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January 2007 Archives



The Star-Ledger: "Nurses urge TV dramas: Get real"

January 28, 2007 -- On January 11, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published an excellent piece by Carol Ann Campbell on Hollywood's treatment of nursing. The article is headlined "Nurses urge TV dramas: Get real; Portrayals deceive public, groups say." The substantial piece features extensive comment from nurses (including Truth executive director Sandy Summers) who explain how popular U.S. television dramas regularly show physicians doing important work that nurses really do, while nurses are shown as peripheral subordinates, when they appear at all. As the piece notes, this widespread undervaluation is a factor in the critical nursing shortage. We thank Ms. Campbell and the Star-Ledger for this piece, which stands in stark contrast to a slew of recent articles in the major print media that explore Hollywood's "medical accuracy" but completely ignore nursing. more...


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The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

January 25, 2007 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" includes a short scene in which attending physician Mark Sloane praises nurses as "helpful," "smart," and "already good at their jobs." We give the show credit for trying. But the scene presents Sloane as inflicting seemingly grotesque, trivial nursing tasks on interns Meredith Grey and Alex Karev as a punishment, with no hint that the tasks might be important to patient outcomes--a "Grey's" scenario that is sadly familiar (see examples 1, 2, 3, 4). So the scene suggests that physicians do nursing work, that nurses are helpful physician helpers, that nursing tasks are unpleasant and insignificant, and that nurses are all already good at their jobs because there isn't much to their jobs, in contrast to real professions like medicine, in which people must practice for years to achieve proficiency. The "smart" comment will have little effect given these problems, and given that "Grey's" has spent the last two years telling the world that nurses are disagreeable twits. Indeed, that comment may be the biggest insult of all, because it suggests the show thinks nurses can be mollified with such an unpersuasive pat on the head. The episode, Eric Buchman's "Great Expectations," was seen by 21.5 million viewers in its initial U.S. airing. more...and join our letter-writing campaign!



In response to our item about the January 25, 2007 episode of "Grey's Anatomy," entitled "Great Expectations," a nurse has submitted a great script idea. Our analysis focused on a scene in which attending Mark Sloane punishes two surgical interns by giving them what is presented as the trivial, grotesque task of treating bedsores, suggesting that he's not asking the nurses who would normally do it because he likes them. Please see below for a powerful idea for the scene written by Mandy Mayling, RN. Ms. Mayling envisions what might have happened if Seattle Grace actually had nurse managers. Click here to see the script...


What a tangled webisode we weave

January 2007 -- From November 2005 until March 2006, California travel nurse company Access Nurses posted on a company web site 18 brief "webisodes" of what is apparently the first Internet-based reality show, "13 Weeks." The webisodes spotlight six nurses living in a posh Orange County mansion while working at local community hospitals. The show was ostensibly designed to address the nursing shortage by highlighting how exciting travel nursing can be. Of course, it is clearly a vehicle to promote Access Nurses as well. "13 Weeks" gets points for diversity, for avoiding most nursing stereotypes, and for giving career seekers some sense of what nurses do. However, the show's focus is mainly on the "fun in the sun" aspects of travel nursing. Eight webisodes follow the nurses on outings, including wine tasting, kayaking, and visiting an amusement park, and most of the other episodes include significant non-clinical elements. The work portrayals are cursory and at times troubling--it's not a serious documentary. In the end, viewers are likely to get that some nurses are articulate and committed (and fun-loving!), but not so much that they are clinical experts whose work saves lives every day. And the full-bore endorsement of travel nursing as a solution to the shortage is problematic, given that many feel its rapid growth is more a dangerous symptom of the crisis than a cure. more...


Interaction and intelligence

January 22, 2007 - Today The Scotsman ran Angus Howarth's "Robot nurses could be on the wards in three years, say scientists." The piece reports on a project by European Union-funded scientists, working at universities in the U.K. and Ireland, to develop machines to "perform basic tasks" at hospitals. These include cleaning up spills, guiding visitors around, and perhaps distributing medicines and taking temperatures. The piece isn't so different from many other recent press items that blithely suggest such robots are "nurses," though this one does pack an impressive array of anti-nurse imagery into a small space (e.g., "nursebots," "'mechanised 'angels'"). Unsurprisingly, the piece consults no real nurse; in fact, it's not clear from the piece if even the "engineers and software experts" working on the "IWARD" project have done that. more...


Do as I say...

January 21, 2007 -- Today The Los Angeles Times reprinted a good piece by The Chicago Tribune's E.A. Torriero about efforts to stop smoking on U.S. hospital property--especially smoking by nurses, the preventative health professionals who reportedly smoke at a rate more than five times higher than physicians. The piece is "No smoking: That means you too, Nurse: More hospitals are going smoke-free, but to many workers and patients, it's one less way to ease the tension." The piece might have explored the long-term effects of nurse smoking on the profession and patients, and it might have asked why it is that nurses smoke in such higher numbers than physicians. But on the whole it's a balanced, helpful look at a significant problem. more...


Nurses Find Media Image Needs Intensive Care

January 10, 2007 -- The Center for Nursing Advocacy announces its fourth "Golden Lamp Awards," our annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses. The 2006 list includes a range of media from all over the world. Among the "worst" award recipients were the Nobel Prize-winning Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), Italian political leader Silvio Berlusconi, nurse recruiting campaigner Johnson & Johnson, and hit Hollywood shows including ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "House." "Most of the best depictions of nursing appeared in the print media," said Center Executive Director Sandy Summers, who cited specific pieces in the The Philadelphia Daily News, The New Yorker, and Bangladesh's Daily Star as being among the best. Summers also praised nursing scholars and advocates who had made an impact in the general media, and many companies, including Wynn Las Vegas, drug chain CVS, and ALR Technologies, for promptly modifying damaging images in their products or ads. The Center noted that, as usual, many of the least accurate and most damaging depictions were in the influential television medium. Besides "Grey's Anatomy" and "House," the Center's "worst" list included episodes of NBC's "ER" and "Heroes," and HBO's "The Sopranos." See our press release, or our full or summary versions of the Golden Lamp Awards.


The Producers

January 2007 -- Late this month, a friend of the Center got a phone call from producers/writers from a popular U.S. network prime time TV hospital show. Our friend is a recognized expert in a particular health field, and the producers were calling for a script consult, which she gladly gave them. However, our friend reports that the producers were "SUPER surprised" to learn that she was a nurse, that she had a PhD, and that despite being a nurse, she was one of the leading researchers in this key health field. Our friend took the opportunity to provide a lot of information about nursing and how it might be more accurately integrated into this and other story lines. She even referred the producers to the Center's web site. Their reaction? The show's audience is "interested in doctors not nurses," and there are no plans to have any nurse character handle any of the health activities under discussion. This is the self-reinforcing loop: Hollywood tells its global audience that only physicians matter because that's what the audience expects, and the audience expects that in large part because that's what Hollywood constantly tells it. In fact, the real nursing role is highly dramatic, which is why TV physicians spend so much time doing it. We salute our friend for her advocacy. And we'll be looking for the episode in which her nursing expertise will surface--probably in the words and actions of a physician character. more...


Favourite worst nightmare

January 19, 2007 -- Over the past three days, Boston National Public Radio affiliate WBUR aired an extensive documentary on the nursing shortage called "Nursing a Shortage: Inside Out." Correspondent Rachel Gotbaum's series ran in three nine-minute segments in the mornings. The WBUR web site includes summaries of each segment and two essays by practicing nurses. Overall the series is a very good look at the causes and effects of the shortage as well as possible solutions, with many audio quotes from nursing scholars and executives. The online material also includes an excellent essay by ICU nurse Karen Higgins about the nature and value of her work. The series does not fully address certain aspects of this complex area, such as the profession's gender issues, and at times it seems a little too ready to accept at face value hospital positions on measures like the magnet program. But on the whole, the series is a serious and balanced treatment of a public health crisis, and we commend those responsible. more...

"Is 'Quick' Enough?"

January 16, 2007 -- Today The Washington Post published another in a long line of major media pieces about the growth of retail-based clinics (RBCs), which offer a limited range of health services in places like Target and Wal-Mart. Such clinics are commonly staffed by nurse practitioners (NPs). Organized medicine has argued that RBCs do not provide adequate continuity of care, and that the NPs need physician supervision. This article, by physician Ranit Mishori, actually includes quotes from an NP who defends the model of care. However, her role in the piece seems more due to the fact that she is the manager of operations for the Washington, DC area MinuteClinics; her status as an NP is only revealed in a quote from her well into the piece. For its outside "expert" advice on the NP care at the clinics, the piece relies solely on comment from three named physicians, and physician groups. The piece consults no outside NP experts or nursing groups, and apart from a few of the MinuteClinic NP's comments, tends to suggest that the real issue is what the physicians who provide all important primary care make of this apparent threat to their practices. In fact, studies show that NPs themselves provide comprehensive primary care that is at least as good as that provided by physicians--the choice is not solely between RBCs and physicians. Thus, although this piece is clearly more balanced than some, it undervalues NP care. more...

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