Join our Facebook group
Twitter bird

We have had success on our campaign to Patrick Merrell and People magazine!

After we sent our letter and about 3 other people joined us in sending a letter to People magazine, we have had a positive response from both the creator of the crossword puzzle and the Editor-in-Chief of People.

Crossword creator Patrick Merrell responded:

Ms. Summers,

I take these issues very seriously, and I apologize for not properly characterizing the role of a nurse. I won't use such a clue again.

I like your suggestions of "E.R. experts" and "Patient advocates (abbr.)," which would work well in a puzzle. Clues such as "Health care pros," "Hosp. personnel," and the like would also be appropriate.

Writing clues for a crossword is an exact business, striving to succinctly and accurately capture an entry in just a few words. Since many words and phrases go into a crossword, a lot of research is required. I spend hours reading up on various words and terms I've placed in the grid, but I realize now I came up short in this case.

I've also done some additional reading this morning about registered nurses, to hammer home what you've said below.

Again, my sincere apologies for the clue. And I can assure you that I will never use it again in a puzzle I submit to People (I'm a freelance contributor) or to other venues that I write puzzles for.


Patrick Merrell

And People Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle responded:

Dear Sandy Summers,

Thank you for taking time to send the note... We will absolutely run a correction and I will make sure PEOPLE never makes a mistake like that again.



Jess Cagle
Editor in Chief, PEOPLE
Editorial Director, Time Inc Style & Entertainment Group


We are heartened by these responses and thank both Patrick Merrell and Jess Cagle for their apologies and examining our concerns. We are waiting to hear how they will make amends. If you see something published in People about our campaign, or if you see a clue for RNs in a puzzle by Patrick Merrell (or anyone), please let us know at We will post information here when we hear something more. Thank you!


People magazine crossword puzzleFor archive purposes, a copy of our original letter is below:

I am writing about the "puzzler" in your March 14, 2017 issue, which wrongly stated that nurses are "assistants." In Patrick Merrill's crossword, the clue "E.R. assistants (abbr.)" sought the answer "RNS," meaning registered nurses (29 Down). That is a damaging stereotype of nurses, who are autonomous professionals, and I ask you to make amends.

In fact, nurses use their advanced skills to save lives and improve patient outcomes. They do not "assist" physicians, but instead manage their own distinct health science profession, based on university educations provided by nursing scholars.

Research shows that the media has a real effect on health care views and actions. As you know, your magazine has an estimated readership of more than 40 million people. And I am sure you intend those readers to regard the information in your crossword puzzle as accurate.

I urge you to apologize in a future issue and to make amends by offering clues that reflect the true nature of nursing--like "E.R. experts" or "patient advocates."

Thank you.


Get involved in speaking to the media

Also, please see our other campaigns where you can write letters. And most of all, please check out our action page, where you can go to find out how to change the way the media portrays nursing. Thank you!

If you would like to be notified of any more campaigns or news on nursing in the media, please sign up for our free news alerts.


Please support our work

Membership levels start as low as US $9, and when you act now to become a member, as a thanks for joining you will receive free RN patches, a copy of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk or other gifts, depending on the donor level that you choose. Please support our work. We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937


book cover, Saving lives

A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

Save Lives. Be a Nurse. bumper sticker