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News on Nurses in the Media
November 2006 Archives

Scrubs series review updated for start of new season

November 30, 2006 -- Tonight, as NBC's "Scrubs" launches its sixth season, we have updated our series review to include the fifth (2005-2006) season. "Scrubs" has been better for nurses than most current serial television, though it remains fairly poor for nursing overall. The show has one major nurse character, the tough Carla Espinosa. Carla has, on occasion, displayed nursing expertise. She is probably the most prominent Latina nurse character in modern US television history. Over the years, a few of the show's plotlines have had surprisingly thoughtful takes on nursing issues. These include the decision to become a nurse practitioner, bigotry towards male nurses, nurses' informal teaching of residents, and nurse-physician tension. But on the whole the show portrays nurses as peripheral health workers with limited skills who report to physicians, who in turn provide virtually all meaningful health care. more...

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"People always joke about nurses looking saucy so it's fun to be the real thing."

November 29, 2006 -- Over the last two days, the U.K. tabloid the Sun has run a prominent "naughty nurse" pictorial. The Sun is the most popular English-language daily in the world, with an estimated 7.8 million readers. The theme of its lingerie pictorial is that the models really are nurses. Unlike the paper's regular Page 3 feature, this one stops short of nudity. The light soft-porn text is credited to Lucy Hagan. The pictorial promotes sales of a calendar called "100% Real Nurses 2007." Two of the models in the Sun are said to be "plastic surgery nurses," and we also see a "student nurse," a "dental nurse," and a "nurse" who works at a "vet's surgery." The feature is a gleeful mess of naughty nurse stereotyping, along with a few angel references. In small separate photos, it also shows the models in real-looking nurse uniforms, as if to dispel any doubts that they really are nurses. But many of the photos show the "nurses" stripping out of racy versions of nurse uniforms, apparently in actual health care facilities. What we can't figure out is why a recent survey found that nursing was the most sexually-fantasized-about job in the U.K. Anyway, we urge the Sun to consider whether it might somehow entertain readers without reinforcing a stereotype of workplace sexual availability that inhibits nurses' ability to get the resources they need to resolve the global nursing crisis. Read more or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Heart Attack Grill press coverage

November 24, 2006 -- Our campaign to convince the Heart Attack Grill in Tempe, Arizona, to discontinue its use of "naughty nurse" waitress uniforms has received wide press coverage. Click here to see the full coverage.

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"Is this all nurses do?"

November 21, 2006 -- Fox's "House" generally ignores nursing or shows physicians doing it, but recent episodes have included troubling comments on nurses' autonomy and skill. In Thomas L. Moran's November 7 "Que Sera Sera" (16 million viewers), a police officer pursues lead character Greg House for possible crimes related to his prescription drug abuse. In response to one taunt from House, the officer notes: "I think working around a bunch of nurses has given you a false sense of your ability to intimidate." Tonight, in Pamela Davis's "Whac-a-Mole" (15.2 million viewers), physician Eric Foreman prepares to take a sample of spinal fluid from a patient. When the patient's 11-year-old sister offers to help, Foreman agrees, noting that it's "quicker than calling a nurse." When Foreman instructs her to hold her brother's legs still, the girl asks: "Is this all nurses do?" Foreman responds, with a wry smile: "My boss [House] doesn't trust 'em to do anything else." The show is not explicitly endorsing these comments. But they are a fair summation of its portrayal of nursing, and it has never done a thing to rebut the attitudes they reflect. Viewers are likely to conclude that the vision the comments present of nurses as timid, unskilled physician subordinates is harsh, but essentially correct. more...

Error and Punishment

November 20, 2006 -- Recent items in The Capital Times (Madison, WI) deal with the criminal charge filed against veteran OB nurse Julie Thao. Thao allegedly made a medication error that caused the tragic death of a young mother, Jasmine Gant. Steven Elbow's November 2 piece "St. Mary's Nurse is Charged; Medication Error Led to Teen's Death" describes the criminal complaint, which alleges that Thao did not follow proper procedures. The piece gives no context, and no indication that the reporter sought comment from Thao, her attorney, or any expert in health care errors. The result is essentially a narrow presentation of the state's case against Thao. A story in the November 9 Capital Times by Anita Weier and Mike Miller does a better job. "Nurses rally in support of colleague; Many outside courthouse say charges too severe" describes a rally held during Thao's first court appearance. The piece includes extensive comment from Thao's supporters. But even it says nothing about the clinical context of the incident, such as the staffing level. Like a recent case in which a coroner's jury found a patient's death in an ED waiting room to be homicide, this Wisconsin case has attracted national attention. Pennsylvania's Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has released a supportive piece, "Since when is it a crime to be human?" The ISMP says it joins the Wisconsin Nurses Association and Wisconsin Hospital Association in opposing criminal prosecution of health workers for "unintentional errors." Today the American Nurses Association released a statement that questions application of the criminal law here, and lists some of the systemic problems that can contribute to such errors. No piece we have seen makes clear how the error alleged here differs from negligent care-related acts that, however tragic for those harmed, do not result in criminal charges. It seems to us that--as Suzanne Gordon argues in a powerful November 15 Capital Times op-ed opposing the prosecution of Thao--the potential negative effects of such charges on nursing practice are considerable. more...

Learn more about the defense fund for Wisconsin nurse Julie Thao.

Learn about the defense fund for New Orleans nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry.

Naomi Campbell, Russell Crowe, and patients without enough nurses

November 19, 2006 -- Today the Calgary Herald ran a short piece about reports by the United Nurses of Alberta, a union, that "nurses are being physically abused and verbally threatened because of staff and bed shortages in Calgary hospitals." The article, "Calgary nurses blame shortages for abuse," might have explored the negative effects of this situation in more detail. Nurse short-staffing can kill people and drive nurses from the bedside. Abuse of nurses can lead to injury and burnout, and exacerbate the nursing shortage. But on the whole the piece offers a good quick look at this serious problem. more...

"Iraq: Neglected nurses fight their own war"

November 19, 2006 -- Today the IRIN news service (Integrated Regional Information Networks) posted a good piece on the Reuters Foundation website about the severe hardship Iraqi nurses face. The unsigned article focuses on the struggle of nurse Nissrin Muhammad to care for patients--150 or more at a time--at a public hospital in Baghdad. The widowed mother of five works six days a week, 13 hours a day, enduring physical and verbal abuse in desperate conditions. She can no longer afford meat, but she no longer wants to eat it anyway; it reminds her too much of the relentless carnage she sees as a result of sectarian violence. The piece says many Iraqi nurses have fled the nation. Those with working husbands stay home to avoid the violence. There are good quotes from a Ministry of Health physician, who stresses that physicians cannot function without the nurses, and that "[l]osing their work means losing lives." The piece might have provided more information on Iraqi nursing generally, both before and after the war. But overall it's a powerful look at a profession in crisis. more...

"Warning: Nurses at work"

November 14, 2006 - Today The Daily Mail (UK) ran a very long piece about apparent problems in the National Health Service's expanding network of "high-tech health centres," which are reportedly "run by nurse practitioners" (NPs). Kathleen Kent's article raises troubling issues about the quality of care at one center in London. But the piece is very unbalanced, relying on anecdotes from two former clinic physicians for the great majority of its account, and consulting none of the nurses whose care is actually at issue. The piece includes a limited response from a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) spokesperson, who admits that the "national picture" for the scope of NP practice is "a bit of a mess," and that only about half of those who use the title "nurse practitioner" in the U.K. have actually met the RCN's training standards for that title. The NHS and the private company running the center in question offer short, limited statements that all is well. The piece fails to mention any research about the quality of NP care, so it does not inform readers that the care of qualified NPs has been found to be at least as good as that of physicians. The piece alerts readers to what may be some real problems in care--no one should practice beyond his or her competence, and the RCN's statements are troubling--but it also confirms the stereotype of NPs as incompetent, cut-rate physician substitutes. more...


November 14, 2006 -- Today the New Zealand Herald ran a good story by Cherie Taylor about efforts to address diabetes among the Maori and other indigenous peoples. The piece seems to have been sparked by a comment by an expert at a recent Melbourne conference that "indigenous people could be wiped out by the disease by the end of the century." But the main expert cited in the piece, New Zealand "diabetes nurse and educator" Shona Tolley, disputed that assessment as to the Maori, citing efforts to promote healthier lifestyles. We thank Ms. Taylor and the Daily Post for relying so heavily on a nurse expert, underlining the key role nurses play in addressing such important public health issues. more...

American Academy of Nursing Gives 2006 Media Awards

November 11, 2006 - Tonight the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) presented its 2006 Media Awards at the group's annual ceremony in Miami. The four Media Award winners were: "Critical Care: The Making of an ICU Nurse," an extensive series about Massachusetts General Hospital nurses published in The Boston Globe in October 2005; "13 Weeks," an Internet "reality" show about travel nurses created by Access Nurses; "Kids' Health Matters," a public health publication created by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP); and "Nurse shortage puts school kids at risk," a long article about the school nurse crisis published in USA Today in December 2005. The Globe and USA Today pieces also won Golden Lamp Awards from the Center. The Center congratulates all the winners. more...

Talking Tough

November 10, 2006 -- Today a Colorado ABC television affiliate ran a good report about an annual middle school forum on alcohol abuse and other issues run by local trauma nurses. Scott Harrison's piece on KRDO (Colorado Springs/Pueblo) highlights a community health initiative that is a good example of nurses trying to prevent some of the serious problems they see by addressing root causes. We commend Mr. Harrison and KRDO for this report. more...

"ICUs lack nurses, MDs warn"

November 9, 2006 -- Today The Montreal Gazette published a piece by Aaron Derfel about a group of Montreal physicians publicly protesting a lack of ICU nurses at the city's hospitals. The article indicates that this means fewer ICU beds remain open, patients undergoing elective procedures must wait longer, inexperienced ICU nurses are "overwhelmed," and sometimes patients transferred from the ICU too early deteriorate and must return. The piece might have provided context on the larger nursing shortage, and done more to show that when nurses are short-staffed, the result is worse patient outcomes, including death. Still, this is a good example of physicians speaking out for better nurse staffing. We thank Mr. Derfel and the Gazette for the piece. more...


November 9, 2006 -- Tonight NBC's "ER" included two plotlines in which nurse Sam Taggart came off as a tough, adaptive critical thinker who was well-qualified to handle difficult patients, interns, and attendings. The episode is marred by significant missteps, which tend to reinforce the idea that nurses are physician subordinates who take their "orders." But in one of the episode's major plotlines, Taggart masterfully manages two personalities of a patient with dissociative identity disorder. She finally persuades the patient's extremely hostile, resistant persona that he should allow a pericardiocentesis, effectively saving the patient's life. The scene in which Taggart does this, however realistic it may be, is one of the best depictions of a nurse's expert psychosocial care that we have ever seen on U.S. network television. The episode, Virgil Williams's "Jigsaw," drew 14.5 million U.S. viewers and it will be seen by millions more around the world. more...

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Digging through crap

November 9, 2006 -- Tonight ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" included a plotline in which the "nurse's job" of "dig[ging] through crap" was used relentlessly as a symbol of professional disaster for the show's smart, ambitious surgical interns. Intern Cristina Yang spends most of the episode sifting through the stool of a boy who has swallowed Monopoly pieces. This is presented as a brutal punishment from Cristina's chief resident. Intern Izzie Stevens joins Cristina, in a desperate effort to avoid her own mandatory peer counseling. The plotline equates nursing with disgusting, trivial work that no educated, ambitious person would ever want to do (ewww!). Later, nurse Moe pages Cristina when the boy starts vomiting. Cristina quickly diagnoses a perforated bowel and directs the clueless Moe to page the chief resident. Thus, nurses do alert physicians to obvious changes in patient conditions, so the physicians can give life-saving care. Physicians also provide all other important care on the show, though nurses may be present at the edge of the main action, silently doing some little nurse thing. The episode, Mark Wilding's "Where the Boys Are," was seen by 20.6 million viewers in its initial U.S. airing and millions more around the world. more...


November 8, 2006 -- Today The Daily Observer (The Gambia) ran a short item by Sheriff Barry, "Nurses: Critical to health service delivery." The piece is based on remarks by a government health official and others at a "sub-regional workshop" for West African nurses and midwives at the School of Nursing in Banjul. The health official's remarks make two basic points: (1) nurses, though underpaid, are essential to a successful health system, and (2) the region's vulnerable children are not getting the care they need, especially for malnutrition, because health workers lack adequate skill. The piece might have made the link between these points more clear, and also explored whether it was fair to suggest that a lack of health worker skill was really the biggest problem in care delivery, as opposed to severe resource shortages. But the piece is still a helpful reminder of the vital role nurses play in caring for vulnerable populations. more...

Good Sugar

November 6, 2006 -- Today the San Bernadino County Sun ran a good article about nurse practitioner Ruth Tanyi, who has produced and directed a new television series about diabetes. Juliane Ngan's "Nurse take diabetes fight to TV" reports that Tanyi's "Bad Sugar" series aims to educate. With Tanyi as host, speaking with diabetes experts and patients, the show takes a holistic look at the epidemic. It explains how we can avoid or at least control the disease by focusing on lifestyle, including diet, rest, and exercise. The Center gave Tanyi a 2006 Golden Lamp Award for "Bad Sugar," which was to air on KHIZ-TV over 11 weeks from late 2006 through early 2007. more...

The Rookie

November 5, 2006 -- Today The Boston Globe ran a very good piece about George Geary, who spent 18 years as the "successful CEO" of Milton Hospital before resigning--and then attending nursing school. Rich Fahey's article "Man of patients" explores Geary's unusual journey, which at the time of the article finds the former CEO working as a staff nurse on the night shift in the critical care unit of Caritas Carney Hospital. The piece naturally conveys a fair amount of wonder that anyone would pursue this career path. But for the most part it resists easy assumptions about the relative merits of the two jobs. It makes clear that even a hospital CEO who is not a nurse must return to school to become a nurse. And it gives readers some sense of how much the jobs of CEO and direct care nurse have in common, particularly the need for good critical thinking and interpersonal skills. We thank Fahey and the Boston Globe for this article. more...

Uniform -- n. A distinctive outfit identifying those who wear it as part of a specific group, or, esp. for certain traditionally female jobs, as unskilled sex objects. See stereotypes.

November 4, 2006 -- Today the Manila Standard ran a short item by Jaime Pilapil reporting that Philippines Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno had issued a directive barring the use of "the nurse's uniform by waitresses, sauna attendants and even entertainers," in an apparent effort to reduce the harm caused by widespread "naughty nurse" imagery. We agree that the constant flow of images associating nursing with sex inhibits nursing practice, and makes it harder for nurses to get the resources they need, as we noted in recent discussions about the Heart Attack Grill in Arizona. But we can't agree that making such conduct unlawful is the answer, except where it poses a more direct threat to public safety, as where the public would be likely to think that a non-nurse really was a nurse (the problem addressed by protected title statutes). We simply ask people like these business owners and their customers to consider the effects of their commercial actions on nursing. In any case, the Manila Standard item shows how influential the naughty nurse stereotype remains across the world. more...

We want to hear from a nurse

November 2, 2006 -- Recent plotlines of NBC's "ER" have tried to illustrate some of the importance of ED nursing care, and one even included a minor suggestion of the potential effects of short-staffing. The October 19 episode, Joe Sachs, MD's "Ames v. Kovac" (13.5 million U.S. viewers), focuses on a malpractice suit brought against attending Luka Kovac by a patient who suffered left side paralysis after a stroke in the ED. The show makes some effort to show the important role that the care of Chunie Marquez (right) and other nurses played in the patient's experience. However, it gives the impression that Kovac was ultimately responsible, legally and ethically, for all aspects of the patient's care, good or bad. Tonight, in Janine Sherman Barrois's "Heart of the Matter" (13.8 million viewers), a trial jury finds for Kovac. But again, all the focus is on him, and there's no real indication of nursing responsibility. This episode also suggests that nurse Sam Taggart would be qualified to appear on the local TV news on the ED's behalf, but that she would casually pass up a chance to do so because "nobody wants to hear from a nurse." more...

Host the American Journal of Nursing's Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work photography exhibition!

November 2006 -- This traveling exhibit features the winning photographs from a contest created to highlight the importance of nursing and promote nursing as a career. See our 2005 review of this exhibit. Help highlight the value of nursing in your community. The AJN's goal is to exhibit the photographs widely, so it is charging only for shipping, handling, and administrative overhead. (Estimates for US locations: $700 to $1,700.) The duration for hosting the exhibit is from 3-6 weeks. Reservations for hosting are on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information or to apply now!

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