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Our letter to Governor Corzine and US Dept. of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters

This campaign is now closed, but the letter we and supporters sent is below:

Dear Secretary Peters and Governor Corzine:

I urge you to edit your public service announcement in which Governor Corzine urges television viewers to use seat belts, in order to eliminate the ad's erroneous suggestion that physicians provided all important health care to the Governor following his recent car accident. In fact, nurses and other health professionals played essential roles in his care.

In the PSA, Gov. Corzine attributes his survival to "a remarkable team of doctors," "a series of miracles," and a "ventilator" in the ICU where he spent eight days. Corzine ignores the nurses who likely provided most of the skilled care that saved his life. I applaud the effort to increase seat belt use, a vital public health measure. But the ad's failure to credit anyone but physicians actually damages public health, particularly during a critical nursing shortage. Ironically, the ad text includes the word "team," yet it tells the public that one small part of the team is the whole team. In fact, the "team" no doubt included nurses, paramedics, firefighters, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists, radiology technicians and many others.

This distortion is especially striking for a patient who spent so much time in the ICU, and for an ad that specifically emphasizes the ICU--where elite nurses take the lead 24/7, running thousands of dollars worth of high-tech machinery, managing a complex regimen of medications and other treatments, and monitoring patients for the slightest changes in condition. Corzine mentions the ventilator, but it was nurses who monitored his tolerance to the ventilator. Nurses weaned him off the ventilator and taught him how to breathe without it. Corzine mentions all the blood he lost. Nurses replaced that blood. Nurses constantly monitored his progress, making adjustments, initiating treatments, alerting physicians and others as needed.

Fixing this ad script would not be difficult, although I understand that the ad has been shot and edited. Indeed, it would merely require changing "doctors" to something like "health professionals," or "nurses, physicians, and other professionals."

The abysmal media portrayal of nursing is a key reason for the global nursing shortage. Media including television programming, films, radio, newspapers, and yes, even well-meaning PSA's, have much to do with how society views nursing. Any fair description of how Mr. Corzine's life was saved would have the additional positive effect of encouraging the best and the brightest to become nurses. Yet this ad gives all credit to physicians.

When depictions like your PSA continue unabated decade after decade, nursing is undervalued. When nursing is undervalued, it is underfunded. And this underfunding drives the nursing shortage that is taking lives. For instance, nursing researchers get 0.75% (yes, less than one percent) of the total NIH budget for their work. This starves nursing education. The nursing shortage cannot be resolved without far greater funding for our nursing schools. But U.S. nursing schools turned away 150,000 qualified applicants last year because of lack of faculty, facilities and clinical placement opportunities.

I urge you to consider how you might set the record straight and correct this damaging mistake. Please modify your PSA so that it will help resolve, rather than exacerbate, one of the nation's major health crises.