Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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2011 Year-End Report

annual reportSo, what have we done this year to change how the world thinks about nursing?

Using many strategies, the Truth raises public awareness of how nurses save lives and improve health around the world. When decision-makers understand the value of nurses, it brings more funding for clinical practice, education, research, and residencies. This year, we continued our work to influence the widest possible audience, including in the following ways.

And since we are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, your gifts to support our work are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Our New Orleans conference was a big success!

Our publications continue to change minds!

Our presentations and speaking engagements empower nurses worldwide!

Press coverage of our work amplifies its effects!

Our chapters taking a leading role in local communities!

Our website and our campaigns move things forward!

Why does helping people understand nursing matter?

Nurses must become stronger!


Our conference!

Rolling on the river: Truth's first conference a big success!

New Orleans riverboat 
April 15-17, 2011 -- This weekend nursing supporters from around the world participated in The Truth About Nursing's first conference, held at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in New Orleans. Participants reported that it was one of the most empowering and informative nursing conferences they had ever attended. They said they got many good ideas for moving nursing forward and a renewed sense of hope about the profession's future! (See some of their comments below.) And those of us who gave presentations learned a lot from those who attended the conference about the challenges and opportunities for nursing practice around the world. Thank you!

Kathleen BartholomewThe conference was Empowering Nurses and Improving Care Through Better Understanding of Nursing. Keynote speaker Kathleen Bartholomew gave us valuable insights on how to improve work relations and patient safety by viewing our relationship to the patient as the central one. She urged us to consider viewing caregivers as being like a tribe encircling the patient, each with an equal duty to speak up about anything dangerous.

Donna CardilloOur hilarious endnote speaker Donna Cardillo encouraged nurses to build alliances, not tear each other down, and to speak up and speak out for nursing. She challenged nurses to present themselves as professionals, which means asking for what they want, learning interpersonal skills like how to take a compliment and how to shake hands, and embracing public speaking as a way to enhance respect for the profession.

Sandy and Harry SummersAnd Truth director Sandy Summers (with help from Truth senior advisor Harry Summers) addressed the media's portrayal of nursing, including the threat it poses to nursing practice and patient health, and how we can all work together to improve understanding of the profession.

Ellen CeppetelliOther conference speakers offered important and compelling presentations. Educator Ellen Ceppetelli described her program at Dartmouth educating medical students by having them follow nurses at work; she read telling "before and after" quotes that showed how much respect students gained for nursing just by shadowing nurses for a few hours. Penny Kaye Jensen, President of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, and her APRN colleagues discussed the poor portrayal of APRNs in the media and the perpetuation of misconceptions about APRNs by some physician groups. And representatives of Rutgers University's 2012 Project, including former Washington state legislator Jennifer Belcher, talked about ways to get more nurses into politics and inspired us to increase the profession's involvement in public policy activities.

New Orleand riverboatAnother conference highlight was the nine stories of nursing empowerment delivered in the exciting Pecha-Kecha style (in which each speaker's presentation was limited to 20 slides auto-programmed to show for only 20 seconds per slide). Nursing experts from around the world discussed topics including improving the portrayal and standing of nurses in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, how to prevent and recover from medication errors, the growth of nurse-focused clinics, and innovative nurse-led programs to teach Boy and Girl Scouts about nursing. We learned how recruitment ads affect nursing retention, and heard an Irish scholar explain her study of YouTube images of nursing. And Dee Riley, the Truth's Las Vegas chapter president, described the exciting protest she led last year outside a nightclub that was hosting a naughty nurse costume contest.

New Orleand riverboatOverall, conference participants learned how to improve nurses' relations with the public, the media, decision-makers, and colleagues, with a focus on improving understanding. We hope everyone developed a stronger sense of nursing empowerment. That work is critical in helping the profession get the respect and resources that it deserves and that patients need nurses to have. If you were unable to join us at this, our first conference, we hope that you will be able to join us at the next one. We appreciate the involvement of all who attended. And we look forward to working with you to help nursing move ahead!  

Below are some comments of those who attended the Truth's conference:

"Truly one of the best nursing conferences I have attended. Our image of nursing in media and the general public can and does have a profound effect on nursing shortages, and nursing burnout. Great, inspirational speakers offering lots of tools that I will definitely share with the nurses at our hospital. This was a great eye opener." Adrienne Fugett, RN, BSN, MBA, Magnet Program Manager, University of New Mexico Hospital

"I REALLY enjoyed the conference. I was very inspired, and got a lot of good ideas. I am planning to start a chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thanks so much for all your efforts. You have given me hope." Karen Frey, RN, MS, PNP, Oakland Medical Center

"I always judge the quality of a conference by the enthusiasm and new thoughts that I come home with. Your conference was awesome! I am bubbling over with new ideas to incorporate into my course." Pat Woods, RN, MScN, Faculty, Langara College of Nursing, Vancouver, British Columbia

"I want to thank you and your organization for providing an excellent conference and an excellent conference experience over all. The sessions were informative and constructive and the speakers were uniformly excellent." Joan Britten, Assistant Director of Public Relations, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

"Thanks so much for the awesome conference. Thanks so much for being such a great host and putting together such a great conference." Greg Riehl RN BScN MA Program Head, Nurse Re-entry, Basic Critical Care Nursing Programs, Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology

"Congratulations on your first Truth conference....It was truly a powerhouse of individuals who are committed to making a positive difference in nursing." Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, The Career Guru for Nurses

See the conference:

Posters; Events and Agenda; Press Release

 Saving Lives paperback cover

Our publications

Saving Lives

Our book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk continues to reach nurses and members of the general public around the world. With your help we have delivered hundreds of copies to influential media and decision-makers. Saving Lives has won influential awards including 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. And you can get a free copy with every $30 donation!

The Nursing Times

The Truth's leaders published advocacy pieces in The Nursing Times, a leading U.K. nursing journal. In 2001, we completed our 11-part series of articles on the image of nursing, in September, we published "Do not disturb: undervaluation in progress."


Presentations and Speaking Engagements

This year we also participated in UCLA's ground-breaking Symposium on Media Images & Screen Representations. At that May conference, nurses and members of the Hollywood media community got together to discuss nursing and its media image, with Sandy Summers as one of the keynote speakers. We have exciting plans for continued collaboration with UCLA over the next year and we'll let you know more as soon as we can!

In 2011, Sandy also delivered the opening keynote at the XV International Research Nursing Conference in Madrid, and spoke to groups at the Minnesota Nurses Association, the Maryville University, St. Louis chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the Bronson Methodist Hospital (Michigan), the University of New Mexico Hospital and Reston Hospital (Virginia). Sandy also did a webinar for Nursing Spectrum / NurseWeek (still online), which was the magazine's most popular webinar.

Sandy donates her entire honoraria to the Truth, so if you book a speaking engagement today, you can support our work in a big way!


Press coverage

In 2011, the Truth's activities received helpful coverage in the mainstream and nursing media around the world!

Global news coverage of Truth campaign results in Oz response that sort of resembles an apology!

Dr. OzA year ago, reporter Lynn Elber of the Associated Press covered our campaign to ask Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, to apologize and make amends for a November 4 weight loss segment in which "nurses" "got sexy" and danced with Oz. The AP story quoted Truth director Sandy Summers and American Nurses Association spokeswoman Joan Hurwitz, who called the segment a "sexist caricature of nursing." The story was picked up by 2,200 news organs across the world, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Online Nigeria, the Times of India, New Zealand Yahoo and the Arabic language Wael El-Ebrashy. Some publications wrote their own pieces; these included The Hartford Courant ("Does your nurse dance/dress provocatively?"), the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Mail, and TV Guide.

HollywoodLos Angeles media covers UCLA's groundbreaking symposium on nursing and Hollywood

May 12, 2011 -- On the heels of Sandy Summers' keynote speech at UCLA' Symposium on Media Images & Screen Representations of Nurses, UCLA Magazine posted a long article about the symposium and the Truth's work called the "The Truth About Nurses."

The Nursing Times: "To win a serious role, you must be taken seriously"

April 5, 2011 -- Today editor Jenni Middleton of the UK nursing journal The Nursing Times wrote a piece about the importance of public understanding of nursing as part of the journal's "seat on the board' campaign to ensure that nurses play a role in the new "commissioning consortia" for the National Health Service. The editorial cited a recent piece in the journal on the image of nursing written by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Jacobs Summers. see the article...

Canadian Nurse: "And the winners are..."

March 2011 -- This month Canadian Nurse, the publication of the Canadian Nurses Association, covered the 2010 Truth About Nursing Awards in an article entitled "Nurses in the media: And the winners are..."

National Nurse: "Taking Media Into Our Own Hands"

February 2011 -- The January/February issue of National Nurse, the publication of National Nurses United, included a staff report that focused on efforts of nurses affiliated with the national union to inform and entertain the public through the nurses' own media. The lengthy piece included expert comment from Truth executive director Sandy Summers. see the article...


Our chapters

Our many chapters work to improve understanding of nursing in their communities!

Our Las Vegas chapter continues to make news. This year the nurses there protested the opening of the new incarnation of the Heart Attack Grill, which dresses its waitresses in naughty nurse lingerie.

And we continue to develop chapters across the world. We now have 58 chapters in 11 countries, with more on the way in places such as Turkey and Finland! Each chapter is reaching out to its local media to improve public understanding of nursing. With each chapter member taking ownership of his/her local community, we can effect global change. If you'd like to start a chapter in your hometown, please let us know today!


The reach of our website and our campaigns

Our website is the hub of our work, containing everything from media analysis to campaign information to FAQs to faculty and scholarly resources. The site is now more than 1,800 pages and constantly growing. We received over 2.5 million pageviews last year--reaching nurses and members of the public all over the world.

We also led advocacy campaigns this year that generated many letters and educated influential media creators about the effects of their work on the nursing profession. We asked Hooters to end its March Madness basketball advertisement that featured naughty nurses prescribing fatty foods. We asked Kaiser Permanente to avoid the unskilled angel stereotype in its Nurses Week media and instead use imagery that presents nurses as life-saving professionals. We asked the makers of the new horror film Nurse 3D to avoid the naughty nurse image. We asked the makers of the new NBC sitcom Whitney to avoid naughty nurse imagery, which they failed to do in their series premiere. And of course, our letter-writing campaigns to Hollywood shows like ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Fox's House continue, since those shows continue to tell millions of people around the world that nurses are peripheral subordinates of the physicians who provide all important health care.


Why does helping people understand nursing matter?

When people think nursing is unskilled loser work, or that nurses exist to serve physicians, then nurses have a tough time getting the resources they need to provide good nursing care. Nurses are spread too thinly because many have been replaced by lesser-educated workers who can't assess or intervene as nurses can. Decision-makers believe that non-nurses can perform nursing work because they do not understand the nature or value of nursing. That leads to poor care--and sadly, even death.

The Truth About Nursing fights this deadly lack of understanding. Decision-makers get these wrong ideas from many sources, but especially by watching, reading and listening to the omnipresent media. The media constantly tells us that physicians are the only ones whose work matters. Physicians deserve credit for their good work, but not for the work of nurses. And when physicians get credit for nurses' work, they get the funding for it too. That's why nursing residencies only get $1 for every $375 that physicians residencies get. That's why the NIH gives nursing researchers only half of one percent of its budget, even though nurses work on the cutting edge of health care and make up the largest body of health professionals.

As a report by the Institute of Medicine recently stressed, in order for the health care crisis to end, nurses must be a part of the decision-making process. That means more resources and respect. Hospitals exist mainly to provide nursing care, yet nurses rarely hold positions of leadership; few nurses serve on hospital boards. Why should any nursing institution be run by anything less than a majority of nurses? Yet that's the status quo in the vast majority of health institutions across the world.


Nurses must become stronger

Nurses must become leaders in hospitals, non-profit organizations, and the government. But that's not going to happen unless we work together to change the way people think about nursing. That means changing how the media depicts nurses. Particularly because of the quickly expanding elderly populations in many nations, the future of health care depends on nursing. If people don't know what nursing is or why it matters, the profession won't get the funding it needs, and the global nursing shortage will continue to spiral out of control. More patients will suffer and die.

This is what we try to prevent every day.


Please do what you can to help us!

We are a member-supported charity operating on a tiny budget. We depend mainly on volunteer labor. But with more resources, we could do so much more.

Please donate nowPlease click here to see our awesome member gifts, including bumper stickers, pens, RN patches, and DVDs of good depictions of nursing. We have a full range of things you can give your friends, family and colleagues for the holidays that will help change their thinking about nursing.


Please donate now to support our work. Thank you!

Board of Directors

Gina Pistulka, RN, PhD, MSN, MPH, Chair
Kelly Bower Joffe, RN, MSN, MPH, PhD(c)
Rich Kimball, , RN, PhD, MSN, MPH, Treasurer
Christine Stainton, RN, MSN, Board Member


The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
office 1-410-323-1100
board email