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News on Nurses in the Media
March 2006 Archives

$70 machine claims to be "nurse;" background check underway

March 31, 2006 -- Today the web site of Wis10 (the Columbia, SC, NBC affiliate) posted an item by Chantelle Janelle with the headline: "Health Alert: Electronic nurse." The piece describes a $70 machine used by Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx, NY) to help real nurses do home health monitoring by asking patients basic questions about their conditions. The item is an example of the sad tendency of some promoters of electronic health equipment, and the media that covers them, to call such machines "nurses." Of course, these machines do some very basic things that nurses or those assisting them might otherwise do. But they are no more "nurses" than surgical robots are surgeons. We have yet to hear of any robot that handles surgical tools or utters pre-programmed questions being called an "electronic physician." Calling such a machine a "nurse" shows disrespect for nurses' years of college-level training. And it reinforces the damaging view that nurses basically serve as mechanical conduits between patients and physicians. more...

Family Presence and Psychosocial Care of the Comatose ICU Patient
Cont. Nursing Ed. HBO-068
Instructors: Carmela and Meadow Soprano

March 26, 2006 -- Tonight's episode of HBO's "The Sopranos" portrays ICU nurses as nasty, rule-bound physician subordinates who actually impede the psychosocial care of the gravely wounded Tony Soprano and his distraught family. One nurse rudely chastises Tony's wife Carmela (right) for dislodging the comatose Mafia boss's drains by climbing into bed to comfort him. Carmela replies that she has "to think that physical affection counts for something." The nurse reacts with contempt, as if she never heard of such nonsense in her two-week nurse training course. The episode, written by Matthew Weiner, was "Mayham" (No. 68, 8.9 million viewers). As in hospital scenes in "Six Feet Under" last year, the physicians here are no Welbys either. They mostly come across as indifferent intellectuals who don't relish interacting with patients or families. The notable exception is series regular Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony's long-time psychiatrist. But unlike the battleaxe nurses, all the physicians are seen as expert lifesavers who direct the important care. No one is likely to suggest that Carmela's daughter Meadow (right), a recent Columbia graduate considering a career in medicine, look at nursing instead. more...

Helping Africa...with nursing knowledge

March 23, 2006 -- Today the Woburn Advocate (Massachusetts) ran an unsigned article about nurses at a local hospital who are sending nursing texts to several communities in Africa. "Nurses fund African medical libraries" explains that the nurses of Winchester Hospital have raised funds from each other and their physician colleagues to ship the libraries of up-to-date texts. The piece has quotes from some of the Winchester nurses involved. Several of their comments suggest the central role nurses play in health care in ways that are unusual for mass media products. The piece also underlines the life-saving importance of nursing knowledge in Africa. We salute the Woburn Advocate and the nurses of Winchester Hospital for highlighting a form of foreign aid whose value may not be evident in a society with little overall understanding of nurses' education or clinical expertise. more...

My Crazy Nurse Memory

March 21, 2006 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "Scrubs" included one of the better plotlines for nursing that the show has run. Mark Stegemann's "My Extra Mile" followed nurse character Carla Espinosa's search for a missing VIP patient. The minor plotline did not reflect much sense of how nurses work or of nursing autonomy. But it did feature an aggressive defense of nurses' technical expertise, as Carla repeatedly demonstrated her encyclopedic knowledge of the conditions and care plans of specific patients. The show set that in contrast to the physicians, who it suggested depend heavily on charting. The episode even suggested that Carla had some independent problem-solving ability. Of course, the episode on the whole reflected the physician-centric approach the show has taken since the beginning. But as "Scrubs" nears the possible end of its run in mid-May, we thank Mr. Stegemann and the other producers for this effort to highlight nursing expertise. more...

Would you like a Krabby Patty with that?

March 17, 2006 -- Today The Baltimore Sun ran a long piece about travel nurses on the front page of its weekly Health & Science section. Dennis O'Brien's article was "Nurses to go: Traveling medical personnel command top dollar and, for some, follow-the-sun benefits as they relieve shortages in the nation's hospitals." On the whole the piece is a fairly standard travel nursing piece. It includes discussion of the short-term benefits to the traveling nurses and the hospitals at which they work, along with a little on the potential drawbacks to the travelers. Commendably, the piece quotes several nursing experts, and briefly suggests that nurses affect patient outcomes. But unlike other pieces that simply ignore the larger implications of the growth of travel nursing, this piece may leave readers with the sense that travel nurses are clinically superior to staff nurses, and that they are not necessarily more expensive. Based on this article, it would not be unreasonable to think that travel nursing should be promoted as a key way to address the critical nursing shortage. The piece does not convey that many feel that the growth in travel nursing during the current crisis may actually undermine nursing practice and threaten patient care. Finally, it's hard to love a headline that essentially compares nurses to fast food. more...

Washington Post: "Study Links Nurse Shortage to Pay That Lags Behind Inflation"

March 15, 2006 -- Today The Washington Post ran a short item linking fluctuations in the number of U.S. nurses to whether nursing wage increases had kept pace with inflation. Marc Kaufman's piece suggests that making sure the wage increases do keep pace is the key to resolving the nursing shortage. The story relies on a new report written by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), funded by the Service Employees International Union, and based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We have no doubt that wages are a factor in the nursing crisis, especially in developing nations. But we doubt small wage increases in the U.S. will make much difference in resolving the shortage. Instead, it seems clear that that will require serious, long-term improvements in staffing, working conditions, health system reform, educational resources, and basic social respect. more...

Der Spiegel: "From Johns to Geriatrics"

March 14, 2006 -- Today the leading German news magazine Der Spiegel posted an article by Guido Kleinhubbert about a new government program to train to become "care workers for the elderly," apparently including nurses. " Retraining Program: From Johns to Geriatrics" suggests that some of the skills gained in prostitution are quite transferable to elder care. It also suggests that the training program is a timely idea, as Germany has a glut of prostitutes and a desperate need for nursing home workers, especially as its population ages. We have no problem with the training program itself. But the piece makes lighthearted comparisons of and health care, and it fails to define precisely what jobs the workers are training for, or to note that professional nursing requires years of college-level science training. These elements may reinforce harmful "naughty nurse" and handmaiden imagery. More broadly, we remain uncomfortable with the continuing suggestions that the developed world nursing shortage can be resolved by recruiting new nurses from groups who are presented as having few good options, rather than with better workplace conditions and adequate clinical and educational resources. more...

Whatever people say I am, that's what I am not

March 12, 2006 -- Today the Sunday Times (U.K.) ran a piece by Sarah-Kate Templeton that was completely unbalanced, but well headlined: "Doctors spit blood over plans to let nurses operate." Of course, physician opposition to the expanding responsibilities of advanced practice nurses is hardly novel. But the U.K. government's plans to permit nurses to perform what the piece calls "routine" operations have led to reactions from physicians at the web site that reveal far more about the speakers than they do about nurses. (Readers may recall this site as the source of many physician comments praising Mattel for its "Nurse Quacktitioner" doll.) Now the Times reports that hundreds of physicians have expressed support for comments on the site including suggestions that nurses are as "stupid" as Beavis and Butt-head, that the British Medical Association (BMA) should "put the boot in," and that allowing nurses to perform "minor" surgery is like letting "air hostesses" fly planes. The Times fails to include any response whatsoever from nurses. Perhaps the paper thought the physician comments were so extreme that they undermined themselves. Indeed, the comments are oddly reminiscent of a Beavis and Butt-head exchange ("Nurses " "Yeah. Heh. Heh heh heh."). But the public continues to hold physicians in such high regard that the comments merit a response. For example, the Times might have found someone to explain that nurses are in fact educated health professionals who save lives and improve patient outcomes every day--sometimes by deftly working around attitudes like those festering at that research overwhelmingly shows that the care of advanced practice nurses is at least as good as that provided by physicians. more...

The ventilated elite

March 12, 2006 -- Two major news entities have recently run stories about the current lack of intensive care resources, primarily ventilators, that would be needed if a bird flu pandemic hit the United States. Today the New York Times published "Hospitals Short on Ventilators if Bird Flu Hits," by Donald G. McNeil Jr. On February 10, National Public Radio's Morning Edition ran "Health Officials Consider Strategy for Possible Bird Flu Pandemic," by Richard Knox. This is an important topic, and both reports include helpful information. Both stress that U.S. hospitals would not have enough ventilators in such a pandemic. But both reports also give the sense that care for affected patients revolves mainly around whether or not physicians grant access to vents. The reports wrongly suggest that physicians make all key health decisions by themselves, and that they are the only health experts worth consulting on this issue. No nurse or respiratory technician is quoted in either piece, even though they play far more active roles in such ventilator care. And the skilled, time-consuming nursing care that keeps such critically ill patients alive involves much more than ventilators. In a pandemic, there would not be enough nurses to provide that care. Neither piece inquires where we might get the 1.5 million additional ICU nurses that it could take to care for such ventilated patients, when we can't find the couple hundred thousand nurses (of all specialties) that we need right now. In focusing on physicians and vents, both reports also miss the broader perspective that a nurse expert might provide. The NPR piece describes a physician proposal to ration access to vents in a pandemic. But sadly, it might not be a wise use of scarce ICU nurses' time to provide ventilator-related care to any flu patients, rather than life-saving care to many other patients with a better chance of survival. Of course, getting that perspective would require an understanding that health care involves more than physicians and machines. more...

Daily Express: "Nurses may get to head hospitals"

March 10, 2006 -- Today the Daily Express (Sabah, Malaysia) ran an unsigned piece reporting that the Director-General of Malaysia's Health Ministry has announced that he is considering appointing nurses to head hospitals, assuming they have the right credentials. The Director-General's remarks suggest that this is likely to be considered a novel idea, and that he anticipates some resistance from his fellow physicians. The piece is a fair report on what seems to be an encouraging development in the admittedly slow recognition of nurses' health leadership abilities. more...


March 9, 2006 -- An Associated Press piece today reported that the chief of neurosurgery at an Oakland hospital was "arrested after allegedly throwing a drunken fit when a nurse refused to let him operate," according to local police. The unsigned piece, run on the New York Times site and elsewhere, does not name the nurse. And we could have used more detail on exactly what he or she apparently did to prevent the surgeon from operating. But the report, "Doc May Have Been Drunk in Operating Room," still appears to be a striking example of nurses' patient advocacy. It's the kind of thing that too few members of the public know that OR nurses are responsible for doing to protect their patients. more...

Music has charms to soothe those having a catheter test

March 8, 2006 -- Today the Mainichi Daily News (Tokyo) site posted a short unsigned item reporting that nurse researchers have found that patients who listened to their favorite music during cardiac catheter tests had lower blood pressure and felt more relaxed. The piece could have told us more about the Hokkaido hospital researchers. It does not even name the lead researcher, whom it briefly quotes. But it's still an unusual and laudable example of mainstream press coverage of important nursing research. And it even manages to explain why the research is important: "When patients become tense and their arteries tighten during the tests, it is easy for the catheters to cause damage to the arteries." more...

Are we the world?

March 7, 2006 -- Recent articles have painted a grim picture of how nursing is valued in Kenya--and elsewhere. Today the Standard (Nairobi) ran a short piece by Elizabeth Mwai reporting that Kenyan assistant health minister Enock Kibunguchy has called for his government to ignore a hiring freeze imposed by the World Bank and IMF, so it can hire more nurses and others to address urgent health needs. On March 3, Reuters issued a long article by Katie Nguyen that described the state of Kenyan nursing in detail. Nguyen's generally good piece reports that "underpaid" and "undervalued" Kenyan nurses have continued to flee the nation for better opportunities in developed nations, which are eager to get them. In those nations, not coincidentally, working conditions have also driven away many local nurses with other options. more...

Goldfrapp: "Number 1"

March 7, 2006 -- When you're thinking of hip new media--like, say, a new music video from a respected U.K. electronic-alternative-pop duo--which one of the following items does not belong?  

  1. Edgy, cool, yet sensual text.
  2. Comically subversive imagery.
  3. Retro-futuristic sound and visuals.
  4. Mindless reinforcement of old stereotypes.

You're probably going with number 4, right?

If so, you just haven't been paying attention. The new Goldfrapp video takes the band's single "Number 1" to a plastic surgery clinic where everyone but singer Alison Goldfrapp has a human body and a dog's head. Goldfrapp acts like a dog, dances with the human/canine clinic staff, and spins the tale of animalistic sexual obsession she wrote with bandmate Will Gregory. The key lyric: "I'm like a dog to get you." But in director Dawn Shadforth's video, the "nurses" are all females in short dresses who hand things to the all-male "physicians." The camera dwells on the nurses' bottoms. At one point, the physicians playfully apply their stethoscopes to said bottoms. The video confirms that most of the cultural elite has no more understanding of nursing than the purveyors of naughty nurse porn. It may be the 21st century, but the sun still rises in the east, and nurses are still subordinate sex objects. more...

Saving lives, and getting inspiration from Mom

March 6, 2006 -- Tonight ABC airs the series premiere of a midseason reality show called "Miracle Workers." The network describes the show as "a life-changing new series about real people overcoming insurmountable odds with the help of an elite team of medical professionals." Tonight's episode features a "revolutionary new treatment" that may restore a blind man's sight, and a "procedure" that may enable a woman with a "degenerative bone and disc disease" to again lead an active life. If this sounds to you like a show that's going to equate great health care with the work of prominent surgeons, you won't be surprised to hear that the show's two "lead doctors" are pioneering heart surgeons. However, commendably, the other two members of the "Miracle Workers" team are actually nurses, one a clinical nurse specialist and pediatric nurse practitioner, and the other a veteran OR and recovery nurse. So will the show give a real sense of how important nursing is to the health of patients who undergo its "miraculous" procedures? The material on the ABC site details the two surgeons' impressive clinical and academic achievements, but essentially just lists the nurses' specialties and a little about their family backgrounds, so it's hard to be optimistic. But tune in and find out for yourself! more...

Sunday Times: "Nurses earn bonuses for use of latest drugs"

March 5, 2006 -- Today the Sunday Times (U.K.) ran a short investigative piece by Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Sarah-Kate Templeton reporting that "nurses on the payroll of the pharmaceutical industry are earning identifying NHS patients who can be put on costly drug regimes." The piece appears to say that the nurses are employed by private agencies, with drug company funding. The nurses reportedly review the records of general practitioners in order to identify patients with conditions that may be treatable with their pharmaceutical funders' products. Sales teams then "close the business." The piece cites a Royal College of Nursing prescribing advisor who suggests that nurses who get bonuses to promote certain products are in breach of nursing ethics. Given its length, the piece is fairly good, though it might have explored some of the issues it raises in more depth. These include how and why the nurses actually get access to the medical records, how their conduct fits into the overall scheme of U.K. drug marketing, and why giving the nurses performance bonuses is a bigger ethical problem than simply paying them a flat rate to do the same job. In both cases, the nurses would appear to be promoting the products of the drug companies that pay their salaries.more..

Importing health

March 4, 2006 -- Today the Taiwan News ran a short piece by Jenny W. Hsu headlined "Nurses groups warn of mass exodus to U.S." It says that the Taiwan National Nurses Association (NNA) is concerned that poor working conditions for local health workers and aggressive recruiting by the United States are driving a surge in nurse migration. This reportedly poses a grave threat to Taiwan's ability to care for its own rapidly aging population. more...

"It was me against the world"

March 2006 -- Global online careers leader Monster has posted a short but good article by John Rossheim headlined "How Nurses Can Fight Sexual Harassment." The piece explores some of the reasons for the prevalence of the harassment nurses face, including media stereotypes, and discusses some potential solutions. It relies on recent research, including Debbie Dougherty's University of Missouri study, and several quotes from Truth executive director Sandy Summers. The piece might have briefly discussed the negative effects harassment can have on patient care, in addition to the hospital liability and nurse retention issues it raises. But on the whole we commend Mr. Rossheim and Monster for a useful and candid piece. more...


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