News on Nursing in the Media
February 2012 -- The CW's new drama Hart of Dixie is about Zoe Hart, an attractive young New York physician who finds herself taking over her dead father's family practice in the small town of Bluebell, Alabama. The show includes occasional health care scenes, and recent episodes have featured down-home nurse Addie Pickett (right). On October 17, Addie appeared but was not really introduced; she blended in with the wallpaper and might have been a receptionist. But in the October 24 episode, Addie was finally introduced as a registered nurse with 15 years experience, and she did at least show knowledge of Zoe's father's practice and the town. Addie does don gloves to help Zoe and she even collects lab results, though she doesn't always look at them. Mostly, Addie acts as adoptive older sister to the fish out of water Zoe, giving her advice about how to fit in with the locals of Bluebell, for example by going to the hair salon to gossip and show the locals that she's real. Addie is a positive character, but we haven't seen her do anything we'd really call nursing or display much health expertise yet, and it seems unlikely that viewers will consider her a real health professional like Zoe. Thus, though Hart of Dixie isn't mainly about health care, it does subtly reinforce the prevailing view that health care revolves around expert physicians who call the shots, though they may get occasional help from assistant nurses who have practical knowledge based on their years on the job. more...and see the film clips!
August 2011 -- This month two reports from United Press International (UPI) highlighted the work of nurses in research and advocacy aimed at helping teenagers survive the health challenges of that difficult stage of life. An August 13 item reported that research to be published in the Journal of School Health had shown that Surviving the Teens, a curriculum developed by "suicide prevention expert" Cathy Strunk, significantly reduced rates of attempted suicide. The Cincinnati Children's Hospital nurse's curriculum educates teens about the warning signs of potential suicide and how to get help if needed. And an August 4 report described a recent survey by the National Association of School Nurses and Sanofi Pasteur about the risks of meningitis for those aged 11-17. The study found that 82 percent of children in that age group reported engaging in activities that put them at risk of contracting the disease, though most mothers believe their children are at little risk. The UPI piece notes that school nurses urge teens to get vaccinated, but nearly half of teens have not done so. These unsigned items are short and neither includes much detail or expert comment, but they are eye-catching examples of nurses acting as aggressive public health advocates. We thank all those responsible for these reports. more...
July 17, 2011 -- Recent press reports show that nurses saving lives outside of the clinical setting is news, but if there is a physician there, the nurses will likely be presented as the physician's assistants regardless of what actually happened. Today, the Raleigh (NC) area television affiliate WRAL posted a fairly good item by Ken Smith reporting that a nurse driving down a local highway had helped to save the life of a police officer who had been gravely injured when a truck struck his motorcycle. The nurse, who is quoted, reportedly directed others to make tourniquets and made sure the officer's airway remained clear. But news items about another recent save are more problematic. On June 29, the Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME) reported that a man had had a heart attack while attending a lecture about heart problems at a local hospital. Daniel Hartill's piece at least credits not only the cardiologist giving the lecture with saving the man, but also several named nurses in the audience, who--based on the report--seem to have done all of the actual saving, including defibrillation, without much input from the physician. The piece does get extensive quotes from the physician and none from the nurses, and it offers a dumb Charlie's Angels-style photo suggesting that the nurses were the physician's sidekicks. The June 29 MSNBC item based on the incident was not even that subtle, leading with a headline that included the phrase "Maine cardiologist saves the audience member's life," though the piece did at least note that a "team of nurses" was part of the effort. The June 30 National Public Radio item about the incident said that the patient "was surrounded by cardiac nurses who grabbed a defibrillator and saved his life," but the item also claimed that "Dr. Phillips oversaw the rescue." An Associated Press item, which ran in The Washington Post on June 29, credited the cardiologist and the "team of nurses" and even mentioned that a nurse did the defibrillation, though again it quoted only the physician. Perhaps it's natural that the person giving the heart lecture would get more credit than those in the audience, but no piece quotes any of the nurses, and only the local piece even names them. Overall, these reports show how media assumptions work to reinforce the impression that nurses are at best physician assistants. more...
February 13, 2012 -- Check out the Truth's new movie "Nursing: Isn't That Sweet?!" It's all about what happens when nurse Wendy encounters her old high school classmate Jim at a restaurant, many years later--after the two have taken their lives in very different directions! Can Wendy and Jim make a new connection? Or will things get a little ugly? Made using xtranormal software just in time for Halloween, the short video explores some chilling stereotypes that still infect public understanding of nursing. And for a different take on nursing stereotypes, check out the Truth's classic 2005 report "Nursing: Who Knew?" about a groundbreaking study in which leading researchers discover nurses' real contributions for the first time! See the video!
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...
February 13, 2012 -- The electronic version of the paperback edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now sells for $7 from Kindle! The B&N Nook and Apple iBook are also available for $10. The hardback and paperback editions of Saving Lives are currently sold out as we are in a transition to a new publisher. All royalties for the multiple award-winning book go directly to support our 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.
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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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