News on Nursing in the Media
January 12, 2011 -- Tonight's series premiere of ABC's new Shonda Rhimes drama Off the Map introduced the standard complement of seven smart, attractive physician characters saving lives, as the hot senior ones train the hot junior ones. Set at a clinic "somewhere in South America" that seems to be staffed mainly by U.S. physicians, the show does display a little more awareness of global public health issues than Rhimes' other surgeon-centric products. And it occasionally includes pointed criticism of the cultural insensitivity and narrow vision of health care displayed by a couple newly arrived physicians. But clinic boss Ben Keeton (right) was also supposedly the youngest chief of surgery ever at UCLA before starting the clinic, and one of the new physicians gushes that he's "one of the greatest humanitarians of our time." Whatever nuggets the show may include about U.S. arrogance and caring for the poor, the main theme still seems to be U.S. physicians saving native people and tourists, especially in trauma settings. We're not quite sure how to take the premiere's title, "Saved By the Great White Hope." Maybe the show is being ironic, but the show does reflect the basic Rhimes world view that physicians are demi-gods. Every clinical scene features physicians alone providing all skilled care, including lots of care that nurses do in real life. There are no significant nurse characters, and in the premiere, we saw only two notable references to nursing, both damaging, and both involving recently arrived U.S. physician Mina Minard. In one scene, Minard demands epinephrine for a clinic patient who is having an asthma attack, and a local nurse in patterned scrubs fetches and hands it over. Minard grabs the drug, saves the patient, and receives all the credit. In the other scene, Minard complains to a fellow U.S. physician that the other physician is lucky to have a seriously ill patient to care for, because Minard just "handed out Band-Aids today…like a school nurse!" Minard starts to learn that the clinic's less exotic care has value, and she will likely grow in other ways. But we doubt anyone will question the assumption that nurses are low-skilled lackeys who play no important role in health care, whether at elite hospitals or remote clinics--whose foreign health professionals are, incidentally, more likely to be nurses than physicians, as is the case with Médecins Sans Frontières. The series premiere was written by series creator Jenna Bans. more...and please join our letter-writing campaign!
June 7, 2010 -- The second season of Showtime's Nurse Jackie continued to offer the most thoughtful and persuasive treatment of nursing issues on U.S. television. The season also featured more of emergency nurse Jackie Peyton's drug abuse, adultery, and webs of deceit. However, as always, Jackie's issues are not nursing stereotypes, but the troubles of one complex individual. As the season approached tonight's finale, Jackie and her protégé Zoey Barkow continued to display clinical prowess. Jackie skillfully worked the system to help a despairing lymphoma patient find some relief from his debilitating nausea and to provide some expert, if unpleasant, advice to an ex-football star with early onset dementia. Meanwhile, Zoey saved a boy's life by intubating and resuscitating him, and saved another patient by picking up on a blood clot that could easily have led to a pulmonary embolism, something the arrogant but marginal physician Fitch Cooper missed. The show's final episodes also included a somewhat ambiguous take on men in nursing. Nurse Sam is shown to be a fairly cool, perceptive individual with an attractive girlfriend, but she breaks up with Sam after sleeping with Cooper, saying she is doing so because Sam is a nurse. Sam proceeds to break Cooper's nose. This could be interpreted as a frank examination or even subversion of anti-male nurse bias, a reinforcement of that bias, or all of the above. More troubling were the show's confused messages about nursing authority. Several plotlines had Cooper wrongly asserting that he was in charge of and could even fire nurses, with no direct rebuttal. Cooper did more than once end up in nurse manager Gloria Akalitus's office seeking to have her discipline nurses, with little success, which at least suggested that he could not take a significant adverse employment action on his own. But why can't some character just state that although nurses do have less power, they do not report to physicians because they practice a distinct, autonomous profession? In any case, the show still provides U.S. television's most compelling account of the value of nursing, and it does not hurt that the show's dramatic quality remains higher than that of any other hospital show. We thank those responsible for the show. more...
October 21, 2010 -- In recent New York Times articles on substantive health care topics, the treatment of nursing ranges from very good to abysmal. At one end of the spectrum is Lesley Alderman's June 20 "Patient Money" piece on discharge planning, which offers some good practical tips for patients but fails to consult a single nurse, even though nurses have been primarily responsible for discharge planning for over a century and still are, at least to the extent under-staffing allows. Alderman discusses the newly created job of "discharge planner," but it's not clear most readers would know that these are often nurses, and the piece manages to leave the impression that discharge planning is something physicians recently invented. Almost as bad is today's "Doctor and Patient" column by Pauline Chen, M.D., which explores problems associated with the use of contact precautions for vulnerable patients. Chen sometimes does a very good job of highlighting nurses' role in care, but this piece shows a disappointing lack of recognition that nurses are the professionals most involved with contact precautions. Chen speaks of "clinicians," but she quotes only physicians, and the word "nurse" does not even appear. Much better is Gardiner Harris's long August 20 report on the dangers posed to hospital patients by look-alike tubes. That piece conveys the central role nurses play in the care involved and even briefly consults a couple nurses, though it focuses mainly on physicians and others involved in relevant U.S. device approval processes. Best of all is Milt Freudenheim's long June 29 piece on geriatric care. That report spends plenty of time on physicians, but it also focuses to a large extent on the roles and views of geriatric care nurses, quoting nurse practitioners and nursing leaders, including pioneering scholars Mary Naylor and Terry Fulmer. On the whole, Times health reporting and commentary still fall way short of giving a fair account of the importance of nursing, but there are good pieces from time to time, and we thank the paper for those. more...
January 28, 2011 -- Register now with an early bird registration discount of $395 (student discount 35%) before February 10th. The Truth About Nursing's first annual conference will be held in New Orleans the weekend of April 15-17, 2011, at the beautiful Marriott Renaissance Arts Hotel, located in the heart of this fabulous city! The conference theme is "Empowering Nurses and Improving Care Through Better Understanding of Nursing." Speakers will include Kathleen Bartholomew, Donna Cardillo, Sandy Summers, and a representative of Rutgers University's 2012 Project, who will tell us how to get more nurses into politics! Other topics include enhancing public understanding of nursing through the media, educating decision-makers and physician colleagues about nursing, effective strategies to improve working relationships, and practical steps toward achieving nursing empowerment. This work is critical in helping the nursing profession get the respect and resources that it deserves and that patients need. Registration will open soon, and continuing education credits are anticipated. Exciting events include a welcome cocktail reception and a Riverboat Jazz Dinner Cruise on the Mississippi. Come enjoy the food and culture of the Crescent City as you explore how to move nursing forward! Get details here...
January 28, 2011 -- The 2010 edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now sells for less than $10 as a paperback from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or as an iBook from Apple! And the B&N Nook edition is priced at less than $5! The 2010 edition of Saving Lives has a new foreword by bestselling nurse author Echo Heron. And it is revised and expanded, discussing Nurse Jackie and other new shows, and featuring updated information throughout. You can also get an author-signed paperback copy 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. These affordably-priced editions make great gifts for colleagues, students, or even to help family and friends understand the value of what nurses do. All royalties for the multiple award-winning book go directly to support non-profit nursing advocacy work. Thank you!
Truth About Nursing and Saving Lives media appearances
January 18, 2011 -- Today, the prominent U.K. nursing publication The Nursing Times published "Everyone can help improve the image of nursing," the tenth in the series of online pieces by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Jacobs Summers.
January 28, 2011 -- Many health care and nursing media outlets have run substantial articles about the 2010 Truth About Nursing Awards, which recognized the best and worst portrayals of nursing that we saw in the past year. Among those covering the awards were Medscape, Nursing Spectrum, ANA Smartbrief, HCPro, Scrubs magazine, Stressed Out Nurses, and the College of Nurses Aotearoa (New Zealand).
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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