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News on Nurses in the Media
February 2005 Archives

Nurses urge corporate giants to divest from NBC's "ER"

February 25, 2005 -- We have launched a campaign asking 23 major corporate sponsors of the NBC/Warner television drama "ER" to refrain from placing further advertising on the popular show worldwide until it dramatically improves its portrayal of nurses. more...

Girlie men? Manly girls? The Governator and nursing's gender issues

February 22, 2005 -- Today CNN's web site posted an unsigned AP story about recent charges by California nurses and teachers that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's policies and attitude toward them--including his references to them as "special interests"--reflect an ingrained hostility to women and "women's occupations." Probably unintentionally, the piece raises difficult questions about how society sees nursing, and how nurses advocate for their profession, including the pros and cons of using the profession's predominant gender as a political weapon. more...

Playground scrapes, tummy aches, and terrorist attacks

February 21, 2005 -- Today the New York Times ran an AP story by Joe Milicia under the headline "School Nurses Want More Terror Preparation." The relatively brief piece does a good job of stressing the importance of school nurses as first responders to potential terrorist attacks in the post-9/11 era, even as many of the nurses now face serious short-staffing and a lack of resources. However, even though the piece actually mentions "lack of respect" as a barrier to school nurses getting training, a few of its elements may subtly reinforce regressive stereotypes about the nurses' work. In fact, school nurses provide vital preventative and other care, as students attend with more serious chronic conditions and less access to other care. more...

"She's the nurse, maybe she doesn't know"

February 17, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," written by Dee Johnson, associates nursing with embarrassingly invasive or unpleasant procedures whose value viewers are unlikely to see. Meanwhile physicians direct the obviously key treatment, demonstrate the important knowledge, conduct the dramatic patient relations, and get all credit for patient outcomes. In the episode, "Alone in a Crowd," a stroke patient discounts nurse character Sam Taggart's reassuring smile because "she's the nurse, maybe she doesn't know" how bad the patient's condition is. We see little in the show to contradict this view. Later, Taggart acknowledges to the stroke patient that another patient's incontinence brief is "pretty stinky," and cheerfully says "welcome to my world" as she goes to change it. The episode is a stroke edutainment vehicle, and it features a virtual ad for the Merci blood clot retrieval system, but the message it sends millions of viewers about nurses is far less glowing. In fact, it's pretty stinky. Welcome to our world. more...

The Australian: "Rise of the super nurse"

February 12, 2005 -- Today The Australian ran a generally very good piece by Adam Cresswell about the growing role of Australian nurse practitioners (NPs) in managing chronic heart failure, a critical and costly problem in Australia. The piece does a fine job of highlighting the benefits nurses can bring to this field, especially in its focus on the positive effect of the holistic nursing "model" on patient outcomes--that is, the NPs are not simply aping physicians. However, the piece might have explored the apparent physician objections to the nurses' work in more detail, and the "super nurse" approach to NP media coverage continues to make us uncomfortable to the extent it can be read to denigrate non-NP nurses. more...

JibJab refuses to remove naughty nurse images from its products

February 10, 2005 -- Thank you to all who called JibJab to request that the company discuss with the Truth its many products featuring an image of President Clinton and two "naughty nurses." The Truth has now spoken with Gregg Spiridellis, one of the two brothers who run JibJab. Mr. Spiridellis expressed support for our campaign to improve nursing's image, acknowledging that fictional media products like NBC's "ER" affect the way people think about nursing. However, he does not agree that JibJab's more light-hearted media could have any effect on the way people think about nursing. Accordingly, JibJab has refused to remove any naughty nurse images from its media or merchandise products. However, research has shown that even less "serious" media products such as sitcoms and soap operas have a significant effect on the public's health-related views and actions. The Truth believes that, given the historic association of nursing and sex in the public mind, JibJab's naughty nurse images do in fact damage the nursing image at a time of global crisis, and we strongly urge the company to reconsider. See our original JibJab letter-writing campaign. Please call JibJab, send our instant letter and protest the use of nursing images in their products. Please call 1-310-586-1576 and voice your concerns. Thank you!

Can any idiot be a nurse? Don't forget the sponge baths and happy endings!

February 8, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "Scrubs," entitled "My Quarantine" and written by Tad Quill, is a good example of the "just trying to help" school of inaccurate and harmful television nursing depictions, a school epitomized by an October 2003 "ER" episode. Such shows often involve nurse characters confronting difficult situations or negative attitudes in a way that show creators may think is promoting respect for nursing, but which in fact sends even more powerful damaging messages because of the sympathetic intent. In this "Scrubs" episode, the most striking example is a surgeon character's affirmation that "any idiot can be a nurse." We see that the nurse to whom this surgeon is married strongly disagrees--but we never see why. The obvious conclusion: he's rude, but maybe he's right. more...

Tickle: Is the best thing about nursing "meeting hot doctors?" Ha ha! Just joking!

February 8, 2005 -- Tickle, the "leading interpersonal media company" now owned by Monster, is offering a 15-question online test called "Who's Your Inner Nurse?" The test, a sly vehicle to direct nurses and others into the site's employment services, invites us to choose from a series of stereotypes that, despite being lighthearted, reflect ignorance of the real nature and value of nursing. Some of the potential answers are presumably "jokes," like "meeting hot doctors" as an option for "the best thing about nursing." Others reinforce stereotypes through positive choices, such as the one inviting respondents to report that patients find them gentle, cheerful, dependable, or selfless (as opposed to skilled, innovative, or hard-working). And some questions simply invite people to think of nursing as trivial, such as the one that gives test takers the chance to specify that they wouldn't "make [their] rounds without" their "[s]tickers and lollipops." None of the questions reflects awareness that nurses are highly skilled professionals with years of college-level training who save and materially improve lives daily. After discussions with the Truth, Tickle grudgingly agreed to remove the "Inner Nurse" test, but declined to substitute the revised test the Truth helpfully provided. On the upside, the company did not issue a statement assuring us that it never meant to offend nurses, because they're so cute, kind and selfless. more...

Are nurses "blue-collar" workers?

February 4, 2005 -- Today CBS radio commentator Charles Osgood included in his regular radio piece an item called "High Demand for Blue Collar Workers." (scroll down.) In this category he included the construction trades, electricians, HVAC, auto repair, landscaping, and nursing. The item was very positive about the jobs, making clear that these workers are "skilled" and that community colleges train them, but it also had a quote from one business owner suggesting that such blue collar workers should be proud in part because "[y]ou're not weird if you don't want to go to college." All of the above are skilled, important jobs requiring significant post-high school training. However, we don't believe any but nursing has granted close to a million bachelor's degrees and hundreds of thousands of graduate degrees, and has thousands of doctorally-prepared members working on the cutting edge of scientific research. Thus, we are concerned that nursing's inclusion may not convey to job seekers or the public the full nature of the profession.

The Power and the Glory

February 3, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER," physician Lisa Zwerling's "Middleman," offered its 18 million viewers a compelling, nuanced endorsement of physician dominance in hospital care, showing why "ER" is simply without peer in fostering disinformation and disrespect as to other highly skilled caregivers. The episode follows the tragic results when a social worker fails to prevail upon an impatient ED resident, whose authority supposedly "trumps" hers, to allow her to finish assessing an abused child. It reinforces the idea that physicians do and should direct all hospital care by showing what can happen when their awesome power is abused. But it does not question that power. Instead, an authoritative attending physician and even the social worker herself underline the supposed hierarchy's value. more...

HHS agrees to explore new name for "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day"

February 3, 2005 -- Today the Center received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services' Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Garth Graham, MD, MPH, promising to "work diligently in exploring" a new name for the annual "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" campaign. The letter, which followed a conference call between Dr. Graham and the Center, came in response to nurses' concerns that the current name failed to reflect the vital primary care contributions of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. In his letter, Dr. Graham paid tribute to those contributions, and noted that he had directed the relevant government working groups to seek a new name that "we can all be proud of for the betterment of the populations we serve." Of course, this is not a guarantee that the name will change to something we favor, but given the challenges involved in influencing federal government conduct, we view this letter as a constructive response and a very positive development. We thank Dr. Graham and HHS for their flexibility and commitment to public health. more...

"I should be thinking of the future of our kids"

February 3, 2005 -- Today National Public Radio's Morning Edition ran a very good report by Michael Sullivan, "Number of Philippine Nurses Emigrating Skyrockets." The balanced, comprehensive piece includes audio clips from a Manila hospital nursing executive, a senior nurse who is about to emigrate, the physician who directs the Philippines' National Institutes of Health, and government officials. The Philippines has long relied on remittances from workers abroad. But the fact that the nation is now exporting 15,000 nurses each year to developed nations like the United States, where they can make 20 times what they do in the Philippines, reportedly poses a serious long term threat to an already fragile and overburdened local health system. more...

Nurses for newborns

February 3, 2005 -- Today The Tennessean ran Larry Bivins' Gannett News Service piece about the St. Louis-based Nurses for Newborns program, which provides vital home care to low-income, at-risk mothers and newborn infants. The medium-length piece provides a generally good look at this program, with quotes from a local patient, a physician who co-directs the local program, supportive Member of Congress Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), and two of the program's key local patrons, Tennessee Titans football player Fred Miller and his wife Kim. Can you guess the one relevant category not represented with a quote in this otherwise commendable piece about "Nurses for Newborns?" We thought so. more...

Oxfam and Care need us to help contact US government officials to ask for increased support for tsunami victims

February 3, 2005 -- Oxfam America and Care would like our support for their letter-writing campaigns to increase US government financial support to the tsunami victims. Please join the Oxfam and Care campaigns. Thank you. See our full page on how to help the tsunami victims.

Nursing America

February 3, 2005 -- British journalist Sandy Balfour's Nursing America is a look at the lives and work of skilled nurses coping with the inequities and violence of urban America at a major public hospital. Balfour is a good listener, and the most powerful parts of his book are the stories and commentary of nurses who explain some of what they do, and why they work at Memphis' Regional Medical Center, or "the Med." At a time when understanding of nursing remains dangerously low, this engaging, nurse-centered book has much to offer. more...

Take Action!
Money, yes. Smart...

February 2005 -- This month's issue of Smart Money ("The Wall Street Journal Magazine of Personal Business") includes an item by Erika Rasmusson Janes called "10 Things Your Plastic Surgeon Won't Tell You," which includes practical tips for getting aesthetic plastic surgery. Item number 4, which addresses anesthesia and appears to rely principally on "Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon" Z. Paul Lorenc (pictured here), denigrates the work of nurse-anesthetists. It effectively tells readers they should use anesthesiologists, without explicitly saying so. However, a large body of peer-reviewed research shows that the nation's masters-prepared certified nurse anesthetists provide care that is equal to or better than that of anesthesiologists. The magazine's publication of scientifically unfounded assertions without any response from a nurse anesthetist is irresponsible. Click here to read more and send a letter to Smart Money and Dr. Lorenc!


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