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News on Nurses in the Media
July 2006 Archives

Your invitation to the Emmys is here!

Well, it's not actually from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. It's from us. The Center for Nursing Advocacy invites all who care how global society thinks about nursing to join our first live demonstration! On August 27, 2006 (Sunday afternoon), as the glitterati arrive for the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, we'll be there. We'll let those who create Hollywood's most popular and profitable hospital shows know that their work harms nursing, and tell them how they can improve, in the interest of public health. read more...and join us at the demonstration!

"These days there's far too much emphasis on academia and an overwhelming desire to achieve an equal status with doctors."

July 25, 2006 -- In two recent broadsides in major U.K. papers, anonymous physicians essentially argue that nursing must be saved from itself. They are "Are nurses angels? I don't think so," a piece by an unnamed male physician in the July 18 Daily Mail, and "Why nurses are no angels," a June 20 piece by "Lucy Chapman," a pseudonym, that appeared in the Independent and the Belfast Telegraph. These paternalistic pieces urge the National Health Service (NHS) to stop assigning nurses new management and clinical roles, a practice that has supposedly helped produce a generation of nurses who are stupid, uncaring, lazy, and too eager to dump everything on physicians, while wrongly seeking the same high status. Instead, the pieces argue, nurses should focus on the basic caring and hygiene tasks the physicians think define nursing. To its credit, the Daily Mail today ran responses from nurses, who argue that they are hardworking and committed but overworked. The two physician op-eds purport to be by authors of different genders. But their similarities suggest that they were written by the same person or group. Toward the end of each piece, the op-eds reach what we believe is their main goal: to discourage the U.K. government from allowing nurses to move into clinical roles that have traditionally been the exclusive province of physicians. But the existing research shows that the care of advanced practice nurses is at least as good as that of physicians. So one strategy to prevent the expansion of nursing roles is to paint current bedside nurses as dense, uncaring slackers, and argue that a key cause is misguided efforts to encourage them to assume new roles. Needless to say, then, those little nurses must be kept far away from the important physician domain. more...

"Is there a nurse in the house?"

July 24, 2006 -- Today the People Magazine site posted an unsigned Reuters item headlined "Miss Universe Passes Out at Pageant." The piece reports that newly crowned Miss Universe Rico Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza of Puerto Rico fainted--just 40 minutes into her "reign"--at a "post-pageant news conference" at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Mendoza apparently recovered immediately. The story is notable because it reports that the press conference organizer/announcer issued the following call for help just after the fainting: "Is there a nurse in the house?" more...

"He was reluctant to change. But I nagged him."

July 23, 2006 -- Today the Baltimore Sun ran David Kohn's "Slow demise for long preoperative fasts." The long piece reports that recent research shows the practice of barring patients from consuming anything after midnight the day before surgery confers no benefit--and may even cause harm. In this piece, the leading representatives of the modern view are two Texas nurses, Elizabeth Winslow, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Jeannette Crenshaw, MSN, RN. Their joint research supports more nuanced pre-op instructions. The piece fails to note Winslow's doctorate (despite identifying physicians as "Dr."), fails to identify Crenshaw as a nurse, and fails to mention nurse anesthetists, despite extensive discussion of anesthesiologists. But overall the story is an impressive example of a media piece that highlights nursing research and influential patient advocacy, with many quotes from the nursing scholars. We commend Mr. Kohn and the Sun. more...

The doc stood on the burning deck

July 20, 2006 -- Today The New York Times ran a piece about the physician recently arrested, along with two nurses, for allegedly using lethal injections to kill several patients at Memorial Medical Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina last year. "Louisiana Doctor Said to Have Faced Chaos" was written by Christopher Drew and Shaila Dewan. The piece weaves details about the legal action into an account of Dr. Anna Pou's background and what she did at the New Orleans hospital after the storm. It includes many quotes from her attorney and supportive colleagues. Unlike many pieces, this one does give some sense of why the patients' deaths may have been excusable. Indeed, its tone and content clearly favor Dr. Pou rather than the Louisiana attorney general's office. However, the piece is typical of national media coverage of the case in barely managing even to name the two nurses--Lori Budo and Cheri Landry--and in sending the clear message that only Dr. Pou's actions were of any consequence following Katrina. more...

I see the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone

July 14, 2006 -- Today the weekly PBS television show "NOW" ran a segment about U.S. health worker participation in executions. "Do No Harm?", by senior correspondent Maria Hinojosa and producer Michelle Smawley, is accompanied by a wealth of related materials on the PBS web site. These include a web-only extended interview with "Nurse Karen," a Georgia nurse who has participated in 14 executions but who, like virtually all such health workers, fears the disclosure of her identity. The materials present a balanced and thoughtful picture of health worker participation in executions, which, broadly speaking, violates nursing and physician ethics. The 38 U.S. states that execute prisoners using lethal injection seem to have trouble finding health professionals willing to help, even as judicial decisions addressing whether the practice is "cruel and unusual" punishment are increasing the need for such personnel. The PBS materials give greater weight to the ethical issues and consequences for physicians. And they consult only physician experts on broad policy issues, primarily Harvard physician and author Atul Gawande. We assume "Nurse Karen" received attention because she was the only one willing to speak on camera. But the NOW story does recognize the extent to which the issues involve nurses to a surprising degree. In addition to the "Nurse Karen" quotes, the materials include nurses in their accounts of executions. And they mostly avoid direct suggestions that the nurses report to physicians. A posted excerpt from a recent medical journal article by Gawande includes an interesting account of the management of an execution by an authoritative "nurse-in-charge" for a state penitentiary. And the PBS pieces include statements that the American Nurses Association's Code of Ethics bars nurse involvement in executions. Indeed, we count it as a victory that a mainstream press piece simply tells the public that nursing ethics exist. We thank those responsible for this piece. more...

Take Action!
But when I became a physician, I put away nursing things

July 8, 2006 -- The Houston Chronicle's business section featured an article today by Brett Brune headlined "In-store clinics not a cure-all, doctors warn." The piece describes the American Medical Association's continued efforts to denigrate nurse practitioners and limit the rapid expansion of the "quick clinics" they staff in retail stores. Of course, this is nothing new. The Center has long sought to engage the physician lobbying group on its anti-NP campaign, which ignores extensive research demonstrating the high quality of NP care, and thus appears to be based more on fear of competition than a concern for safety. But the AMA has found a new point person to make its pitch: AMA board member Dr. Rebecca Patchin. Patchin exploits her status as a "former nurse" to bolster misleading attacks on NP training and care that appear in many recent press pieces, including a June 12 Chicago Tribune piece and an April 28 Bloomberg News piece. The AMA's strategy resembles that of an organization that, faced with a strong discrimination claim, chooses someone from the claimant's group to lead its defense. The Chronicle piece balances the baseless criticism of Patchin and a Texas physician only with reaction from the RediClinic CEO, whose brief quote does nothing to defend the quality of NP care. There is no hint that NPs provide comprehensive primary care outside of the quick clinics. And no NP is consulted for the piece, suggesting that physicians are the only health experts with anything useful to say about NP care. more...and join our letter-writing campaign!

Nurses at Law

July 4, 2006 -- Recent articles have described ambitious efforts by U.S. nurses to improve working conditions and patient care by filing lawsuits. On June 20, Reuters reported that nurses backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had filed antitrust suits in four U.S. cities alleging that about 20 hospital systems had unlawfully "conspired to depress wages for nurses amid a national shortage." Kim Dixon's fairly short piece, "US hospitals sued in class action over nurse pay," lays out different perspectives on the suit. It cites experts who contend that resolving the shortage will require more than higher pay. But it fails to quote a single nurse, opting for expert comment from a physician. An article posted today on the Women's eNews site, Allison Stevens's "Nurses Claim Hospitals Conspire to Keep Pay Low," examines the four suits at greater length. Stevens' piece includes more detail about the litigation, which may expand to other cities, and it focuses more closely on the extent to which the claims stem from gender discrimination. And a short June 16 piece in the Business Review (Albany), "Federal standards for Medicare funding sparks lawsuit," reports that the American Nurses Association and two state affiliates have filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That suit alleges that HHS has illegally delegated its authority to accredit hospitals for participation in Medicare to the private Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), resulting in inadequate nurse staffing levels. These stories raise the larger issue of whether the legal system can be an effective vehicle to pursue broad, systemic improvements in nursing practice environments. Whatever the answer to that question--and whatever the merits of these specific suits--it seems to us that this is patient advocacy. more...

Nursing with War

Country Joe McDonald is perhaps best known for his Vietnam-era folk-rock protest songs, especially the antiwar classic "I-Feel-Like-I'm Fixin'-to-Die Rag." McDonald has also been active in Vietnam veterans' causes, and he has a keen interest in Florence Nightingale and other nurses who have cared for wounded soldiers. Over the years McDonald has recorded several "nurse songs," which he describes as an effort to "advocate for people who seemed to be 'taken for granted' and seemed to have no voice of their own in the public." That's a sad tribute to a profession that includes "advocacy" as one of its core missions. But we can't argue with it. McDonald put his "nurse songs" together on the "Thank the Nurse" EP in 2002. The songs are passionate, fairly catchy, and well-played, though not especially distinctive, musically or lyrically. And given their explicit pro-nurse goals, they will likely strike some as a bit didactic. Three of the four are about nurses in war zones, and two of these are tributes to nursing pioneers Nightingale and Clara Barton. McDonald sees nurses as heroic fighters for wounded soldiers who have been used and discarded. The nurses protest bad conditions, brave firefights, care for wounds, and of course, "guard[] [their] patients with a .45." The last song, "Thank the Nurse," is a specific, if limited, account of what nurses do, including "saving your life." It actually suggests that nurses are more important than physicians. The songs are not free of gender stereotypes and angel imagery, and they don't fully convey nurses' clinical skills, focusing mainly on emotional support. But none suggests that nurses are physician helpers. And all give a sense of nurses' role as the last force protecting patients from death and despair. more...


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