News on Nursing in the Media
November 4, 2010 -- Today the popular daytime television program The Dr. Oz Show offered viewers an amazingly concentrated package of harmful nursing stereotypes, all wrapped up in a short segment about Angel Williams, who lost 200 pounds by dancing. We're all for any safe and effective weight loss strategy. But Williams dressed in a regressive short white nurse's dress, said she was going to "get sexy" and unbuttoned the top of the dress as she prepared to lead Oz in some dancing, and told Oz that she and a group of similarly attired dancers would be "your nurses, we're gonna keep America moving for you." No doubt the show thought it would be fun to present these women as Oz's sexy nurse backup dancers--doesn't every celebrity physician have those? Especially surgeons like Dr. Oz! Unfortunately, this short segment managed to reinforce a slew of stereotypes: the naughty nurse, the low-skilled physician handmaiden, and the idea that nursing is for females living in a past era. And far from looking uncomfortable about these nursing elements, Oz himself twice referred to the dancers as Williams's "fellow nurses." After Williams told Oz what the "nurses" would do "for" him, Oz responded, "I love it." We don't. Please tell Dr. Oz that nurses are skilled, autonomous health professionals--despite the Oprah protégé's multimedia health empire and his position on the Columbia Medical School faculty, it's not clear that he knows. more... and please join our letter-writing campaign!
August 16, 2010 -- Today the Jordan-based news service Al Bawaba ran a brief, unsigned report of a protest by the Egyptian Nurses Union about a new television show in which a nurse character steals medicines to sell on the black market, "in addition to performing polygamy and going against all the teaching of Islam." The piece says that the head of the union, Fathi Al Bana, believes the writers should have consulted the union about the show, and she says the union's board will meet to decide what actions to take. The article also includes an insightful paragraph about the causes and effects of nursing's poor image, relying on Dr. Nihad Abd Al Salam, a professor at the International Nurses Academy. This professor explains that the media reinforces the widespread perception that nurses are "girls with bad reputations who try to seduce doctors and rich patients," and that this image in turn has caused many families to forbid their daughters to become nurses. We thank Al Bawaba for this helpful, if short, article. more...
July 6, 2010 -- Two recent press reports offer very different perspectives on the global nursing shortage, though they do have one thing in common: the content of each piece is somewhat at odds with its own headline. On June 22, the Korea Times published Bae Ji-sook's "Shortage of nurses aggravating." From that headline, you might think that the piece would be about how the shortage means patients must sometimes put up with lukewarm tea. But in fact, the report powerfully describes the plight of under-staffed nurses asked to assume crushing workloads. The piece does not discuss potential solutions, and it might have made clear that under-staffing endangers patients. But it certainly shows how these conditions affect the nurses, portraying a workplace in which, according to the piece's main source, nurses "suffer from constant fatigue" and are "virtually isolated from the other part of the world because after work, all [they] can think about is getting enough sleep." And today, the Jerusalem Post ran a report by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich about the plans of the Israeli government to address that nation's shortages of health workers. The headline is "Panel decries nurse, doctor shortages," but even though about 75% of the profession-specific information here is about an alleged physician shortage, Israel appears to have a higher ratio of physicians to people than most countries, including the United States. The piece does mention a few government ideas intended to help nursing, including plans to introduce "nurse assistants" and to improve nurse recruiting and education, but there is no detail. In any case, we thank those responsible for these pieces, especially the Korea Times one, for drawing attention to a nursing shortage that has not gone away just because it has been discussed for more than a decade. more...
June 10, 2010 -- Today the Seattle Times published a piece by Sharon Randall, a nationally syndicated columnist, that offered one of the more striking combinations of good intentions and nurse stereotyping that we've seen recently. "Confessions of a home nurse" is built around the comic idea that Randall was acting as a "nurse," though by her own account a highly imperfect one, in caring for her husband after a recent operation, as well as in caring for her child after he was born years ago. Randall throws in positive accounts of the care she and her child received from real nurses, those "compassionate" "angels" whose care is apparently defined by "loving kindness" and "tender mercy," phrases she manages to use twice. We recognize that Randall is not suggesting she is a real, licensed registered nurse--we know the term "nurse" is still commonly used to mean unskilled tending--and her piece is all about how bad she is at doing even that. But her relentless equating of such unskilled care with actual nursing, in a context that really does superficially resemble professional nursing (unlike, say, "nursing a beer"), is damaging because it reinforces the idea that nursing requires little skill or education. Randall's writing comically, but the subtext--which no one will take as a joke--is that what makes a real nurse is kindness, patience, and endurance. Of course those things are important in nursing, but so are college-level science education and advanced clinical skills. Randall could probably take a stab at some of the most basic things physicians do too. But we doubt she would write a whole piece based on the idea that she was a flawed physician. We urge her to think more carefully about how unskilled and angel stereotyping makes the work of real nurses harder. more...
Truth About Nursing and Saving Lives media appearances
November 20, 2010 -- On November 2, the prominent U.K. nursing publication The Nursing Times published the sixth in the series of online pieces by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Jacobs Summers, "Not good enough for a feminist?" And today, the Nursing Times published the seventh article, "No holier than thou," which discusses the angel image.
November 22, 2010 -- Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now available in paperback, with a new foreword by bestselling nurse author Echo Heron! This edition is revised and expanded, discussing Nurse Jackie and the other new nurse shows in detail, and featuring updated information throughout. You can get an author-signed copy of the book when you become a member of the Truth or renew your membership for $30 (click here!). Please help support the Truth's effort to change how the world thinks about nursing today.
This affordably-priced paperback edition (about $12 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble) makes a great Nurses Day gift for colleagues, students, or even to help family and friends understand the value of what nurses do. All royalties for the award-winning book go directly to support non-profit nursing advocacy work. Thank you for your support!
Media images of health care--like the ones on ABC's popular Grey's Anatomy-- have an important effect on the nursing profession. Many nurses and nursing students feel frustrated when influential media products undervalue nurses. But how can we change what the media tells the public about nursing? Sandy Summers has led high-profile efforts to promote more accurate and robust depictions of nursing since 2001. She has shared her insights in dynamic presentations to groups across North America. She empowers nurses and teaches them how to shape their image into one that reflects the profession's true value. When nurses get the respect they deserve, they will attract more resources for nursing practice, education, and research, so we can resolve the nursing shortage. Sign Sandy up for your next conference, nurses' week celebration, or gala event! Click here for more details.
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The Truth About Nursing is an international non-profit organization based in Baltimore that seeks to help the public understand the central role nurses play in health care. The Truth promotes more accurate media portrayals of nurses and greater use of nurses as expert sources. The group is led by Sandy Summers, co-author of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All At Risk.
Thank you for supporting the Truth About Nursing's work!
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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