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January, February and March 2013 Archives
News on Nursing in the Media



March 2013 Archives


Angry surgeon; Theresa BrownThe weather in my head

"Washington Post" and "New York Times" on physician anger management

The most common way people give up their power

is by thinking they don't have any.

                        Alice Walker

March 16, 2013 -- This month major press entities ran pieces addressing the ongoing problem of conflicts between nurses and physicians in clinical settings. On March 4, The Washington Post published a long article by Sandra G. Boodman about the growing use of anger management programs to deal with "out-of-control doctors" in hospital environments that are increasingly team-oriented and less tolerant of abuse and tantrums. The piece is good as far as it goes, conveying lots of helpful information about why the abuse happens, programs to address it, and how it can affect patient care. But the focus is overwhelmingly on the perspectives of the physicians themselves, with only one nurse consulted briefly, and there is no real effort to explore what the actual victims of the abuse think or experience. Instead, readers get a long section in which an abusive surgeon provides a slew of reasons/excuses for her conduct, mainly how much she herself suffered in her brutal training. And today, Theresa Brown, RN, posted a well-written blog entry on the New York Times site about the choices nurses face when they disagree with a physician's care plan. Brown briefly discusses how nurses can protect patients in a world in which the nurses have less practical power than physicians--and in Brown's view, a world in which nurses fall below physicians in a "legal, established hierarchy" that must be obeyed. But in fact, nurses do not report to physicians. The two groups practice distinct professions. In hospital settings, they have separate management structures. And nurses are legally and ethically bound not to accede to physician wishes that threaten patients. Of course, Brown is right that nurses who stand up to physicians face risks; they range from bullying to assaults to being fired by nurse managers who fear the physicians' power as revenue generators. But there is no formal "hierarchy" between the professions, just different scopes of practice and a longstanding power disparity. Brown seems to argue that physicians should have final authority over all clinical decisions, possibly because of a view that one type of health professional has to be in charge of everything, an idea that is regressive and untenable in the highly diverse, patient-focused modern health care environment. Brown recommends interprofessional education programs, and we agree that they improve relations between the professions. But simply trying to persuade physicians not to abuse their power, while meekly embracing a subservient professional status, is not enough to protect patients--or nurses. Nurses need collaboration and autonomy.  more...


Truth's hoop dreams come true!

Dallas Mavericks Dancers nursesDallas Mavericks Dancers get over their bad case of loving nurses

March 2013 -- This month the Truth learned that the Dancers for the former NBA champion Dallas Mavericks had decided to stop entertaining fans by dressing in naughty nurse outfits and doing a sexually-oriented dance to the tune of Robert Palmer's "Bad Case of Loving You." The Dancers were doing that in early 2012, and the Truth launched a letter-writing campaign that led to over 200 letters. We explained that the naughty nurse stereotype impedes recruitment of the best and the brightest into the profession (particularly men) and undermines nurses' claims to adequate resources for clinical practice, education, research and residencies. After some time, the manager of the Dancers called us to report that they have ceased using naughty nurse imagery due to our campaign! We thank the Dancers for heeding our request, and we thank our supporters for educating those who degrade nursing. Thank you!

 Nurse Ashleigh Hooters Ad

Hooters's naughty nurse fever now in remission

March 2013 -- Two years ago, the popular restaurant chain Hooters declared March 17 "National Hooky Day," in honor of the start of the U.S. men's college basketball tournament. The company's website and TV ads featured naughty nurse "Ashleigh," who wanted to send you a "Doctor's Note" so you could take the day off work to recover from "Basketball Fever" and enjoy a free appetizer. The Truth launched a campaign that resulted in several hundred letters of protest to Hooters, but the company continue airing the commercials in 2011 and 2012. We continued lobbying by phone and this year, the company did not use "Nurse Ashleigh" to promote basketball coupons for Hooters. Instead, Hooters went back to its standard ads, featuring scantily attired women who were not dressed in nurse outfits. We thank all who helped teach Hooters that selling its products by embracing the naughty nurse stereotype undermines nursing. Thank you!


February 2013 Archives

 We have no news items from February 2013


January 2013 Archives


A Tale of Two Nurses

Early 20th Century nursing on "Downton Abbey"

Sybil nursing on Downton AbbeyJanuary 27, 2013 -- The demise of Lady Sybil in the episode of Downtown Abbey broadcast on PBS tonight in the United States marked the sad end of one of the popular U.K. show's two nurse characters. It's true that the show's third season has really featured no nursing from the independent, idealistic young Sybil or from her senior nursing colleague Isobel Crawley, the crusading (and at times grating) mother of Downton heir Matthew. But in the first two seasons, which followed the Downton household through the First World War, creator Julian Fellowes and the other producers did offer a few notable glimpses of British nursing of the era. These ranged from portrayals of Isobel as a formidable health system organizer with clinical knowledge that in some ways rivaled that of the local physician, on the one hand, to some unfortunate suggestions that nursing amounted to unskilled tending that could be done by any of the Downton females. The show has at least managed to present nursing as an early outside-the-home career option for strong, idealistic women who sought to contribute more broadly to their war-torn societies--and as a harbinger of a more egalitarian world in which women would enjoy more control over their own destinies. It's too bad that, in popular media depictions about our own era, when women can become physicians, we are far less likely to see strong, able female characters choose nursing. more...


The beck and call girlsnurse mouse

"Private Practice" ends as it began, with physicians in command and nurses standing by, awaiting orders

January 22, 2013 -- Several recent episodes of ABC's Private Practice, including tonight's series finale, had a few scenes with strong, smart, articulate labor and delivery nurse Stephanie Kemp. And actress Justina Machado, who seems to have made nurse TV characters a career specialty, brought her usual dignity and likability to the role. We appreciate this rare effort by show creator Shonda Rhimes and the other producers to suggest that nurses are not necessarily idiots and that they can be skilled members of the health care team. However, it could also be argued that the Stephanie character was a last-minute Band-Aid on the gaping wound caused by the show's overall portrayal of nursing during its six-year run. Stephanie's skills appeared to consist almost entirely of anticipating physician needs and acting as an assistant to physicians; she displayed little autonomy and rarely interacted with patients. In this sense, she was not unlike the show's now-deceased Dell Parker character, a nurse midwife who often functioned more as an office manager or receptionist than a health professional. At the same time, the other nurses in these recent episodes were even more extreme versions of the show's usual handmaidens, coming off as clueless and/or terrified mice, meekly obeying physician commands and performing the kind of "wallpaper nurse" tasks seen on Hollywood shows like Grey's Anatomy, House, and ER for decades. By contrast, Stephanie was even worthy of a relationship with hunky heart surgeon Sam Bennett. But that romance followed the same trajectory as nurse-physician relationships on show creator Shonda Rhimes's earlier show Grey's Anatomy. For example, in 2008, Grey's surgeon Derek Shepherd's relationship with nurse Rose ended when he returned to surgeon Meredith Grey, and in 2011, Grey's nurse Eli's relationship with surgeon Miranda Bailey ended with her returning to an ex-flame anesthesiologist (who has since become a surgeon; on Grey's, even non-surgeon physicians are unworthy!). Here, Sam ultimately left Stephanie to return to his ex-wife Naomi, a physician fertility specialist. It seems that a few unusually skilled and feisty nurses deserve some basic respect. But let's not get carried away. On Private Practice, it's a physician's world, and the nurses just live in it. see the full review and film clips from relevant episodes...


She received far more

Nurse Martha Keochareon invites nursing students to study her own dying process

Martha KeochareonJanuary 11, 2013 -- Today the New York Times ran a front-page story by Abby Goodnough about Martha Keochareon, a retired Massachusetts nurse who, while dying at home of pancreatic cancer, invited students from her nursing alma mater to come study her. The piece focuses more on the drama surrounding Keochareon's death and the real-world experience Keochareon offered the students than it does on the importance of nursing skills. Commendably, the report does quote two nurses with expertise in end-of-life care, one from Holyoke Community College (the alma matter) and another from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). But the report fails to specifically identify either one as a nurse. The piece does offer readers a basic sense of what nurses do and how they are educated, with references to college courses and clinical training. In particular, the article briefly highlights how nurses are educated in palliative care, describing an AACN program designed to do that. And the piece refers to the challenges nurses may face in providing adequate pain relief to those who are dying. In fact, even conveying that nurses are educated in colleges at all can seem like an achievement for the elite media, particularly in view of the handmaiden vision that still prevails in many Hollywood products. We thank Abby Goodnough and the New York Times for this prominent and generally helpful story. more...


Living Antisocial

Minnesota NP leads effort to care for teen runaways

Laurel EdinburghJanuary 11, 2013 -- Today Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) aired a report by Laura Yuen about sexual abuse of runaway girls that featured St. Paul nurse practitioner Laurel Edinburgh (right), who helped start an intervention program for the girls. And the MPR website also offers a substantial interview with Edinburgh about her work. Broadcast as part of National Public Radio's All Things Considered program, the main report describes efforts by police, prosecutors, advocates, and nurses to address the problem of sexual exploitation of runaway girls, with a focus on the police who search for missing children. The report spends significant time with Edinburgh, explaining that the nurse practitioner "helped create the beginnings" of the Ramsey County Runaway Intervention Program a decade ago, that her research has shown that the program improves outcomes, and that advocates hope the program can serve as a model for the rest of the state. The piece also notes that Edinburgh devised a set of questions that St. Paul police use to screen runaways for signs of physical and sexual abuse. The interview allows Edinburgh to provide more detail about the runaway problem, how the Program started, and how it might be expanded. We thank Laura Yuen and Minnesota Public Radio for this report, which presents Edinburgh as an innovative and expert health care leader. more...


The mythbuster

Quick clinic NP appears on CBS TV affiliate as health expert!

Anne Pohnert NPJanuary 6, 2013 – Today the Richmond (VA) CBS television affiliate WTVR (Channel 6) ran a short segment in which CVS Minute Clinic nurse practitioner Anne Pohnert debunked common myths about the flu in a friendly exchange with one of the channel's news anchors. The channel conveyed respect for Pohnert as a health expert, identifying her as a nurse practitioner. And Pohnert came off as professional and articulate, explaining in a direct, clear way that you can't get the flu from the flu shot, that there are no serious side effects from the shot, that it's important to get the vaccine every year, and that it's not too late to get the shot this year, particularly since the early incidence of flu suggests it will be a bad year for the disease. The short text matching the online video adds a fifth myth, namely that "natural immunity or living a healthy lifestyle is better than getting immunity from the flu shot"; we assume there was no time to discuss that one on the air. (Speaking of living a healthy lifestyle, recall that the Heart Attack Grill's first spokesman died of the flu at age 29. He weighed 575 pounds.) Pohnert's appearance is remarkable not just because it represents an appearance by a nurse as a health expert on broadcast television--still a rarity even on local affiliates--but because the station makes a point of mentioning that Pohnert practices at CVS Minute Clinics. In the early days of quick clinics, the major players almost seemed to apologize for staffing their clinics with NPs. But the explicit references to CVS here suggest that the company may now actually be promoting its clinics through the expertise of their nurse practitioners, at least in this case. We commend WTVR for this segment. more...


I'm not there

AP seems unaware that any nurses cared for hospitalized Hillary Clinton

Hillary ClintonJanuary 2013 -- Much of the reporting about U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent hospitalization ignored the role nurses surely had in her care and suggested that physicians alone monitored and assessed her condition, tasks in which nursing is in fact critical. For example, an Associated Press report posted on December 31 on Businessweek's website and elsewhere didn't just note that physicians had "discovered" the clot, which is fair, but also said (relying on a statement by Clinton's spokesman) that "doctors" would "monitor" her medication, "continue to assess her condition," and "determine if any further action is required," evidently all by themselves. Nurses were not mentioned, even though they provide the majority of skilled care to hospitalized patients, particularly the skilled 24/7 monitoring and intervention that often means the difference between life and death (granted, providing good nursing care can be challenging in the case of celebrities, who tend to be swarmed by physicians). Many press accounts, when not directly crediting physicians for Clinton's care, adopted passive language in describing it, thereby further suggesting that physicians alone were responsible and further masking the role nurses actually played. Thus, the AP story stated that Clinton was "under observation" and "was being treated with anti-coagulants." This passive voice hides the fact that nurses would be the ones giving her those drugs and carefully monitoring their effects. And as far as we could see, the press consulted only physicians for expert comment--in the AP story that meant neurologists at Georgetown and Duke--when critical care nurses could also provide valuable input on the care and experiences of patients with blood clots. Of course, physicians play a critical role in caring for these patients and the news media should consult them. But the media's failure to tell the public about the critical roles that nurses also play reinforces the damaging misimpression that physicians provide all the health care that matters. The AP article was written by Matthew Lee with AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione. more...



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