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News on Nurses in the Media
October 2006 Archives

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October 31, 2006 -- The Arizona media has been covering the Center's efforts to persuade Tempe's Heart Attack Grill to stop using "naughty nurse" waitresses. The Phoenix NBC television affiliate (KPNX) ran a story yesterday, and the ABC affiliate (KNXV) ran one on Oct. 27, with a similar piece appearing in that day's East Valley Tribune. (See the clips, articles and Center press release.) These stories confirm that a key part of the half-dressed female "nurses"' job at the Grill is "role playing": helping diners with "heart attacks," pushing the overfed in wheelchairs, sitting on their laps. But why stop the "fun" there? Grill owner "Dr. Jon" is fully dressed in a lab coat and tie, but why not a skimpy "physician" outfit for him? And how about hospital gowns for Grill customers? Mind the back--it gets a little chilly! Every day can be Hospital Halloween! Meanwhile, Grill supporters have directed angry name-calling and sex-related obscenities at the Center. "Dr. Jon" has threatened to turn a fire hose on any nurse distributing leaflets outside the restaurant. What would Hippocrates say about such aggression? But even if the Grill is just one restaurant having "fun," its imagery is part of a relentless stream from the advertising, entertainment, and hospitality industries that suggests nursing is about hot females bestowing sexual favors. Even humor and fantasy images affect how people act. That's why advertisers spend billions on them. Please let the Grill know that nurses need respect to get the resources it will take to resolve the nursing shortage--and save real heart attack victims. Read our original story, or send our instant letter now! Thank you.

"I, Robot, will empty your bedpan"

October 29, 2006 -- Today the Victoria Times Colonist ran a Canadian Press piece about how advances in robots may change the practice of nursing. The unsigned piece appears to be based mainly on comments from Michael Villeneuve, a researcher with the Canadian Nursing Association. Villeneuve has been studying how technological changes may affect nursing at a time when both the profession and the patient population are aging. He makes some good points, particularly his comment that nurses must actively shape their practices or others will do it for them. Unfortunately, the piece also contains statements that tend to suggest nursing consists of hand-holding and basic custodial tasks. We wish the report could have conveyed what technology can, and cannot, do to help short-staffed nurses with the many nursing tasks that require advanced skills--like assessments conducted while emptying a bedpan. more...

Take Action!
Blood Simple

October 27, 2006 - Today, just before Halloween, Lion's Gate and Twisted Pictures are releasing "Saw III," the third installment in a low-budget but very successful horror movie franchise. Like the two prior films, "Saw III" will be promoted through a real Halloween Blood Drive ("This Halloween, Give 'Til It Hurts"). To that end, Lion's Gate has distributed eye-catching blood drive posters. Unfortunately, the posters feature sexy/scary "naughty nurse" imagery. We commend the film companies for the blood drives, which the film's web site claims collected enough in 2004 and 2005 to save thousands of lives. But we urge the companies to stop promoting that effort with images that degrade the very professionals who use the blood collected to save those lives. Read more and send our instant letter!

"Do they deserve this six-figure salary for what they do?"

October 26, 2006 -- Today The Boston Globe posted a poll on its web site in the wake of a successful nurses' strike at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. The poll appeared in the site's business section. The introductory text said that the strike was about a plan to reduce what were, according to the hospital, "excessively generous" contracts under which the "average nurse...working a 40-hour week makes $107,000 a year." The site then asked if the nurses were "right to strike," and whether "they deserve this six-figure salary for what they do." The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) said that these descriptions of the strike issues and the average nurse pay were inaccurate. The union urged nurses to respond to the "insulting" poll by explaining that they were indeed worth that kind of money for their important work. We think the poll's most basic flaws are that it wrongly assumes that everyone knows "what [these nurses] do," and that it clearly suggests that it's nothing very important or difficult. We doubt the paper would have run such a poll about a "six-figure salary" for a given employer's lawyers, accountants, ad executives, or newspaper editors. But the idea that a nurse would make such a salary evidently suggests to the Globe that our society has its priorities all wrong. more...

Shortage = death

October 23, 2006 -- Today the BBC web site posted a generally good piece about a large new study of English hospitals that links lower nurse staffing to higher patient mortality. "Nurse shortage boosts death rates" reports that patient mortality at hospitals with the worst nurse staffing levels was 26% higher than at hospitals "with more nurses per patient." The study was published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, and it is part of the five-nation International Hospital Outcomes Study. The piece quotes lead researcher Anne Marie Rafferty (though it could have given more detail about this nursing leader), as well as Royal College of Nursing general secretary Beverly Malone. Malone argues that the study shows that cutting nursing posts is dangerous "short-termism." more...

Save the First Dance for You: The Complete Nurse's Guide to Serving Your Profession, Your Patients, and Yourself

October 2006 -- Save the First Dance for You is a how-to manual nurses can use to prevent and cure burnout, helping their patients by helping themselves. Doris Young's new book encourages us to look at the bigger picture of our lives. That new perspective can help us climb up from the bottom of Maslow's pyramid and aim for the top level of self-actualization. In this voyage, we must determine which of our current thinking and behavior patterns hold us back and which move us forward. We learn to assert control over our own lives, instead of simply accepting whatever positions others place us in, especially when they conflict with our own values and principles. The book can serve as a wonderful tool to help us find the strength in each of us, and use it to empower ourselves and our profession. Nurses and their patients need what Doris Young's important book offers. read the full review...


October 20, 2006 --Today Jim Flink, of Kansas City ABC television affiliate KMBC, reported that a local school nurse had been "credited with saving a student's life" by diagnosing a brain aneurysm. The piece highlights school nurses' autonomy and skill. And it shows why they deserve adequate resources, at a time when many face extreme short-staffing despite the increasing number of students who attend with serious health concerns. more...

Abandon hope all ye who seek health care

October 20, 2006 - Today two South African newspapers ran stories describing mistreatment of patients by nurses. In "Nurses ill-treat and victimise HIV/Aids folk," published in The Herald, Nomahlubi Sonjica reports that some nurses at HIV/AIDS clinics shout at patients and disregard confidentiality. And in The Star's "Joburg Hospital: where nurses 'don't care,'" Shaun Smillie describes an abusive nurse who apparently rules an emergency department waiting room "through the use of threats and the muscle of two body guards." Both pieces make a limited effort to seek comment from responsible officials, and the Herald does include a comment that suggests nurses have difficult jobs. But both pieces could have done more to establish context for their reporting, especially the broad assertions in the headlines. Assuming the reports are accurate, why might nurses act this way? Could it relate to workplace conditions? Problems in training? What can be done? Though the reports do underline nurses' role as the first point of contact for many patients, they are clearly a troubling look at the care of the nurses they describe. more...

Dismissible offence

October 17, 2006 - Today The West Australian reported on an effort by Royal Perth Hospital nurse Diane Harrison to publicize "critical bed shortages," and an apparent government move to "silence" her, despite legal protections for such public sector whistleblowers. Anne Calverley's article highlights (but does not discuss) the particular difficulty bedside nurses may face in pushing for sufficient resources. Nurses spend more time with patients than any other health professionals, and patient advocacy is central to their profession, yet nursing has long been associated with unempowered meekness. Ms. Harrison's decidedly unmeek advocacy is apparently linked to overcrowding in her hospital's emergency department. The piece might have explained how such conditions can affect patients and staff. Even so, we thank Ms. Calverley and the West Australian for coverage of these important issues. more...

What every girl should know about nursing

October 15, 2006 - Today The New York Times published an op-ed by Gloria Feldt about women's health pioneer Margaret Sanger. The piece's hook is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum's ongoing restoration at 97 Orchard Street, which shows visitors the harsh lives of early 20th century immigrants, including their high maternal and infant mortality rates. Sanger, then a nurse serving this poor Lower East Side population, began publishing information about birth control--information that was banned as "obscenity." She also opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and went on to found the group that became Planned Parenthood. Feldt, a former president of that group, is hardly objective about Sanger; there is no mention of Sanger's troubling views on eugenics, for instance. But Feldt argues persuasively that the movement for "women's reproductive freedom" that Sanger sparked has been "crucial to American progress," and she portrays Sanger as a tenacious, visionary patient advocate who understood the powerful influence of the media on the health of her society. more...

X Games

October 15, 2006 - A recent print ad campaign for Schick's Quattro Titanium razor featured an injured male skateboarder in a research facility bed. He was surrounded by white-coated researchers--and three naughty "nurses" giving him what the ad accurately calls "more intensive care." Schick, which sponsors the X Games, placed the ad in recent issues of Sports Illustrated. The company also distributed the ad at college bookstores, perhaps as an inspiration to nursing students. John Wergeles, Schick's Group Business Director for Men's Systems, assured us that Schick did not mean to insult nurses. He said the campaign was ending, but promised that Schick would not revive it in the future, which might otherwise occur. Mr. Wergeles also said he would consult us about any future ads that involved "nurses." We thank Schick for its responsiveness to nurses' concerns. read the full review...

Put me in, health coach!

October 12, 2006 - Today The San Diego Union Tribune ran a fair piece by Associated Press science writer Alicia Chang about "health coaches." Insurers increasingly rely on such coaches to help patients with chronic conditions manage their health at home and stay out of the hospital, thereby cutting costs and improving outcomes. The piece barely manages to note that most of the coaches are nurses, so it fails to discuss why nurses are uniquely qualified to play such key patient education and health management roles, which they have long done without the label "health coach." The piece credits a Colorado physician for the specific care "model" it discusses, which may imply that this kind of work is a recent physician innovation. The piece does provide a good quick snapshot of the work of one nurse/health coach. It occurred to us that nurses--whose professional name is so problematic that some have wondered whether it should be changed--could do worse than to be called "health coaches." Of course, "health coach" does not convey the range of nurses' advanced, life-saving skills, nor their central role in bedside care. In any case, we thank Ms. Chang and the above media entities for reporting on health coaches. more...

Hell is other nurses

October 12, 2006 - Recent Dear Abby columns have addressed the problem of new nurse "Susan in St. Louis." In a letter published on August 30, Susan says she "hates her job" and is already "getting ready to change careers," mainly because of "other nurses and the environment." Abby's initial response and letters from other nurses that Abby publishes in a follow-up column today stress the many different options that those with nursing degrees have within nursing and health care generally. Unfortunately, there's nothing about why nurses might (as one nurse says) "eat their young," what might be done to improve the conditions that are driving nurses like Susan from the profession, or how important it is to world health that we find ways to keep them at the bedside saving lives. We thank Abby (Jeanne Phillips--right) and her correspondents for raising these issues in her column, which is widely distributed through the Universal Press Syndicate. more...

Political muscle

October 11, 2006 - Recent press items have underlined the remarkable political influence that the California Nurses Association (CNA) has built in recent years. On September 28, KGO-TV (the Bay Area ABC affiliate) ran Ken Miguel's "Nurses Association Carries Political Clout." The report describes CNA's victories over California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on staffing ratios and other legislative issues, and the union's recent push for the state campaign finance initiative, Proposition 89. Today, The Los Angeles Times' blog "Political Muscle" reported that CNA would run an ad during an upcoming "The Tonight Show"--on which Schwarzenegger was to be a guest--accusing the Governor of failing to rid the state of special interest influence. CNA's use of political and media tools is not what people expect from nurses, but it may be an effective way for nurses to advocate for patients and themselves during this difficult time. more...

Falling without style

October 9, 2006 -- One of the main characters in NBC's new primetime hit "Heroes" is New York City hospice nurse Peter Petrelli. Peter is one of the "ordinary" people who reveal special powers that will help them save the world from an impending crisis. Peter is starting to realize that he can absorb the powers of others; initially, his brother's ability to fly. Sadly, the September 25 series premiere presents hospice nursing as a dead-end job for dreamy, unduly self-sacrificing losers. The episode, "Genesis," was written by show creator Tim Kring and seen by more than 14 million U.S. viewers. It has a couple generic references to Peter's skill as a nurse. But the rest of the show emphasizes the outright contempt Peter's successful family has for hospice nursing, which they say consists of just sitting with the dying. And far from defending his profession, Peter seems to agree. He ultimately vows that he is going to stop living for other people, and now it's his turn to "be somebody." Then he launches himself off a building. So nurses can be heroes...if they can fly! So it is no surprise that in tonight's third episode, Peter--determined to focus full time on his power--quits nursing as if it was a minimum wage temp job, rather than a professional career that requires years of college-level education. more...

Buzz Saw

October 9, 2006 -- Today The Oregonian ran Janet Goetze's profile of Oregon nurse Teri Mills, RN, MS, ANP, and her campaign to create a federal Office of the National Nurse. The National Nurse would undertake public health media campaigns and try to attract more nurses to the profession. The piece, labeled a "Monday Profile," is mostly about Mills. But it also gives information about the progress of National Nurse legislation in Congress, and about the lack of support the initiative has received from the Oregon Nurses Association, whose executive director reportedly suggests the idea won't "produce results." When we first heard of the National Nurse in Ms. Mills's May 2005 op-ed in The New York Times, the idea seemed somewhat unformed. However, the draft legislation seems to present a concrete and realistic proposal that may prove useful to nursing and public health. The Oregonian piece might have included more specifics on the legislation. The bill would give the National Nurse authority to publicize nurses' "distinct role" in health care, and patient safety issues including nursing "staff levels" and "working conditions." On the whole, the article is a good portrait of a tenacious nursing advocate and an innovative idea to improve public health. more...and join the campaign to advocate for the National Nurse!

Who are you?

October 6, 2006 -- Today Newsweek posted a web exclusive by Anne Underwood headlined "'CSI' Nursing." The piece gives a short introduction to forensic nursing, followed by an interview with New Jersey sexual assault forensic nurse Beryl Skog. The "CSI" hook is understandable, though ironic, since that CBS show is among the many Hollywood products that tend to ignore or denigrate the contributions of nurses. In general, Underwood's piece is a thoughtful look at skilled forensic nursing. She gives Skog a good deal of space to explain how she cares for sexual assault victims and gathers vital evidence for criminal prosecutions. We thank Underwood and Newsweek. more...

"Yo! Here's Another No-Brainer Thing We Can Do to End the Nursing Shortage."

October 5, 2006 -- Over the last few weeks, Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky has run at least three strong pieces about safe staffing and overtime disputes at Temple University Hospital. In describing labor negotiations between the hospital and its nurses, Polaneczky argues that nurses should get the staffing levels they need, as well as limits on forced overtime. She says such measures would improve patient safety and address key factors in the nursing shortage, potentially bringing many nurses back to the bedside. In making these points, she explains, using specific examples, how nurses keep patients alive--if they have the time and energy. We commend Polaneczky for keeping the focus on issues that are critical to the wellbeing of bedside nurses and their patients. more...


October 4, 2006 -- Today The New York Times ran a balanced piece by Steven Greenhouse about a National Labor Relations Board ruling taking a more restrictive view of which employees may join unions. "Board Redefines Rules for Union Exemption" explains that the case involved nurses at a Michigan hospital who assigned other nurses, aides, and technicians to particular patients and gave them specific responsibilities. The NLRB majority found that these nurses were "supervisors," ineligible to join unions, since they used "independent judgment" in overseeing other employees and could be held accountable for their work. The NLRB dissenters and labor unions argued that the decision could effectively exclude from union membership millions who had no genuine management authority. In addition to raising issues about where to draw the line between labor and management, the dispute reveals something about how nursing itself is regarded. It may not be easy to see these nurses as "management" in a traditional sense. But we also wonder how much of the strong reaction to the NLRB decision is driven by a sense that the general idea of nurses as "supervisors" is absurd. The dispute also seems to reflect a quandary bedside nursing advocates face. Nurses exercise independent judgment, and many, like those who act as charge nurses, have significant professional authority. This must be better understood if nursing is to get the resources it needs. Yet current law may create incentives to minimize or distort that professional role--as the NLRB dissenters seemed to do by arguing (in Greenhouse's words) that the board's ruling could exclude from unions "a doctor overseeing nurses or a lawyer overseeing a secretary." more...

Fast-track fixes sought

October 4, 2006 -- Today USA Today ran a generally good article by G. Jeffrey MacDonald about the faculty shortage at U.S. nursing schools. The piece is "Nursing schools short on teachers: With care in demand, fast-track fixes sought." Relying on expert comment from several nurses, the article explains some basic aspects of the faculty shortage, including its role in the overall nursing shortage. It also describes some measures being pursued to address the lack of faculty, though it paints too rosy a picture of the likely effects of those measures. The piece also could have provided more context to show why the shortages exist. On the whole, though, the piece gives readers a basic sense of the problem, and we thank those responsible. more...

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Worth Dying For

October 2006 -- We hear that a fine new establishment in Tempe, Arizona, one Heart Attack Grill, has been the subject of complaints by those battleaxes at the Arizona State Board of Nursing. And it's all because the Grill uses scantily dressed "naughty nurse" wait staff to sell burgers and beer! Last month, the real nurses (or "Terrorists & FemiNazis," as the Grill describes them) even got the Arizona attorney general's office to ask the Grill to stop suggesting that its employees are real nurses, in alleged violation of the state's protected title statute. The Center is outraged at this assault on the free speech rights of scrubs-clad Grill owner "Dr. Jon" Basso. But we will explore what those scary Arizona nurses might be getting at, when they aren't busy killing millions of Jews or crashing jets into buildings. The nurses might be upset because the Grill is exploiting nursing's long-standing position as the most sexually-fantasized-about job on the planet. That reinforces stereotypes that discourage practicing and potential nurses (especially men), foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect that weakens nurses' claims to adequate resources. Those stereotypes exacerbate the global nursing shortage, a public health crisis that is killing thousands of people. It would even be killing those whose poor diets help lead to heart attacks, if the link between food and cardiac conditions were not just another silly lie in a world in which, as the Grill says, "insane political correctness stands as a barrier between the average man and his pursuit of happiness." read more and please join our letter-writing campaign!

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