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Golden Lamp Awards 2007

The Fifth Annual Golden Lamp Awards rank the best and worst media portrayals of nursing we've seen in 2007.

The Best

Best Media Depictions of Nursing

Honorable Mention

Best Efforts to Remedy Poor Media Portrayals of Nursing

The Worst

Worst Media Depictions of Nursing

The 2007 Golden Lamp Awards cover material released in the 13 months prior to the end of 2007. In the list below, television episodes are identified by original U.S. air dates. All dates are from 2007 unless otherwise noted.


Best Media Depictions of Nursing 2007

  1. John Blanton, The Wall Street Journal, "There and Back Again," Apr. 24. Journal editor Blanton resigned from the paper and became a nurse in a post-9/11 search for meaning. His piece focuses on the crushing workload and fear of error he faced as a new burn unit nurse. It has extensive descriptions of the complexity and importance of nursing care, and it ably describes Blanton's transition from novice toward higher competence.
     

  2. Rachel Gotbaum, WBUR, "Nursing a Shortage: Inside Out," Jan. 19. This extensive radio documentary on NPR's Boston affiliate examines the causes and effects of the nursing shortage, as well as possible solutions. Its three nine-minute segments and supplementary WBUR web site materials rely heavily on nursing scholars and executives.
     
     
  3. RATTLE, Tim Green, Editor, "Tribute to Nurses," December. The LA-based poetry magazine featured a 45-page "Tribute to Nurses" in its Winter 2007 issue, including poems by 24 nurses, and three short prose pieces in which nurses describe their work. The issue gave nurses a striking opportunity to speak about nursing.
     
     
  4. News media reports on Hollywood's portrayal of nursing. A number of publications ran helpful stories this year about Hollywood's portrayal of nursing. The pieces were especially valuable since they followed a glut of high-profile stories about Hollywood's "medical accuracy" that ignored nursing.
     
    • Carol Ann Campbell, Star-Ledger (NJ), "Nurses urge TV dramas: Get real; Portrayals deceive public, groups say," Jan. 11. In this influential, well-done story, nurses were able to explain how popular U.S. television dramas regularly show physicians doing important work that nurses really do, while nurses are shown as peripheral subordinates, when they appear at all.
       
    • Allison Van Dusen, Forbes, "TV's Medical Missteps," Sept. 20. This piece discussed the accuracy of popular health-related dramas and the common depiction of physicians doing things nurses really do. It also made a point rarely seen in the media: that nurse characters often endure slurs from physicians like House without response-, reinforcing the image of nurses as meek servants and suggesting the slurs are rude, but basically accurate.
       
    • Bob Groves, The Record (NJ), "An image problem, from TV to silver screen," May 6. This very good article about the poor portrayal of nursing in the entertainment media explained some of the influential stereotypes that have dominated the nursing image in recent decades.
        
    • Julie Kirkwood, Salem News (Mass.), "As seen on TV: Real-life health care workers say medical shows aren't telling the real story," March 5. This was a very good article on the flawed depiction of health care on popular U.S. television shows like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." The piece focused on nurses' arguments that such shows can distort the public's view of health care and health workers, with negative effects on the real world.
       
    • Pat Carroll, The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA), "Doctored reality: Nurses chart complaints of marginalization on TV," Mar. 13. This was a very good piece about the damaging misportrayal of nursing on Fox's House and other popular U.S. television shows.
       
    • Suzanne Gordon*, Yankton Press and Dakotan (SD) "TV Nurses Don't Represent Reality," May 9. The journalist's op-ed described a Hollywood vision of care in which "nurses barely exist." She observed that "Grey's" has hardly ever shown nurses "doing the work they would actually do" like monitoring the patient during surgery or afterwards, or preventing life-threatening errors and complications.
       
       
  5. We salute all nurses who advocate in the media to increase understanding of their profession and help their patients, as well as the media entities that work with these nurses. These nurses include:
     
    • Diana Mason* and Barbara Glickstein, HealthStyles, WBAI radio show (New York City), all 2007 shows. In particular, the March 16 show focused on end-of-life care, advance directives, and the recommended shift in focus from "Do Not Resuscitate" to "Allow a Natural Death." The show relied heavily on nurse experts to educate the lay audience about a more holistic, patient-focused approach to dying.
       
    • California Nurses Association, The Washington Post, Dec. 10 "Nurses Union Defends Cheney 'Dead By Now' Ad"; and USA Today "Nurses offer aid to [Michael Moore movie] 'Sicko,'" June 14. In these pieces, the union advocated forcefully for universal health care.
       
    • Mary O'Neill Mundinger, Forbes, Nov. 28. "Who Will Be Your Doctor?: In the future, indeed now, it may well be a nurse with a doctoral degree." This op-ed introduced the magazine's readers to the DNP degree.
       
    • Barbara Dehn, "iVillage Live!", NBC, periodically throughout 2007. This nationally televised show featured iVillage chats on which Dehn informed viewers about key health topics such as PMS, HPV, birth control and pregnancy cravings.
       
    • Janice Skot, The Barrie Examiner (Ontario), "Today's nurses are at the forefront of Canadian health care," May 8. This op-ed explained that nurses are clinicians, educators, and researchers who provide direct care, advocate for patients and help them adapt to their conditions, and promote healthy practices in society at large.
       
    • Imelda Balderas, WOAI (San Antonio NBC affiliate), Aug. 29. This local television news story by David Cruz was spurred by veteran nurse Balderas's public allegations of dangerous short-staffing at her hospital. She reportedly spearheaded a "patient advocacy committee" to push for staffing ratios and whistle-blower protection.
       
    • Nancy Banfield Johnson, The Ithaca Journal, "Honor the Nation's Nurses This Week," May 8. This helpful op-ed explained to readers what nurses do and why career-seekers should consider nursing.
       
    • Kathleen Bartholomew, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Nurses struggle against the odds," May 7. This op-ed presented a comprehensive argument about the nursing crisis, and the key role it plays in problems that plague the overall U.S. health care system.
       
    • Barbara Ficarra, ScribeMedia.org, "Nurses in Motion," early-mid 2007. This five-part series explored the U.S. nursing shortage from many different perspectives.
       
       
  6. Will Moredock, Charleston City Paper (SC), "Critical Condition: S.C.'s nursing shortage could use some intensive care," Mar. 14. This long cover story focused on causes and effects of the nursing shortage. It relied heavily on expert quotes from a local nursing dean, took a detailed look at what an ICU nurse actually does for patients, and discussed studies showing that nurse staffing and education levels affect patient outcomes.
     
     
  7. Press articles highlighting the continuing effects of the global nursing shortage. A number of news reports did a good job of informing readers that the shortage continues to plague health care systems and take lives, particularly in the developing world. They include:
     
  8. Media reports on the violence and stress nurses confront worldwide. These pieces addressed the extraordinary physical and emotional challenges nurses face in the modern health care workplace.
     
  9. Articles addressing the interaction of nursing and new technology. These pieces took a thought-provoking look at how nurses influence and cope with the increasing role of advanced technology in patient care.
     
  10. Vicki Ritterband, Jamaica Plain Gazette (Boston, Mass), "A Nurse to the Homeless," June 8. This was a good profile of an AIDS specialist nurse who works with the homeless. A straightforward, informative account of what the nurse actually does for patients, the piece focused on the challenges of caring for those who also have mental illness, addiction, and/or other chronic problems.
 

Honorable Mention: Best Media Depictions of Nursing 2007

1.
ER, six episodes, Executive Producers John Wells, Christopher Chulack, Michael Crichton, David Zabel; NBC. "Tell Me No Secrets," Nov. 30, 2006; "City of Mercy," Dec. 7, 2006; "A House Divided," Jan. 11; "Murmurs of the Heart" Feb. 1; "Crisis of Conscience," Feb. 15; and "300 Patients," Dec. 6. Although "ER"'s depiction of nursing remains deeply flawed, particularly in suggesting that physicians perform and manage nursing work, it is the only Hollywood television drama to make any real effort to show that nurses are skilled, intelligent, and important to patient care. These six episodes show nurses' life-saving skill, patient advocacy and education; the first five episodes feature a strong, competent man in nursing.
 

2.

Atonement, directed by Joe Wright, screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Ian McEwan, December. This powerful, Oscar-bound film included a limited but nurse-centered depiction of World War II health care, one in which nurses made a positive difference in the lives of their patients.
 

3.

Sallie Tisdale, Salon, "The Beautiful Hospital," Apr. 4. This impressionistic essay discussed the failure of prime time Hollywood television shows, particularly "House," to convey what really goes on in hospitals.
 


 

4.

Vietnam Nurses with Dana Delany, David Smith, director and executive producer; Steven Katzenberger, executive producer, Aug. 18. This cable documentary was reportedly the first to address the Vietnam War from the perspective of U.S. military nurses. It did not focus closely on how the nurses improved patient outcomes, but did a good job of showing what the nurses endured and their courage in difficult conditions.
 

5.

Chris Colin, San Francisco Chronicle, "Life at the intensive care nursery: Making a living amidst parents' worst nightmares," July 2. This extensive piece told readers some of what nurses do for NICU patients and their families.
 

6.

Amanda Crook, Manchester Evening News (U.K.), "Nurse suspended 'for speaking out,'" June 19. This report described what happened to a veteran nurse who had the courage to speak out about problems in the National Health Service.
 

Best Efforts to Remedy Poor Media Portrayals of Nursing 2007

1.

Heineken, Dan Tearno, Senior VP of Corporate Relations, for altering the "Most Interesting Man in the World" Dos Equis commercials; June - October. In response to concern from the Truth About Nursing, Heineken digitally altered the suggestive nurse uniforms in these inventive television commercials. The company acted in consultation with an independent review board that included former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
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2.


Cadbury-Schweppes, CEO Todd Stitzer,
for withdrawal of a Dentyne Ice commercial, Sept-Oct. The multi-national corporation agreed to pull a Canadian television commercial showing female nurses being lured into bed with male patients who chewed its gum. The company acted after receiving over 1500 letters from nursing supporters.
 

3.

Johnson & Johnson, Campaign for Nursing's Future, Andrea Higham, Director; two television commercials, mid-late 2007. The Campaign's two new television recruiting commercials made clear that nurses save lives and improve outcomes, a marked improvement over its 2004-06 efforts. The spots even offered some specific examples, like defibrillation and ventilation.
 

4.

Larry Zaroff, The New York Times, for acknowledging and apologizing for the physician-centrism in his Cases piece "Code Blue: A Medical Morality Play in 3 Acts," Aug. 28. In his apology to the Truth About Nursing, Dr. Zaroff noted that nurses are "the most vital part" of patient care because they "make the first decision."
 

5.

Bloomingdale's, Anne Keating, SVP of Public Relations, Nov. 16, for withdrawing a radio commercial that featured a naughty nurse seducing a physician with a cashmere sweater. The luxury department store acted extremely quickly after the Truth About Nursing expressed concern.
 

6.

Group Health, Scott Armstrong, CEO, Nov. 15, for withdrawing ads for its "Ask the Doc" service that included the tag line: "Nurse, hand me my laptop." The Seattle-based organization pulled the ads after the group's own nurses explained that they reinforced stereotypes of nurses as physician handmaidens.

Worst Media Depictions of Nursing 2007

  1. "Grey's Anatomy," Executive Producers Shonda Rhimes, Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers, Jim Parriott; ABC; each episode aired in 2007. The massively popular drama showed physicians providing all significant health care, including much that nurses really do, while nurses were peripheral subordinates. In the Jan. 25 episode, "Great Expectations," physicians were punished by having to perform seemingly grotesque, trivial nursing tasks, with no hint that the tasks might be important to patient outcomes. Episodes late in the year with OR nurse Rose did little to help--we learned that Rose attended college and that she could flirt with McDreamy, but the only expertise she displayed was in computer repair.
     
  2. "Private Practice," Executive Producers: Shonda Rhimes, Mark Gordon, Marti Noxon and Mark Tinker; ABC; "In Which We Meet Addison, a Nice Girl from Somewhere Else," Sept. 26; "In Which Sam Receives an Unexpected Visitor," Oct. 3; "In Which Addison Finds the Magic," Oct. 10; "In Which Addison Has a Very Casual Get Together," Oct. 17; "In Which Addison Finds a Showerhead," Oct. 24. This new show included wide-eyed midwifery student Dell Parker, perhaps the least knowledgeable major nurse character in recent primetime history. Dell was the receptionist for the seven physician characters who provided all important health care. Early episodes also featured relentless mockery of nurse midwifery, including super OB Addison asking whether "midwifery" was even a word.
     
  3. Kelly Ripa, "LIVE with Regis and Kelly," shows broadcast Mar. 15 and Apr. 26. Ripa initially made comments suggesting that she would act as an erotic "sponge bath nurse" to aid the recovery of co-host Regis Philbin after his open-heart surgery. The show's attempt to make amends involved lengthy glorification of Regis's physicians as brilliant life-savers, then having his nurses stand by mutely to receive generic thanks, reinforcing the sense that they were noble but low-skilled handmaidens.

  4. Public communications following Governor Jon Corzine's near-fatal car crash that plainly told the public that physicians did everything that mattered in his recovery.
     
    • Governor Jon Corzine and the U.S. Department of Transportation, television and radio commercials, May. These commercials encouraging seatbelt use gave credit for Corzine's recovery to "a remarkable team of doctors," "a series of miracles," and a "ventilator" in the ICU where he spent eight days--failing to credit any of the many nurses who kept him alive. Corzine refused to respond to any one of the 150 nursing supporters who contacted him to object to these ads.
       
    • Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., The New York Times, "In Corzine's Recovery, Doctors Cite Grit and Luck," May 13. This lengthy report suggested that Corzine survived solely because of physician care, and that nurses were only marginally involved. We thank Altman for his May 22 response to our concerns about his piece, but that response relied on the absurd suggestion that the hospital was responsible for his physician-centric approach because the nurses it put him in touch with were not the most involved in Corzine's care--as if he, a physician and journalist, had no independent duty to find out what really happened.
       
  5. House, Executive Producers David Shore, Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs, Bryan Singer; Fox, all 2007 episodes. This popular drama continued to present hospital care as an exercise in physician diagnosis, and nurses as mute, ignorant servants. "Insensitive," broadcast Feb. 13, suggested that the most prestigious nurse practitioner preparation is non-degree training to which entry can be had at the whim of physicians, rather than graduate degree programs at major universities. In "The Jerk," May 15, nurses were portrayed as physician handmaidens who perform menial assistive tasks but panic in an emergency, relying on physicians to supply all thinking, expertise, and courage.
  6.  
  7. Scrubs, Bill Lawrence, Executive Producer, NBC, "His Story IV," Feb. 1. Although this show has run helpful plotlines for nurses, this episode featured chief of medicine Bob Kelso replacing nurse manager Carla Espinosa during her maternity leave. It told viewers that physicians supervise nurses and can become nurse managers at will, that nursing is for women so men who do it should be mocked, that nurses are low-skilled handmaidens, and that physicians take the lead in patient monitoring, though nurses actually do that.
     
  8. Atul Gawande, MD, The New Yorker, "The way we age now: Medicine has increased the ranks of the elderly. Can it make old age any easier?," Apr. 30. This long article about the shortage of geriatricians clearly suggested that only physicians can deliver expert care to the elderly, despite the long history of nurses taking the lead on this care. One striking passage described a three-week training program in which physicians taught nurses to recognize basic issues in geriatrics as a sad stopgap, implying that nurses have no independent expertise or experience in geriatric care, though they in fact provide the vast majority of it. Of course, the piece consulted no nurses.
     
  9. Will Shortz (puzzle master), New York Times, Feb. 26 and Mar. 16 crossword puzzles. The most prominent crossword in the world first sought the answer "RN" with the clue "I.C.U. helpers," Of course, that is a grotesque distortion of ICU care, in which highly skilled nurses take the lead. Rather than respond directly to the concerns of nurses, the Crossword later sought "RN" with the clue "Hosp. workers." That clue, while accurate, is consistent with the earlier one and does nothing to address the disrespect it conveyed.
     
  10. Gracie, directed by Davis Guggenheim; story by Andrew Shue, Ken Himmelman, Davis Guggenheim; screenplay by Lisa Marie Petersen, Karen Janszen; June. This ernest soccer movie used the main character's mother, a nurse, to show that past generations of ambitious women were stuck in dead-end loser jobs. But today, we learn, girls can actually achieve something worthwhile in work and in life. Yay.
     
  11. The Naughty Nurse. The "naughty nurse" image remained a staple in virtually every form of media worldwide. A few examples:
     
    • Dr. Steve-O, Jonathan Murray, Jeff Jenkins, Executive Producers; every episode since its debut Sept. 2007. This USA network reality show, which is a spinoff of the 2000-02 "Jackass" series, features "beautiful bombshell nurse Trishelle" as the host's naughty sidekick. Trishelle encourages show participants to "de-wussify" themselves by engaging in self-destructive and degrading activities with "Dr." Steve-O.
       
    • Stephanie Miller Show, Stephanie Miller and Jim Ward, naughty nurse comments, June 1 and June 13. This syndicated radio host and her sidekick made "joking" comments about naughty nurses in discussing international labor issues, and in a later show mocked nurses' protests of the show's ignorant use of naughty nurse imagery.
       
    • Gzhelka Vodka, television commercial, 2006-07. This company, apparently owned by the Russian government, used a television commercial featuring a randy nurse who gives IV vodka to an unconscious male patient, then has onscreen intercourse with the still-unconscious patient.
       
    • The Sun, "A Naughty But Nurse Calendar," Dec. 29. This extremely popular U.K. newspaper published its second annual promotion of a "Babes and Boys" naughty nurse calendar, despite letters from many nurses protesting last year's promotion.
       
    • Members of Parliament (U.K.) Tim Loughton and Peter Bottomley, posing for and defending a naughty nurse calendar to keep Worthing and Southlands Hospitals open, 2007. These two MPs posed for a calendar featuring naughty nurses as part of a campaign to prevent the closure of emergency wards at two local hospitals. The MPs certainly responded at length to nurses' concerns, but they never appeared to understand the negative role that such imagery plays in the deadly nursing shortage.
       
    • Club Good Hurt, naughty nurse bartender uniforms, every night since 2004. This Los Angeles night club has its female bartenders dress in provocative "nurse" outfits.
       
    • The Heart Attack Grill, naughty nurse uniforms, since Dec. 2005. This Phoenix, Arizona restaurant continues to dress its waitresses in naughty nurse attire, despite protests from nursing supporters worldwide.
       
    • Spirit Halloween, Party City, Halloween Adventure, 3 Wishes, Costume Express and others, for selling naughty nurse Halloween costumes; ongoing.
       
    • 4 woods, Kunika, 2007 and ongoing. This Japanese company creates and sells a life-size "love" doll dressed in naughty nurse attire.
       
    • Unilever, Axe deodorant billboard, Spain, Oct. 12. This major international corporation ran Spanish billboard ads with a "saucy depiction of a nurse" to sell the company's Axe deodorant.
       

Also see our press release on the Golden Lamp Awards.

*A member of the Center for Nursing Advocacy's board of directors or advisory panel.