News on Nursing in the Media
You will be required to deal with bruising
October 24, 2012 -- Tonight on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, two former U.S. military medics appeared in a segment about re-integrating veterans into the civilian workforce. We honor the service of these veterans, who appear to have significant experience stabilizing wounded soldiers, following EMT Basic training. But Stewart's repeated insistence that the medics are vastly overqualified to be school nurses is a glaring example of the elite media's ignorance of nursing expertise. Stewart mocked school nurses as being all about "kickball" and "tummy aches," even though he explicitly noted that one school nurse position he found required a bachelor of science in nursing--we guess not all bachelor's degrees are created equal (Stewart's bachelor degree is in psychology). Sadly, the medics themselves seemed to agree that they were qualified to hold registered nurse jobs. But today's school nurses need years of university science training because they manage the health of many hundreds of students who attend with serious conditions including asthma, diabetes, and allergies. Students have died because no registered nurse was available. And school nurses play a key public health role, not only educating students about critical health issues like pregnancy and STDs, but also monitoring the student population for disease outbreaks. In 2009, school nurse Mary Pappas in New York City (where the Daily Show is recorded and Stewart's children attend school) set in motion the governmental response to the H1N1 flu outbreak, identifying and managing hundreds of her students' symptoms. She later gave compelling testimony at a federal government flu summit. Plus, she made a little girl's tummy feel all better!The segment's theme reminded us of a vague but troubling comment President Barack Obama made just two days earlier in the October 22 presidential debate that veteran medics who wanted to become nurses had to "start from scratch" so it would be good to "change those certifications." Of course, all students should have a chance to show they merit advanced placement in educational programs, but nursing requirements cannot be simply waved away for people with a few weeks of health training and some field experience, no matter how courageous and heroic. Please ask The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to make amends for the damage caused when it spread this disinformation to its 2.5 million viewers--maybe with a segment about the problems school nurses face caring for the kids of a nation whose elite sees their work as trivial. more . . . please join the letter-writing campaign and see the film clips!
July 5, 2012 -- Today The New York Times ran a very good "Doctor and Patient" piece by physician and regular columnist Pauline W. Chen about threats to hospital nurses' physical and mental health that can affect patient care and, of course, the nurses themselves. Chen uses the story of a back injury suffered by "one of the most respected nurses" in her hospital as a lead-in to discuss the causes and effects of nurses' health problems. Chen cites recent research in nursing journals and repeatedly quotes University of North Carolina professor Susan Letvak--a scholar Chen identifies as a nurse and then commendably refers to as "Dr. Letvak." At a few points the piece is too cautious, notably in suggesting that nurse staffing ratios "are not always standardized" and so "nurses can find themselves in the potentially devastating situation of caring for more patients than is comfortable." "Non-standardized" staffing can make nurses less than "comfortable"? Does Chen mean research shows under-staffing kills patients because nursing is a high-skilled scientific profession that is vital to patient survival? Chen might also have mentioned the add-on effects of compassion fatigue, which has received attention recently, for instance in January 2012 pieces in The Wall Street Journal. Chen does make clear that illness-related nursing errors cost the U.S. health system billions of dollars annually, and as usual, she goes out of her way to avoid stereotypes and convey respect for nursing. We thank Chen for another very helpful report about the challenges that nurses and their patients face. more...
August 2011 -- The third and last season of TNT's summer drama HawthoRNe, which featured a tough, expert nursing executive in Richmond (VA), was significantly weaker for nursing than the first two seasons. The last season focused less on clinical themes and more on Christina Hawthorne's personal issues, particularly her love triangle with her husband, surgeon Tom Wakefield, and police detective Nick Renata, who investigated the brutal attack that caused Hawthorne to lose her baby and her job at James River Hospital. There were still a few plotlines showing nursing skill and autonomy, many related to the shifting job descriptions of the main nurse characters. Hawthorne herself provided a range of great care to Renata's dying mother before finally returning as interim COO of the hospital, which affirmed that nurses can lead at high levels. Hawthorne's friend Bobbie Jackson took over as chief nursing officer and generally did well in a job the show portrayed as being mainly about public relations and fundraising, though Bobbie did also organize a health fair and boast to the press of improved nurse staffing ratios. The gifted young nurse Kelly Epson identified and acted courageously to counter a MRSA outbreak, even building an isolation ward, calling the CDC, and defibrillating a patient! But Kelly also moved from pediatrics to the OR in a long, excruciating plotline that reduced her to a silly neophyte begging crusty surgeon Brenda Marshall to hire and mentor her, a damaging misportrayal of nursing autonomy and skill. The tough nurse manager Gail Strummer appeared a few times, at one point giving a strong speech about the violence nurses face on the job. Nurses Candy and Ray were gone, which was fine, as they were weak characters who never added much and at times reinforced nursing stereotypes. A few minor characters simply acted like standard Hollywood nurses, that is, as deferential handmaidens. The show was canceled after the season ended, and in light of its wildly inconsistent treatment of nursing and its struggles with dramatic quality, that may be for the best. But HawthoRNe did present a strong, expert nursing leader and examples of nursing skill to millions of viewers from 2009 to 2011. We thank those responsible. more...
November 14, 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!
November 15, 2012 -- Tell colleagues and patients the truth! Our "I Am Your Registered Nurse" poster presents nurses as autonomous professionals on whom patients can rely. The poster explains that nurses are modern science professionals who protect and advocate for patients and empowers nurses to meet those challenges. Designed for the bedside, the poster comforts patients by educating them about the care environment and assuring them that nurses are there to fend for them.
Or consider the Truth's "Can Short Dresses Cause Short Staffing?" poster. This one takes humorous aim at the naughty nurse image that continues to haunt advertisements and other media, especially those aimed at males. The poster connects the naughty nurse image with the broader undervaluation that leads to gross underfunding of nursing education, research, and practice, ultimately threatening patients.
We'll send you up to 20 posters free to hang at your school or workplace. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us how many you'd like and where to send them. If you'd like more, they are just 50 cents each! Thank you!
Truth executive director Sandy Summers will deliver the keynote speech at the California School Nurses Organization's upcoming 63rd Annual Conference, to be held at San Diego's Town & Country Resort. Sandy will speak on Saturday, February 9, 2013. See you there!
Check out the Truth's 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 for Halloween 2011, 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...
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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