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News on Nurses in the Media
February 2006 Archives

Land of dreams

February 28, 2006 -- Today the National Public Radio show "Fresh Air" ran a long interview by host Terry Gross with Jeanne Dumestre, a New Orleans nurse practitioner and one of the founders of the legendary local club Tipitina's. The Fat Tuesday interview focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, particularly how it has affected Dumestre's patients and her own residential neighborhood. The report is certainly complimentary of Dumestre, an articulate nurse doing "important" work. She offers some good general observations about post-Katrina challenges her mostly poor, mostly African-American clinic patients face. But the show seems oblivious of the fact that Dumestre is a masters-prepared, nationally-recognized expert in the care of HIV-positive women--not just a first-hand witness to the storm's dislocations. Some of the report's language will reinforce stereotypes of nurses as noble helpers, rather than highly skilled professionals. And as far as giving the public insight into the specific practice of a key nursing leader in HIV care in the ravaged area, or the work of nurse practitioners generally, the piece is a missed opportunity. more...


February 28, 2006 -- Today the Denver Post ran a very good piece by business columnist Al Lewis about the situation of veteran Colorado ICU nurse Donna Jaynes. Jaynes was fired after reportedly complaining about care issues at her hospital. Jaynes sued the hospital, which has argued that Jaynes was fired because she was a "confrontacious" "problem" employee, and that in any case, there is no statutory protection in Colorado for hospital whistle-blowers. The piece focuses on a bill pending in the Colorado legislature that would create such protection for nurses, who may risk their jobs if they speak up about dangerous conditions. Thus, the column's headline is: "First aid for 'problem' nurses." more...

"By far the worst burnout levels I've ever seen"

February 27, 2006 -- Yesterday posted a generally good Canadian Press piece by Sheryl Ubelacker about a new study finding that a "high proportion of nursing graduates are reporting severe burnout less than two years into their jobs--primarily because of crushing workloads." The piece uses information from nursing leaders, including nursing research, and the story of a young nurse who fled the bedside, to paint a grim picture of a nursing crisis driven largely by short-staffing. The piece might have briefly explained how much nursing burnout and short-staffing hurt patient outcomes. But its failure to do so is consistent with the overall media and social view that nurses may matter in their own sphere, but they do not play a key role in fundamental health issues generally. For instance, a Canadian Press piece by this same reporter today examined a physician-conducted study that indicated dying hospital patients valued their relationships with their physicians above all else. Based on this entirely physician-sourced story, it is not clear if nursing was even among the 28 issues about which the physician survey asked respondents, despite the far greater role nurses play in the end-of-life care of most patients. Even so, we thank Ms. Ubelacker and the Canadian Press for yesterday's important piece on nurse burnout--and for following up today with some evidence as to why nursing does not receive the clinical resources it needs to function effectively. more...

A portrait of the arts major as a young nurse

February 19, 2006 -- Today the Washington Post's Sunday Magazine included a fairly good article by Christina Ianzito about a former "personal organizer" with an art history degree who has returned to school to become a nurse. "The Need to Be Needed" includes much of the standard information about the merits of nursing as a second career today, including its financial security, diversity, and appeal for those who wish to help others in a "more palpable way." More interesting is the piece's portrait of restless liberal arts graduates finding meaning in nursing, and the comments of Georgetown nursing professor Colleen Norton, RN, DNSc, about how much nursing has changed since she graduated in the 1960's. Norton suggests that nursing education today is "so much more sophisticated, scholarly and demanding" than it was four decades ago that it "cannot even be compared." We understand that such suggestions are intended to persuade the public that today's nurses deserve respect. But we doubt they help the profession overall, as they may suggest that serious nursing was born yesterday, and that past nurses, including influential health leaders, are of little importance. more...

Reuters: "Clinton group, India to train nurses in AIDS care"

February 19, 2006 -- Today Reuters issued a short, unsigned piece reporting that former U.S. President Bill Clinton's foundation and the government of India have announced "a joint plan to train nurses in AIDS care in a country which has the world's second-largest number of HIV/AIDS cases." The brief piece may suggest to some that nurses do not have much AIDS expertise simply by virtue of being nurses. And it includes comments from Clinton that arguably understate nurses' role as formulators (not just deliverers) of AIDS care. But Clinton's reported comments also explain that nurses provide life-saving care and vital education to society about AIDS--a rarity coming from a U.S. president. And the piece highlights the importance of nurse training in the care of patients with deadly diseases. more...

Boxing Stupid

February 7, 2006 -- One of the GAP's Valentine's Day products this year is a pair of boxer shorts covered with small, identical "nurse" figures. They are dressed in a short white dress with some cleavage, and a white cap with a red heart. It's not the "naughtiest" nurse we've ever seen. But the "nurse"'s outfit, her goofy hand-on-hip pose, her odd lack of facial features, and her placement on a pair of Valentine's boxers surrounded by the word "Lovesick" clearly associates the profession with romance and sex. Like the many other "naughty nurse" products that continue to infect every corner of popular culture, these boxers exploit a powerful stereotype that is a factor in the global nursing crisis. more...

The Overcomer

February 6, 2006 -- Recently the mainstream press has run very positive stories about the Nurse-Family Partnership. The Partnership is a cost-effective nationwide program in which nurses make extended pre-natal and post-natal home visits to improve the health and wellbeing of poor first-time mothers and their children. This week's issue of The New Yorker included the extensive, moving "Swamp Nurse," by respected poverty journalist Katherine Boo. The piece describes the awesome work of rural Louisiana nurse Luwana Marts, with contextual information about the Partnership and its effectiveness. On January 16, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a far shorter article by Marie McCullough taking a similar approach. It profiles impressive local Partnership nurse Sara Eldridge, with comparable background information. Both pieces are great showcases for the value of the nurse-centered program. And they offer powerful portraits of the individual nurses, who question, teach, and cajole their patients toward better lives, despite huge obstacles. Sadly, neither writer seems aware that the Partnership fits easily within the long tradition of holistic, home-based nursing care. So readers may assume that the idea that the "nurse-visitors" can improve maternal-child health originated with Partnership founder David Olds, a developmental psychologist. Readers may not even see what these nurses do as really being nursing. And the pieces fail to convey how much the nurses' success is due to their nursing education and skill, not just Olds' program design, or the nurses' personal attributes, trusted image, and on-the-job experience. Even so, the articles--especially Boo's perceptive New Yorker piece--ably present the Partnership nurses as skilled professionals excelling at an important job. We commend those responsible. more...

The way out of "Strong Medicine"

February 5, 2006 -- Lifetime's "Strong Medicine" wrapped up its final season with a minor subplot in which advanced practice nurse Peter Riggs affirms that he would rather be a nurse than a physician. In Diane Messina Stanley's "Special Delivery," Peter resists pressure from his girlfriend, physician Kayla Thornton, to go to medical school, which she calls his "way out of nursing." We give the producers credit for showing that an attractive character like Peter prefers nursing, for highlighting the contemptuous views of nursing that some physicians hold, and for a scene in which Peter makes a diagnosis that an intern has missed. But it's hard to see Peter's marriage proposal to Kayla at the end of the same episode as a sign of nursing self-respect. And aside from Peter's few scenes, the episode proceeds as the cable drama has for six years, focusing on heroic physician characters who provide care that nurses do in real life, while anonymous nurse characters meekly obey the physicians' commands. Although the show has ended production, that grossly distorted vision of health care still airs in reruns for three hours each week. more...

Peter Riggs, CNM (2000-2006)

February 4, 2006 -- On Sunday, February 5, Lifetime will broadcast the series finale of its hospital drama "Strong Medicine" (against the end of the Super Bowl, but maybe Lifetime figures that won't have much impact on this show's fans). So this will be the final appearance of hunky, alternative nurse-midwife Peter Riggs, played by Josh Coxx. The overall portrayal of nursing in Tammy Ader's female physician show has been fairly poor. The show has generally presented nurses as mute, peripheral physician assistants. But Peter has been a positive character in the limited number of episodes that have given him attention. He has displayed initiative, knowledge, and patient advocacy, as two episodes from the fall of 2005 show (September 18 episode and the October 16 episode). Over the show's six years, Peter has probably been the most significant male nurse character on U.S. television, and the only one to display anything like autonomy or serious expertise. Tune in and wish him well. See our series review.

Paging Dr. X to the triage booth

February 2006 -- This month's issue of Good Housekeeping includes a letter from a nurse protesting the magazine's November "What Doctors Wish You Knew" feature, which offered dozens of health tips from physicians. One tip advised readers to lie to ED triage nurses in order to be seen faster. Another urged readers to get better hospital care by plying staff with "treats." The letter, by Berni T. Martin, RN, MSN, CEN, is a strong piece of nursing advocacy, and we salute her for writing it and the magazine for printing it. However, the "editor's note" accompanying the letter is so non-committal as to whether the triage tip actually is a good idea--and so apparently deferential to the mysterious "Dr. X" who provided the tip--that we are inviting this "experienced" physician to debate us (confidentially of course) as to the tip's merit. more...


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