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News on Nurses in the Media
February 2007 Archives



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4. Crossword helper (3 letters)

February 27, 2007 -- Yesterday, The New York Times Crossword Puzzle included the following as the fourth of its "Down" clues: "I.C.U. helpers." We thought: "Hmm. That's not an accurate or sensitive way to describe the skilled physicians who work with the elite nurses who play the central role in keeping critical patients alive. This is the premiere crossword puzzle in the world!" Imagine our shock when we discovered (and today's published solution confirmed) that the "correct" answer was in fact "RNS." OK, we're joking. Of course we knew instantly that the answer involved nurses, and that the Times puzzle's place in the cultural landscape was irrelevant, since ignorance of nursing's true value is endemic in all segments of global society. The puzzle was created by Peter A. Collins, and edited by puzzle superstar Will Shortz. Incidentally, the answer to the clue heading this analysis is "NYT." more...


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The Nursemaid Who Wouldn't Disappear

February 25, 2007 - An item on the front page of the "Jobs" section in today's Washington Post reflected the media's continuing practice of using "nurse" as a shorthand for any female who provides paid care to children. Vickie Elmer's piece repeatedly refers to the Maryland infant caregiver it profiles as a "baby nurse," even though the provider has virtually no health care training. Obviously, as Post representatives pointed out to us, there is a historic association between infant caregiving and the word "nurse," as in "nursemaid." And many caregivers persist in marketing themselves as "baby nurses." We're familiar with the view that if lots of people have done something for a long time, it must be right. But to use "nurse" this way today sends a damaging message about professional nursing at a time of crisis. And it poses risks for those who may rely on the mistaken belief that such caregivers actually are trained nurses, as recent press accounts have made clear. We commend DC nurse Mary Brewster for letting the Post know that it can do better, and we encourage others to give the Post their views. more...


Support group for nurses involved in serious errors

February 21, 2007 -- If you have been involved in a fatal or near-fatal error practicing nursing, consider joining a confidential support group being set up by Wisconsin nurse Julie Thao. Ms. Thao is the nurse who was charged with criminal neglect (a felony) for making a medication error that resulted in a tragic death last year. Ms. Thao, who has expressed a great deal of remorse, pled no contest in December to two misdemeanors for unlawfully obtaining and dispensing a prescription drug, in exchange for prosecutors dropping the felony charge. Now Ms. Thao is interested in helping others involved in serious errors, which are all too common, as Judy Foreman's September 2006 Boston Globe piece on preventable errors shows. Ms. Thao notes:

The depth of grief and devastation following an error such as this is often compounded by a profound sense of blame and shame, especially if others involved reacted in a punitive way. Despite enormous support from friends, family and many within the healthcare field, I am still faced with a sense of being alone, and that only someone who has been through this could truly understand. We need each other! We need to connect, and show each other that we were able to go on, that this is survivable.

Please contact Julie Thao at for more details on the support group. Anonymous participants are welcome. more...


They dare to be do-able

February 13, 2007 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's "House" included something rare: the brief appearance of a nurse character (Wendy) who, though hardly interesting, was a bit more than just a mute servant. Of course, Wendy only enters the plot because she is the current girlfriend of House's underling physician Foreman, not because she has anything to contribute to important health care. That care, as always, is provided entirely by the physician characters. Foreman breaks up with Wendy by telling her he'll make "a few calls" and get her into an elite hospital-based nurse practitioner program in a distant city. This will likely suggest to most viewers that the most prestigious NP preparation is non-degree training in which entry can be had at the whim of physicians, rather than graduate degree programs at major universities with real admissions requirements. The rest of the episode, Matthew V. Lewis's "Insensitive," includes suggestions that nurses are sniping handmaidens or anonymous sexual diversions. And the episode invites its 26 million U.S. viewers to chuckle at that irreverent genius House's suggestion that if a physician friend would just stop annoying him, they could be "ranking nurses in order of do-ability." more...including 8 new film clips. And please join our letter-writing campaign!


Midnight in the Garden of Nurses and Murses

February 2007 -- Five recent episodes of "ER" that chronicle the short ED stint of nurse Ben Parker illustrate the NBC show's sometimes impressive--but still mostly inadequate--portrayal of nursing. "ER" is the only drama now on television to make any real effort to show that nurses are skilled, intelligent, and important to patient care. These episodes, broadcast over the last four months, highlight a strong, competent man in nursing. They also include examples of ED nurses' life-saving skill, patient advocacy and education, especially by tough, expert major nurse character Sam Taggart. But the show's physician-centric structure--after nearly 13 seasons, there is still just one major nurse character--and assumptions mean that each scene with such commendable features will be outweighed by many others suggesting that physicians provide all important care, including key things nurses really do. Notable examples in these episodes include the countless nurse-free patient handoffs from paramedics. Sometimes one scene sends all these messages at once. Showrunner David Zabel and Lisa Zwerling, MD, wrote, together or individually, three of these episodes; Karen Maser and R. Scott Gemmill are each responsible for one of the others. The episodes each drew roughly 11-13 million U.S. viewers.

"Tell Me No Secrets" (November 30, 2006)

"City of Mercy" (December 7, 2006)

"A House Divided" (January 11, 2007)

"Murmurs of the Heart" (February 1, 2007)

"Crisis of Conscience" (February 15, 2007)

See our full "ER" review including 23 film clips...


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"Scrubs," lift us up where we belong

February 1, 2007 -- Tonight NBC's "Scrubs" told millions of viewers that nurses are handmaidens with low-skilled jobs, that physicians supervise nurses and can become nurse managers at will, that nursing is for women so men who do it should be mocked, and that physicians take the lead in skilled patient monitoring, though nurses actually do that. The episode does suggest vaguely that "head nurse" Carla Espinosa is needed. And nurse Laverne Roberts, who has often been presented as a lazy, disagreeable stereotype, takes a more active and realistic role here. But on the whole, Mike Schwartz's "His Story IV" is one of the worst "Scrubs" episodes ever for nursing. more...


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