News on Nursing in the Media
January 2013 -- Much of the reporting about U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent hospitalization ignored the role nurses surely had in her care and suggested that physicians alone monitored and assessed her condition, tasks in which nursing is in fact critical. For example, an Associated Press report posted on December 31 on Businessweek's website and elsewhere didn't just note that physicians had "discovered" the clot, which is fair, but also said (relying on a statement by Clinton's spokesman) that "doctors" would "monitor" her medication, "continue to assess her condition," and "determine if any further action is required," evidently all by themselves. Nurses were not mentioned, even though they provide the majority of skilled care to hospitalized patients, particularly the skilled 24/7 monitoring and intervention that often means the difference between life and death (granted, providing good nursing care can be challenging in the case of celebrities, who tend to be swarmed by physicians). Many press accounts, when not directly crediting physicians for Clinton's care, adopted passive language in describing it, thereby further suggesting that physicians alone were responsible and further masking the role nurses actually played. Thus, the AP story stated that Clinton was "under observation" and "was being treated with anti-coagulants." This passive voice hides the fact that nurses would be the ones giving her those drugs and carefully monitoring their effects. And as far as we could see, the press consulted only physicians for expert comment--in the AP story that meant neurologists at Georgetown and Duke--when critical care nurses could also provide valuable input on the care and experiences of patients with blood clots. Of course, physicians play a critical role in caring for these patients and the news media should consult them. But the media's failure to tell the public about the critical roles that nurses also play reinforces the damaging misimpression that physicians provide all the health care that matters. The AP article was written by Matthew Lee with AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione. more...
July 24, 2012 -- This month the global news media ran short reports about a new study from University College Dublin (Ireland) that found that the most popular nurse-related YouTube videos stereotype nurses as stupid sex objects. On July 16, an Agence France-Press item posted on The Telegraph (Australia) and other news sites described basic aspects of the study and included several quotes from the lead author, nursing professor Gerard Fealy. The study found that, of the 10 most popular nurse-related YouTube videos, four portrayed nurses as sex objects, two showed nurses as stupid or incompetent, and only four--all posted by nurses themselves--showed nursing as a skilled and caring profession. All six of the stereotypical depictions were from television products or ads. Today, The Irish Times ran a good longer report by Ronan McGreevy that included more details about the study and the videos, as well as more quotes from Professor Fealy and Geraldine Talty of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Among the new details were that the most popular YouTube video was a naughty nurse depiction from the 1990s U.S. sitcom Frasier. Another popular video showed a nurse responding to a question about whether she could do anything without a physician's permission by declaring that she could "wipe dirty ass and change diapers." Although it might have been helpful to hear more about the four videos that did not stereotype the nurses as sex objects or idiots, these press reports are generally good. We thank those responsible, as well as the nursing scholars who conducted the study. And we look forward to the day when popular media creators realize that nurses are college-educated, life-saving science professionals of both genders. Nurses can help bring that day closer by heeding YouTube's advice to "broadcast yourself." more...
April 22, 2012 -- Today the Zambian Watchdog website posted an opinion piece by Andrew Silumesli entitled "Why do Zambian nurses abuse patients?" The piece says that such abuse is a serious problem in Zambia, and it discusses possible causes and solutions. Silumesii relies in part on research about abuse by nurses in the South African obstetric context and in part, we assume, on his own experience in Zambian clinical settings. The piece includes a note that Silumesii is a "Master of Public Health (MPH) candidate at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium," but does not make clear that he is a physician. The South African research on which he relies was led by a physician and a nurse, though he does not say so. Nor does he note that the research was from 1998, before the current global nursing crisis really took hold. Silumesii does deserve credit for asking the "why" question, which is rarely asked, despite the many media accounts about this kind of abuse in the region. These articles typically focus on horrific examples, but then stop at highlighting the abuse, offering no comment from the nurses involved and no ideas about why the abuse occurs; a notable exception is a March 2009 piece by Zara Nicholson in The Cape Argus, which told readers about the extreme challenges South African nurses face. Silumesii's analysis of the problem is fairly persuasive as far as it goes. He points to a complex array of factors, including inferiority and superiority complexes that may develop after a new nurse has managed to find one of the few escape routes from the generally bleak job prospects for Zambian youth. Silumesii might have looked more closely at potential factors that can't be addressed simply through changes in nurses' values and attitudes, like understaffing, resource shortages, and relations with physicians, which research has shown to be a problem in South Africa and around the world. Most of his proposed solutions are pretty vague. And there is no indication that he has asked any Zambian nurses what they think. Even so, the piece is a positive step, and we thank Silumesii and the Zambian Watchdog site. more...
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!
Our book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk will be available again in paperback in a couple weeks! If you donate now, we will send you a copy when the books come in. Saving Lives continues to influence nurses, the media, and members of the public around the world. Also available in digital form through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iTunes. Saving Lives has won an American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award and an award from the international nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau. Many nursing professors use the book as a text to discuss nursing in society. You can get a free copy--hard copy or digital--with every $30 donation to the Truth About Nursing!
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.
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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.
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Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
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Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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