News on Nursing in the Media
September 2011 -- Health-related shows in the new U.S. television season are dominated by nearly 40 physician characters, and there appears to be no major nurse character on any prime time broadcast show. Two new shows have different spins on Hollywood's health care portrayals, but neither seems likely to question the industry's view that physicians are everything. A Gifted Man (CBS, premieres Sept. 23) centers on a brash 'n' brilliant neurosurgeon, nothing new there, but the twist is that his ex-wife recently died and her ghost is back to make him a better human being! There's no sign, though, that she'll be imparting any divine wisdom about the value of nursing. Hart of Dixie (CW, Sept. 26) offers not just an awesome pun on the lead character's name, but a romantic comedy-drama about a cute young New York physician who finds herself in a small Southern town--how will she cope? It'll be without recurring nurse characters, anyway. The returning shows also remain virtually nurse-free. ABC's surgeon-worshipping Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 22) still has no significant nurse characters as it starts its eighth season. A few episodes last year did feature hunky nurse Eli, who actually displayed a little skill and briefly stood up to the physicians, but by season's end he was mainly a love interest for attending surgeon Miranda Bailey and no longer did any nursing work on screen. ABC's Private Practice (Sept. 29), a Grey's spinoff, used to have minor nurse character Dell Parker, but it killed him off two seasons ago. Fox's diagnosis-is-everything House (Oct. 3), which is starting its eighth and possibly final season, has still had no significant nurse character, unless you count all the ciphers who say "yes, doctor!" as being essentially one character. ABC's Body of Proof (Sept. 20), about an elite surgeon-turned-medical examiner, returns for a second season with no significant nurse character. Like last year, nurses will not be completely absent from the small screen. The powerful, nurse-focused off-season show Nurse Jackie (Showtime) will return for a fourth season in 2012. And a new 14-part documentary airing on BBC America, 24 Hours in the ER (Sept. 27), profiles nurses and other staff, not just physicians, at London's King's College Hospital. Sadly, the summer show HawthoRNe (TNT) was recently canceled after three seasons; the show had flaws, but it did present a strong, expert nurse executive and regularly showed bright nurses improving patient outcomes. Some non-health-related shows also have minor recurring nurse characters, but we rarely see any strong, expert nurses in clinical settings. So this year the television landscape looks set to remain dominated by the notion that health care is all about smart, commanding physicians, and nurses are little more than low-skilled helpers. more...
September 2011 -- ABC's summer drama Combat Hospital is a Canadian show about an international team of military health workers caring for the wounded near the front lines of the Afghan conflict in 2006. The first two episodes, airing in late June, indicate that Combat Hospital has some positive features for nursing. Nurse manager Will Royal holds the military rank of commander, and at times he displays authority and clinical skill. And the show seems almost obsessed with tweaking physician entitlement by making physician characters mop floors! But the show on the whole still perpetuates the same damaging myth that the more realistic Hollywood hospital shows like NBC's ER have: that physicians are the smart masters of health care and the only health workers worthy of any sustained interest, while nurses may have some skills but are there to assist. The show's five major characters are physicians. Royal is the only significant nurse character, and he is by far the least important among the health professionals. Royal functions as an unusually assertive aide-de-camp. He actually harasses one surgeon for his arrogant, caddish ways. But Royal's own lines also suggest that physicians are automatically in charge of care, no matter how inexperienced they are; he introduces one brand-new trauma physician to "your nurse." Royal's role is not unlike that of Tuck Brody in CBS's Miami Medical (2010). Brody was also a competent, aggressive black male nurse manager who could display real authority, but who was essentially a logistics manager for the trauma physician stars. Here, as there, nurses rarely play a notable role in direct care except to call out vital signs and carry out physician commands. Combat Hospital could be far worse for nursing. But it's unlikely to disrupt the popular narrative that brilliant physicians rule and pragmatic nurses serve. The show was created by Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, Douglas Steinberg, and Daniel Petrie Jr. more...
September 2011 -- The Glades is a police television drama on A&E with a nurse, Callie Cargill, in one of the central roles. The main character is Jim Longworth, a Florida police detective who met Callie in the local emergency department when he came in looking for information relating to a case and the surrounding medical issues. Over the course of the summer show, which has just finished its second season, the two characters develop a personal and professional relationship. Jim frequently consults with Callie on an informal basis, hoping to advance the personal relationship as much as the contribution to his work. Callie is a smart, positive character, and the show has at times suggested that nursing has value. Unfortunately, the show has also indicated that nursing is really just a job, not an autonomous profession, and the most notable example may be Callie's ongoing pursuit of a medical degree as a way to better herself, when real nurses are far more likely to pursue graduate education in nursing. more...
September 14, 2011 -- Today, the prominent U.K. nursing journal The Nursing Times published "Do not disturb: undervaluation in progress," an op-ed by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Summers. The piece discussed media reactions to a new program in which nurses at some U.K. hospitals conduct drug rounds wearing tabards (vests) that say "Do Not Disturb" in order to reduce interruptions that can cause medication errors and other dangerous errors. see the piece on the Truth's site or the Nursing Times site...
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August 2011 -- In recent weeks various film media have reported that the actress Paz De La Huerta will star in Nurse 3D, a new horror film about a sexy but vengeful nurse who targets "dishonest" men for "severe" punishment. Despite suggestions by executives at the production company Lionsgate that this theme is novel and original, it is really just a variation on the classic naughty nurse stereotype that has become well-established in products including prior horror films and ads, such as the posters used to promote the 2006 release of Lionsgate's own Saw III--posters on which Nurse 3D seems to be based. Such imagery, which we call the "naughty-axe," unites the profession's naughty and battle-axe images into one unsavory package of sex and violence, and so it suggests that nursing is all about mindless feminine extremes, rather than life-saving work for skilled professionals of both genders. We hesitate to criticize media products that we have not seen, but it's hard to see how a film with this basic outline--and a promotional photo of a naked, blood-covered nurse De La Huerta--could avoid harming nursing. The film does not start production until next month, but the creators are clearly aiming to exploit the 3D format to bring viewers violence and sexuality, so it's difficult to see how the film could become less harmful to nursing unless the main character had a different job. Please join us in urging those responsible for Nurse 3D to minimize the nursing element, to show that the main character at least has some health skills, and to make amends for the damage their film will likely cause. more...and please join our letter-writing campaign!
Many nursing professors rely on the extensive and varied materials on the Truth's website to help their students engage with critical issues nurses will face in the future, from their public image to key aspects of nursing education, practice, and advocacy. Since 2001, we have explored and analyzed how the global media and society in general has seen the nursing profession. Join your colleagues and use this material to help plan your curriculum! See the full list...
September 26, 2011 -- The Truth About Nursing is looking for students who are assigned to write grant proposals for class. If you write one to help the Truth get funding, you will earn 10% of the total grant amount awarded to the Truth. If you're interested, please contact us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
XV International Research Nursing Conference
Encuentro Internacional de Investigación en Enfermería
November 16, 2011
September 26, 2011 -- The paperback edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now sells for $10 from Barnes & Noble, on the Apple iBook or the B&N Nook. Plus, the Kindle edition is priced at less than $7! The paperback 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!
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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