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October, November and December 2010
News on Nursing in the Media



Ask the senior midwife

Sunyani Municipal hospitalDecember 31, 2010 -- Today the Ghana News site posted a short article about birth complications and pre-natal care that relied entirely on expert comment from senior nurse midwives. The unsigned Ghana News Service (GNA) piece focused on the threat that unsafe abortions pose to later pregnancies, as well as the importance of pre-natal care in protecting mothers and newborns. The report does attribute one odd statement to its main midwife source, a comment that her hospital had not seen any infant or maternal mortality in the past year "as doctors responded promptly to emergency cases"--as if nurses themselves did not play a central role in emergency care. On the whole, though, the piece is an unusual and commendable example of media reliance on nursing expertise. more...


Writing the book

Gail Stuart

December 12, 2010 -- Today the Post and Courier (Charleston, SC) ran a short but good article by Renee Dudley about a new mental health nursing curriculum designed by Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) nursing dean Gail Stuart for use in war-torn Liberia. Developed with the support of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, the curriculum will be used to train practicing nurses and nursing students to diagnose and treat conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in a population struggling to recover from widespread atrocities. The piece gives readers a fairly good sense of Stuart's expertise and autonomy, noting that she "literally wrote the textbook on psychiatric nursing." However, the first online reader comment about the piece is telling. After a harsh critique of MUSC psychiatric physicians as dangerous "charlatans," the commenter actually says that it is "odd that a nurse and not a doctor developed this program" and wonders if Stuart "could or should . . . be cited for practicing medicine without a license." The commenter seems unaware that it is nurses who lead the nursing profession, so they are the ones who develop nursing curricula. More broadly, nurses are fully qualified to "diagnose and treat" serious health problems, and as the second commenter explains in response, "preventing nurses from practicing [in accord with the] full scope of [their] training by insisting that physicians are the only ones capable of providing that care is wrong, and the data proves it." We thank Renee Dudley and the Post and Courier for this helpful report on a nursing scholar's contributions to global health. more...


Dr. Oz naughty nurse update!

Global news coverage of Truth campaign results in Oz response that sort of resembles an apology!

Dr. Oz's "nurse"December 6, 2010 -- Today reporter Lynn Elber of the Associated Press covered our campaign to ask Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, to apologize and make amends for a November 4 weight loss segment in which "nurses" "got sexy" and danced with Oz. The AP story quoted Truth director Sandy Summers and American Nurses Association spokeswoman Joan Hurwitz, who called the segment a "sexist caricature of nursing." The story was picked up by 2,200 news organs across the world, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Online Nigeria, the Times of India, New Zealand Yahoo  and the Arabic language Wael El-Ebrashy. Some publications wrote their own pieces; these included The Hartford Courant ("Does your nurse dance/dress provocatively?"), the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Mail, and TV Guide. In a statement released to the AP in response to the story, the show said that Oz "has worked alongside extraordinary nursing professionals throughout his medical career and holds nurses in the highest regard as they save lives and heal patients. Any attempt at humor should never call into question Dr. Oz's utmost respect for the nurses with whom he works and has lauded in other shows." The statement said that the segment "included a costume that was considered offensive to some and we apologize if there were any hurt feelings," and the show promised to "do better in the future." This is progress, though the hedging phrases "considered offensive to some" and "hurt feelings" clearly suggest that the show thinks the nurses who objected are just being too sensitive and that no serious issues are involved here. To our knowledge the show has done nothing to show that it really understands what it did wrong or that Oz intends to address the issue personally or to make amends. For instance, Oz might do something on air to address the poor public understanding of nursing to which his show contributed; he might show specifically how nurses "save lives and heal patients." Apart from the "saving lives" bit, the vague "lauding" on display in Oz's statement means little. But we believe that Oz and his producers do at least understand now that there is some problem with naughty nurse imagery, and that they will hesitate before using it again. We thank those who wrote the hundreds of powerful letters to Dr. Oz in support of the campaign. You made this possible! more...


Right away, Doctor!

OR nurse on phoneNovember 2010 -- Three episodes of ABC's Grey's Anatomy airing this month include plotlines that illustrate the show's occasionally sympathetic but mostly contemptuous portrayal of nursing. The November 18 episode includes a limited but fairly good portrayal of a nurse--as a patient's mother. This nurse is knowledgeable and a strong advocate for her critically ill son. Surprisingly, the skilled surgical resident Meredith Grey treats the nurse's views with respect. Popular hospital shows seem willing to present nurses as family members who know and do more than the average person, as in a comparable April 2008 episode of Fox's House in which a patient's wife (a nurse) resuscitated him. But perhaps having expert nurses act as clinical colleagues of the physician characters on a regular basis would be a threat to the natural order. The most popular shows, like Grey's, generally limit nurse characters to holding and fetching objects and saying "yes, doctor!" Meanwhile, the dominant physician characters spend a lot of time doing nursing work. In the November 18 Grey's episode, cupcakes for the nurse who couldn't keep her knees togetherMeredith and fellow resident Alex Karev appear to be the only hospital workers who provide any significant care to the nurse's son--no practicing nurse appears. The episodes airing November 4 and 11 likewise showcase physician nursing, as residents Cristina Yang and Jackson Avery provide skilled monitoring of patients. The obvious effect is that physicians get credit for the work of nurses. And the November 4 episode includes another of the show's occasional naughty nurse insults. In that episode, attending Mark Sloane says that his friend Callie deserves better than "off-brand crap" cupcakes for her bon voyage party because it's not just a "baby shower for some nurse who couldn't keep her knees together." Grey's Anatomy's fleeting efforts to present nurses as sentient beings are admirable, but they are overwhelmed by the show's relentless indications that nurses are low-skilled physician helpers. more...and see the film clips!


You're a nurse, right?

butt grab nurseDecember 2, 2010 -- Today MSNBC ran a short "weird news" item about a common event:  sexual abuse based at least partly on patients' assumption that it's OK if the victim is a nurse. Teresa Masterson's piece tells the story of Joseph Wolf of Allentown, PA, a man who reportedly claimed that the reason he twice grabbed an emergency room nurse's buttocks was to say "thank you" for her care. Of course, this is a creative justification for abuse, but countless nurses have been "thanked" this way throughout their careers. What makes this story more notable is what Wolf apparently told the nurse after grabbing her: "Well, you're a nurse, right?" In other words, it's part of your job to provide sexual services, or at least to endure sexual abuse. Where would people get the idea that nurses are sex toys? Could it be the media, at least to some extent? You know--the same media the produces The Dr. Oz Show, which just last month included a segment featuring naughty "nurses" dancing with Oz as an "attempt at humor" in a segment about losing weight? When a prominent physician like Oz doesn't get it--even his "apology" suggested that he thought the nurses who objected were just too sensitive--what chance does the average patient have to understand these issues? It's as hard to imagine Oz dancing with women in naughty physician or lawyer outfits as it is to imagine a person following up a sexual assault with, "well, you're a physician," or "well, you're a lawyer." We thank MSNBC and other news outlets for reporting on this incident. But we saw no hint in these stories that most nurses experience this kind of abuse, or that not enough is done to address the abuse, to say nothing of the stereotypes that underlie it. more...


November 2010 archives

A terrible thing to waste

Nurse PracitionerNovember 18, 2010 -- Recent press items highlight the ongoing conflicts about the future role of nurses in U.S. health care, particularly whether advanced practice nurses (APRNs) can practice independently of physicians, in light of the extension of health insurance coverage to 32 million more Americans under the new health care reform law. As usual, nurses, scholars, policymakers, and patients seem to welcome the expansion of nurses' scope of practice, while some physician groups claim that the APRNs need physician "supervision," despite the ever-growing body of research indicating that APRN care is at least as good as that of physicians. Today, physician Pauline Chen's "Doctor and Patient" column offered a positive, if somewhat vague, endorsement of the potential contributions of nurses in primary care, in the wake of a new report by the highly regarded Institute of Medicine calling for APRNs to be given the authority to practice independently and nursing education to be standardized. Chen even quotes two nursing leaders! On October 5, in a Kaiser Health News article posted on the MSNBC web site, Andrew Villegas and Mary Agnes Carey provided a more specific account of the IOM report, though unfortunately it quoted no nurses (!) and failed to counter the unsupported safety concerns of the physicians it did quote. On August 3, Katherine Hobson posted an item on the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reporting that yet another study, this one from Health Affairs, had shown that the care of nurse anesthetists presents no greater risk to patients than the care of anesthesiologists. And on April 14, the Associated Press issued a comprehensive and mostly fair article by Carla K. Johnson about recent legislative efforts to expand U.S. APRNs' scope of practice in anticipation of the expansion in health coverage, and the fierce resistance of physician groups trying to protect their turf. We thank those responsible for these pieces, all of which make at least some contribution to the current discussions of APRN practice and U.S. health care reform. more...


Take Action!

Thinking right, thinking bright!

Dr. OzNovember 4, 2010 -- Today the popular daytime television program The Dr. Oz Show offered viewers an amazingly concentrated package of harmful nursing stereotypes, all wrapped up in a short segment about Angel Williams, who lost 200 pounds by dancing. We're all for any safe and effective weight loss strategy. But Williams dressed in a regressive short white nurse's dress, said she was going to "get sexy" and unbuttoned the top of the dress as she prepared to lead Oz in some dancing, and told Oz that she and a group of similarly attired dancers would be "your nurses, we're gonna keep America moving for you." No doubt the show thought it would be fun to present these women as Oz's sexy nurse backup dancers--doesn't every celebrity physician have those? Especially surgeons like Dr. Oz! Unfortunately, this short segment managed to reinforce a slew of stereotypes:  the naughty nurse, the low-skilled physician handmaiden, and the idea that nursing is for females living in a past era. And far from looking uncomfortable about these nursing elements, Oz himself twice referred to the dancers as Williams's "fellow nurses." After Williams told Oz what the "nurses" would do "for" him, Oz responded, "I love it." We don't. Please tell Dr. Oz that nurses are skilled, autonomous health professionals--despite the Oprah protégé's multimedia health empire and his position on the Columbia Medical School faculty, it's not clear that he knows. more... please join our letter-writing campaign! or see our press release.


Attracting more women--and nurses--to politics

Project 2012November 2, 2010 -- As we look forward from today's general election in the U.S., the 2012 Project wants to tell the Truth's members about the Project's non-profit, non-partisan campaign to encourage women in eight target fields - including nursing - to pursue public office in the United States. The Project aims to diversify U.S. policy-making bodies along gender and professional lines. The Project is affiliated with Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, and it is gaining national attention, with recent coverage on CNN American Morning and in the Washington Post. You can also learn more from the 2012 Project's website, The Project's faculty of women who formerly held elective office speak to the impact of serving in public office. The Project's faculty wants to present to women in nursing, including at conferences and meetings. Following presentations, the Project helps connect interested persons to political resources that will help them succeed. If an in-person presentation is not possible, the Project is glad to explore alternatives, including webinars. The Project may also be able to craft an online piece about the impact of nurses serving in public office. The Truth believes that nursing would benefit if more nurses--male and female--assumed positions of influence, because nurse decision-makers would be more likely to understand the importance and current needs of the profession. We urge supporters to consider how the Project might help them help nursing. more...


October 2010 archives

Nurse and Patient

Nurse discharging patientOctober 21, 2010 -- In recent New York Times articles on substantive health care topics, the treatment of nursing ranges from very good to abysmal. At one end of the spectrum is Lesley Alderman's June 20 "Patient Money" piece on discharge planning, which offers some good practical tips for patients but fails to consult a single nurse, even though nurses have been primarily responsible for discharge planning for over a century and still are, at least to the extent under-staffing allows. Alderman discusses the newly created job of "discharge planner," but it's not clear most readers would know that these are often nurses, and the piece manages to leave the impression that discharge planning is something physicians recently invented. Almost as bad is today's "Doctor and Patient" column by Pauline Chen, M.D., which explores problems associated with the use of contact precautions for vulnerable patients. Chen sometimes does a very good job of highlighting nurses' role in care, but this piece shows a disappointing lack of recognition that nurses are the professionals most involved with contact precautions. Chen speaks of "clinicians," but she quotes only physicians, and the word "nurse" does not even appear. Much better is Gardiner Harris's long August 20 report on the dangers posed to hospital patients by look-alike tubes. That piece conveys the central role nurses play in the care involved and even briefly consults a couple nurses, though it focuses mainly on physicians and others involved in relevant U.S. device approval processes. Best of all is Milt Freudenheim's long June 29 piece on geriatric care. That report spends plenty of time on physicians, but it also focuses to a large extent on the roles and views of geriatric care nurses, quoting nurse practitioners and nursing leaders, including pioneering scholars Mary Naylor and Terry Fulmer. On the whole, Times health reporting and commentary still fall way short of giving a fair account of the importance of nursing, but there are good pieces from time to time, and we thank the paper for those. more...


Pride and Prejudice

Veneta MassonOctober 11, 2010 -- Today The Washington Post ran an excellent op-ed by Veneta Masson, the Washington, D.C. nurse practitioner and writer, based on an article she wrote for this month's Health Affairs. Explaining why she no longer gets annual mammograms, Masson discusses the research about the flawed test, finding no evidence that it actually saves lives. And she points to downsides including the severe harm many suffer from unnecessary treatment following false positives. The Post rightly describes Masson as a "nurse practitioner," even though she no longer practices, because nursing is a profession. But a story on the mammogram debate that aired today on National Public Radio's Morning Edition was not so good for nursing. Richard Knox's piece includes a brief statement by Masson, but it refers to her as a "former nurse practitioner." By contrast, it's unusual to hear a reference to a "former physician." In addition, NPR cites Masson only as a "patient" to provide balance for the views of another patient who supports screening but who has no evident health expertise. Then the piece shifts to quotes from "experts," implying that Masson is not one, despite her 20 years as an NP and the fact that her articles discuss the relevant research in some detail. NPR does include as an "expert" a public health physician who chaired the Federal Task Force on Mammograms but who appears to have no professional expertise in oncology. The online version of the NPR story at least mentions Masson's Health Affairs article, but the broadcast does not. We thank Masson and the Post for helping the public understand that nurses are articulate, informed health advocates. more...


Death by disrespect

nurse on telephoneOctober 2010 -- The cover story in this month's Reader's Digest offers a fairly strong look at hospital errors, relying mainly on short personal essays by five health professionals. Three are physicians, and the feature has other physician-centric elements, including the title on the magazine's cover, "Doctors Confess Their Fatal Mistakes." But the final essay is by nurse Sunnie Bell, who gives a powerful account of how a patient died because a physician ignored Bell's warnings. Bell then urges several specific improvements in nurses' working conditions. Her essay vividly illustrates how disrespect for nursing can kill, and it at least suggests the role nurses should play as patient advocates. Another piece, a sad story by a pharmacist who was criminally prosecuted for a deadly error, also shows that physicians are not the only health professionals whose work matters. One of the physician pieces is by Johns Hopkins's Peter Pronovost, a health care errors expert who has become well known for his efforts to promote the use of checklists and other safety measures. Pronovost makes a point, as he often does, to include nursing empowerment as a key element of reform. And a sidebar with short descriptions of some new patient safety ideas includes one about Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, where "WalkRounds" are done by "senior executives," a category that reportedly includes the chief nursing officer! Some publications would have mentioned only the CEO and the chief of medicine. Unfortunately, an essay by University of California San Francisco physician Robert Wachter indicates a distressing lack of awareness of the role nurses play in monitoring patient conditions and in hospital care generally, as the author attributes a failure to detect an impending pulmonary embolism 30 years ago solely to himself (as a second year medical student) and the hierarchy of physicians on duty. On the whole, though, Joe Kita's cover story includes nursing to an extent that is unusual for such an influential publication. We commend him and Reader's Digest. more...


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