.
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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, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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