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July, August and September 2011
News on Nursing in the Media



Cycles of abuse: Examiner on NAPNAP's anti-corporal punishment stance

quote on child abuseSeptember 18, 2011 -- A short but helpful August 25 item by Marianna Klebenov on the website reported that the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) had recently issued an official position statement opposing corporal punishment in homes and schools--another news item highlighting aggressive policy advocacy by a major nursing group on health issues related to current U.S. economic problems. NAPNAP noted that such punishment can lead to escalating levels of violence not only against the punished child, but also by the punished child later in life, as research shows. And sadly, today an Associated Press item reported that a new study published in Pediatrics links higher levels of child abuse, particularly of infants, to the recent recession in the U.S. The AP report, though physician-centric, underlines the importance of NAPNAP's policy position. We commend Ms. Klebenov and the site. And we salute NAPNAP for holistic patient advocacy that shows again that nurses can be strong public health leaders. more...



40 physiciansFall 2011 TV Preview

September 2011 -- Health-related shows in the new U.S. television season are dominated by nearly 40 physician characters, and there appears to be no major nurse character on any prime time broadcast show. Two new shows have different spins on Hollywood's health care portrayals, but neither seems likely to question the industry's view that physicians are everything. A Gifted Man (CBS, premieres Sept. 23) centers on a brash 'n' brilliant neurosurgeon, nothing new there, but the twist is that his ex-wife recently died and her ghost is back to make him a better human being! There's no sign, though, that she'll be imparting any divine wisdom about the value of nursing. Hart of Dixie (CW, Sept. 26) offers not just an awesome pun on the lead character's name, but a romantic comedy-drama about a cute young New York physician who finds herself in a small Southern town--how will she cope? It'll be without recurring nurse characters, anyway. The returning shows also remain virtually nurse-free. ABC's surgeon-worshipping Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 22) still has no significant nurse characters as it starts its eighth season. A few episodes last year did feature hunky nurse Eli, who actually displayed a little skill and briefly stood up to the physicians, but by season's end he was mainly a love interest for attending surgeon Miranda Bailey and no longer did any nursing work on screen. ABC's Private Practice (Sept. 29), a Grey's spinoff, used to have minor nurse character Dell Parker, but it killed him off two seasons ago. Fox's diagnosis-is-everything House (Oct. 3), which is starting its eighth and possibly final season, has still had no significant nurse character, unless you count all the ciphers who say "yes, doctor!" as being essentially one character. ABC's Body of Proof (Sept. 20), about an elite surgeon-turned-medical examiner, returns for a second season with no significant nurse character. Like last year, nurses will not be completely absent from the small screen. The powerful, nurse-focused off-season show Nurse Jackie (Showtime) will return for a fourth season in 2012. And a new 14-part documentary airing on BBC America, 24 Hours in the ER (Sept. 27), profiles nurses and other staff, not just physicians, at London's King's College Hospital. Sadly, the summer show HawthoRNe (TNT) was recently canceled after three seasons; the show had flaws, but it did present a strong, expert nurse executive and regularly showed bright nurses improving patient outcomes. Some non-health-related shows also have minor recurring nurse characters, but we rarely see any strong, expert nurses in clinical settings. So this year the television landscape looks set to remain dominated by the notion that health care is all about smart, commanding physicians, and nurses are little more than low-skilled helpers. more...


Combat Hospital: Commander

Cast, Combat HospitalSeptember 2011 -- ABC's summer drama Combat Hospital is a Canadian show about an international team of military health workers caring for the wounded near the front lines of the Afghan conflict in 2006. The first two episodes, airing in late June, indicate that Combat Hospital has some positive features for nursing. Nurse manager Will Royal holds the military rank of commander, and at times he displays authority and clinical skill. And the show seems almost obsessed with tweaking physician entitlement by making physician characters mop floors! But the show on the whole still perpetuates the same damaging myth that the more realistic Hollywood hospital shows like NBC's ER have:  that physicians are the smart masters of health care and the only health workers worthy of any sustained interest, while nurses may have some skills but are there to assist. The show's five major characters are physicians. Royal is the only significant nurse character, and he is by far the least important among the health professionals. Royal functions as an unusually assertive aide-de-camp. He actually harasses one surgeon for his arrogant, caddish ways. But Royal's own lines also suggest that physicians are automatically in charge of care, no matter how inexperienced they are; he introduces one brand-new trauma physician to "your nurse." Royal's role is not unlike that of Tuck Brody in CBS's Miami Medical (2010). Brody was also a competent, aggressive black male nurse manager who could display real authority, but who was essentially a logistics manager for the trauma physician stars. Here, as there, nurses rarely play a notable role in direct care except to call out vital signs and carry out physician commands. Combat Hospital could be far worse for nursing. But it's unlikely to disrupt the popular narrative that brilliant physicians rule and pragmatic nurses serve. The show was created by Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, Douglas Steinberg, and Daniel Petrie Jr. more...


The Glades: Working as a nurse

Callie CargillGuest review by Marlene Bokholdt, RN, MS

September 2011 -- The Glades is a police television drama on A&E with a nurse, Callie Cargill, in one of the central roles. The main character is Jim Longworth, a Florida police detective who met Callie in the local emergency department when he came in looking for information relating to a case and the surrounding medical issues. Over the course of the summer show, which has just finished its second season, the two characters develop a personal and professional relationship. Jim frequently consults with Callie on an informal basis, hoping to advance the personal relationship as much as the contribution to his work. Callie is a smart, positive character, and the show has at times suggested that nursing has value. Unfortunately, the show has also indicated that nursing is really just a job, not an autonomous profession, and the most notable example may be Callie's ongoing pursuit of a medical degree as a way to better herself, when real nurses are far more likely to pursue graduate education in nursing. more...

 curriculum planning difficulties

Nursing Times publishes Truth leaders' piece on "Do Not Disturb" tabards

September 14, 2011 -- Today, the prominent U.K. nursing journal The Nursing Times published "Do not disturb: undervaluation in progress," an op-ed by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Summers. The piece discussed media reactions to a new program in which nurses at some U.K. hospitals conduct drug rounds wearing tabards (vests) that say "Do Not Disturb" in order to reduce interruptions that can cause medication errors and other potentially dangerous errors. see the piece on the Truth's site or the Nursing Times site...


August 2011 News on Nursing in the Media


Christina saved her life

"HawthoRNe"'s last season

Christina with Nick's momAugust 2011 -- The third and last season of TNT's summer drama HawthoRNe, which featured a tough, expert nursing executive in Richmond (VA), was significantly weaker for nursing than the first two seasons. The last season focused less on clinical themes and more on Christina Hawthorne's personal issues, particularly her love triangle with her husband, surgeon Tom Wakefield, and police detective Nick Renata, who investigated the brutal attack that caused Hawthorne to lose her baby and her job at James River Hospital. There were still a few plotlines showing nursing skill and autonomy, many related to the shifting job descriptions of the main nurse characters. Hawthorne herself provided a range of great care to Renata's dying mother before finally returning as interim COO of the hospital, which affirmed that nurses can lead at high levels. Hawthorne's friend Bobbie Jackson took over as chief nursing officer and generally did well in a job the show portrayed as being mainly about public relations and fundraising, though Bobbie did also organize a health fair and boast to the press of improved nurse staffing ratios. The gifted young nurse Kelly Epson identified and acted courageously to counter a MRSA outbreak, even building an isolation ward, calling the CDC, and defibrillating a patient! But Kelly also moved from pediatrics to the OR in a long, excruciating plotline that reduced her to a silly neophyte begging crusty surgeon Brenda Marshall to hire and mentor her, a damaging misportrayal of nursing autonomy and skill. The tough nurse manager Gail Strummer appeared a few times, at one point giving a strong speech about the violence nurses face on the job. Nurses Candy and Ray were gone, which was fine, as they were weak characters who never added much and at times reinforced nursing stereotypes. A few minor characters simply acted like standard Hollywood nurses, that is, as deferential handmaidens. The show was canceled after the season ended, and in light of its wildly inconsistent treatment of nursing and its struggles with dramatic quality, that may be for the best. But HawthoRNe did present a strong, expert nursing leader and examples of nursing skill to millions of viewers from 2009 to 2011. We thank those responsible. more...


Surviving the Teens: UPI on nursing research and advocacy for teenagers

vaccinatingAugust 2011 -- This month two reports from United Press International (UPI) highlighted the work of nurses in research and advocacy aimed at helping teenagers survive the health challenges of that difficult stage of life. An August 13 item reported that research to be published in the Journal of School Health had shown that Surviving the Teens, a curriculum developed by "suicide prevention expert" Cathy Strunk, significantly reduced rates of attempted suicide. The Cincinnati Children's Hospital nurse's curriculum educates teens about the warning signs of potential suicide and how to get help if needed. And an August 4 report described a recent survey by the National Association of School Nurses and Sanofi Pasteur about the risks of meningitis for those aged 11-17. The study found that 82 percent of children in that age group reported engaging in activities that put them at risk of contracting the disease, though most mothers believe their children are at little risk. The UPI piece notes that school nurses urge teens to get vaccinated, but nearly half of teens have not done so. These unsigned items are short and neither includes much detail or expert comment, but they are eye-catching examples of nurses acting as aggressive public health advocates. We thank all those responsible for these reports. more...


Take Action!

Sexy killer nurse movie Nurse 3D starts filming

Nurse 3D posterAugust 2011 -- In recent weeks various film media have reported that the actress Paz De La Huerta will star in Nurse 3D, a new horror film about a sexy but vengeful nurse who targets "dishonest" men for "severe" punishment. Despite suggestions by executives at the production company Lionsgate that this theme is novel and original, it is really just a variation on the classic naughty nurse stereotype that has become well-established in products including prior horror films and ads, such as the posters used to promote the 2006 release of Lionsgate's own Saw III--posters on which Nurse 3D seems to be based. Such imagery, which we call the "naughty-axe," unites the profession's naughty and battle-axe images into one unsavory package of sex and violence, and so it suggests that nursing is all about mindless feminine extremes, rather than life-saving work for skilled professionals of both genders. We hesitate to criticize media products that we have not seen, but it's hard to see how a film with this basic outline--and a promotional photo of a naked, blood-covered nurse De La Huerta--could avoid harming nursing. The film does not start production until next month, but the creators are clearly aiming to exploit the 3D format to bring viewers violence and sexuality, so it's difficult to see how the film could become less harmful to nursing unless the main character had a different job. Please join us in urging those responsible for Nurse 3D to minimize the nursing element, to show that the main character at least has some health skills, and to make amends for the damage their film will likely cause. more...and please join our letter-writing campaign!


The Nurse Meets the Godfather

Little Fockers posterAugust 2011 -- The popular Fockers comedies explore whether Chicago nurse Gaylord (Greg) Focker can meet the challenges of conventional manhood despite preconceptions about his profession, his name, and his Jewish background, but most of all, despite his father-in-law Jack Byrnes, an intense ex-CIA WASP who is obsessed with testing Greg. Mr. Focker was a bit tentative and klutzy in the original Meet the Parents, but he ultimately responded to the male nurse stereotypes that film pushed at him by offering a fairly strong defense of his work. Sadly, the sequel Meet the Fockers associated nursing with friendly mediocrity, suggesting that the job was for those with good hearts rather than keen minds. The third installment, Little Fockers, has been derided as a cynical cash-in, or an elaborate joke, for an ever-expanding crew of Hollywood stars. But the film is actually competent and sometimes amusing, and its treatment of nursing is relatively good. Greg again overcomes misunderstandings and small failures to show Jack why he is the right man for Pam and their two kids. But now Greg is a nursing manager who directs a medical-surgical unit, writes articles for the "AMA Journal," and deals with drug reps, including an attractive, articulate nurse who persuades Greg to moonlight by promoting an erectile dysfunction drug to physicians. That nurse, admittedly, is a glib party girl who tries to seduce Greg. Anyway, Greg also displays some clinical expertise, mainly helping Jack with the effects of a heart condition, though the clinical scenes also have some frat-boy sexual overtones. The film reminds us about society's preconceptions about men in nursing; the director of a private school assumes that Greg and Jack are life partners partly because Greg is a nurse. But what we end up with is that Greg is a regular guy and a talented health professional who is, yes, prone to comic misadventure. When it comes to Hollywood depictions, men in nursing could do worse. more...


July 2011 News on Nursing in the Media


Take Action!

Whitney CummingsJuly 2011 -- NBC's fall prime time schedule includes a new half-hour sitcom called Whitney, starring comic Whitney Cummings, who has appeared on the E! late night show Chelsea Lately. Whitney seems to be based on Cummings's stand-up themes (a little like the classic Seinfeld). The new show focuses on the lead character's relationship with her boyfriend Alex, and one preview clip finds Whitney seducing Alex with a naughty nurse outfit. This seems to be working out well, until Alex falls while trying to get out of his pants, hits his head on a table, and loses consciousness. They end up in the emergency department, where a standoffish "real" nurse seems to take Whitney for a sex worker and bars her from going back with her injured boyfriend (who soon recovers anyway!). We could interpret the plotline as a rejection of the naughty nurse and even an implication that the image threatens public health. Whitney's outfit sets in motion events that hurt Alex and impair her ability to be with him, and the "real" nurse expresses contempt for Whitney. But we think the message that will stay with most viewers of this show is that the attractive Cummings really spends a pretty long time flirting and preening in her revealing "nurse" outfit. The "real" nurse doesn't display any expertise, and to the extent she shows authority, it's more as a petty hospital bureaucrat, barring a loved one from seeing a patient--a common example of the modern battleaxe stereotype. We urge NBC and the show creators to see if they can offer observations on modern romance without using witless nursing stereotypes. more...and please join our letter-writing campaign!


Kicking in: The press on nurses saving lives outside the usual clinical settings

angel heartJuly 17, 2011 -- Recent press reports show that nurses saving lives outside of the clinical setting is news, but if there is a physician there, the nurses will likely be presented as the physician's assistants regardless of what actually happened. Today, the Raleigh (NC) area television affiliate WRAL posted a fairly good item by Ken Smith reporting that a nurse driving down a local highway had helped to save the life of a police officer who had been gravely injured when a truck struck his motorcycle. The nurse, who is quoted, reportedly directed others to make tourniquets and made sure the officer's airway remained clear. But news items about another recent save are more problematic. On June 29, the Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME) reported that a man had had a heart attack while attending a lecture about heart problems at a local hospital. Daniel Hartill's piece at least credits not only the cardiologist giving the lecture with saving the man, but also several named nurses in the audience, who--based on the report--seem to have done all of the actual saving, including defibrillation, without much input from the physician. The piece does get extensive quotes from the physician and none from the nurses, and it offers a dumb Charlie's Angels-style photo suggesting that the nurses were the physician's sidekicks. The June 29 MSNBC item based on the incident was not even that subtle, leading with a headline that included the phrase "Maine cardiologist saves the audience member's life," though the piece did at least note that a "team of nurses" was part of the effort. The June 30 National Public Radio item about the incident said that the patient "was surrounded by cardiac nurses who grabbed a defibrillator and saved his life," but the item also claimed that "Dr. Phillips oversaw the rescue." An Associated Press item, which ran in The Washington Post on June 29, credited the cardiologist and the "team of nurses" and even mentioned that a nurse did the defibrillation, though again it quoted only the physician. Perhaps it's natural that the person giving the heart lecture would get more credit than those in the audience, but no piece quotes any of the nurses, and only the local piece even names them. Overall, these reports show how media assumptions work to reinforce the impression that nurses are at best physician assistants. more...


"Why would you pursue that?" Recent efforts to promote nursing careers

Scout Out NursingJuly 10, 2011 -- Recent press items in newspapers large and small have addressed the prospect of nursing careers, shedding light on how far society has -- and has not -- come in its perceptions about the profession. On March 28, the Daily Reflector (Greenville, NC) ran "Scouts zero in on nursing," a good report by Jennifer Swartz about Scout Out Nursing, an interactive program to introduce Scouts to careers in nursing. The program is led by Gina Woody at East Carolina University's College of Nursing in collaboration with the Beta Nu chapter of the nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau. (See a video of the program narrated by Gina Woody). And today, the Sydney Morning Herald published Daniel Lane's "Star nurses new ambitions," which describes Australian Olympic swimmer Alice Mills's training to be a nurse, a career she plans to resume pursuing after the 2012 London Olympics. These two pieces look at nursing careers from different angles, but both touch on the unfortunate gap between the public's understanding of the work, particularly as embodied in popular television shows, and the reality of nursing, which is a demanding profession that requires years of university training but enables practitioners to save and improve lives a wide variety of exciting settings. The Herald report is especially powerful in showing how far "television soap operas" are from conveying the reality of the demanding nursing profession, but the Reflector item has good elements as well, notably 11-year-old Scout Bobbie Kochlin's observation that she is drawn to trauma nursing because it "saves people's lives." We thank all those responsible for these pieces. more...


Saving lives and selling tomatoes

nurses selling tomatoesJuly 6, 2011 -- Two media items appearing today in southern Africa illustrate the tragic conditions nurses face in the region, which is plagued by low salaries, severe understaffing, and the widespread emigration of skilled health care workers. "Zim nurses 'reduced to selling fruit,'" a South Africa Press Association article on the News24 website (Cape Town), reports that nurses in Zimbabwe "have been reduced to selling tomatoes and other fruit to survive due to poor public sector salaries," according to health minister Henry Madzorera. The minister also notes that Zimbabwe has suffered a "debilitating" brain drain of nurses not only to nations like Great Britain, but also to neighboring Botswana. However, on this same day, the Botswana Gazette (Gaborone) ran the strong editorial "Pay the nurse and save lives," which makes clear that Botswana itself faces the same problems. The editorial, relying heavily on Chief Nursing Officer Thandie Kgosiesele, urges the government to find a way to retain and support the nation's health workers. It also gives readers a remarkably good sense of why nurses are important, not just in providing basic custodial care, but also in saving lives, for instance through their close observation of patients. We thank both publications for telling readers about the terrible shortages of resources that nurses face in southern Africa. more...


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