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History of The Truth About Nursing

The Truth About Nursing was founded in April 2001 by its executive director, Sandy Summers, and a group of five fellow graduate students at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. We came together after one member suggested that we form a group to help address the growing nursing shortage, which we felt was caused in part by inadequate understanding of and support for the profession.

Our first project focused on the popular television show ER. In our view, ER's portrayal of nurses, while positive in some ways, had been inadequate and inaccurate in important respects. The show strived so mightily to portray medical diagnosis and treatment realistically that we feared its millions of viewers might think it was equally dedicated to a realistic depiction of nursing and the roles of health care professionals generally. In November 2001, members of our group, which we originally called the Nursing Vision, had a one-hour conference call with an ER producer and the show's medical advisor to discuss our concerns. We were not pleased with the outcome of our call since ER responded so little to our concerns.

From there we created a non-profit organization to focus our efforts more broadly on improving the portrayal of nurses in the media, especially Hollywood, since television and films are so influential. We worked in cooperation with major corporations in creating accurate images of nursing. In 2009 we persuaded the Lung Cancer Alliance to remove its "Dr. Lung Love" public service announcement that aimed to increase funding for lung cancer research through a video utilizing the naughty nurse stereotype. In 2007 we convinced Heineken to digitally alter the outfits on frivolous women in a Dos Equis commercial so that they no longer resembled nurses. That year we also convinced Cadbury-Schweppes to cease its Dentyne Ice commercial which featured 2 nurses hopping into the beds of two male patients. In 2006 we convinced Schick to cease its naughty nurse print commercials; and Coors to stop using nurses in its Coors Light Trauma Tour. That same year we convinced Constellation Brands to end its Water Made Naughty ads and tour, featuring naughty nurses selling vodka. In 2005, we persuaded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to change the name of its major annual minority health campaign from “Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day” to “Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day,” in order to better reflect the key roles nurses play in addressing the very disparities the campaign targets. Our work has won Media Awards from the American Academy of Nursing in 2004 and 2005. The 2005 AAN award was for the Skechers/Christina Aguilera campaign, in which more than 3000 supporters sent letters to the Skechers shoe company about a prominent naughty nurse ad. The company pulled the ad worldwide. The 2004 AAN award recognized our efforts to improve the portrayal of nursing on NBC's influential "ER," efforts that had an effect, as some episodes reflect attempts to address key issues they have been raising with the show's producers since 2001. In late 2004, television psychologist Dr. Phil suggested on the air that the health care system is full of "cute little nurses" who are out to "seduce and marry" physicians "because that's their ticket out of having to work as a nurse." After 1400 supporters flooded the show with emails in response to the campaign, Dr. Phil issued at least two on-air statements of support for nursing. And in 2005, after we led a campaign to "ER"'s sponsors, Schering-Plough asked "ER" Executive Producers to develop "stories that highlight accurate roles, responsibilities, skills and contributions of today's modern nursing profession." That same year, we led the effort to convince Gillette to pull a TAG Body Spray naughty nurse commercial. This was one in a string of successes in discouraging degrading nurse advertising and product placement by major corporations including Wal-Mart, Disney, CVS, Pennzoil, Tickle, Clairol, Physicians Formula and others

Five of our original group established The Center for Nursing Advocacy in late 2002 during which time we made some progress and earned a few awards. In December 2008 the Center decided to close, so our orignal group of five established The Truth About Nursing, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, through which we continue to pursue our mission to improve public understanding of the nursing profession.

Further information on the Truth's advocacy efforts can be found on the campaigns and successes pages of our web site. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Please join our effort to change how the world thinks about nursing. Thank you.

See The Truth About Nursing's original members


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