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Letter to "ER" from Jackie Campbell

Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN
Anna D. Wolf Chair & Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs
Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing
Baltimore, Maryland

January 26, 2004

Dear Messrs. Parsons, Meyer, Wright, and Gemmill and Ms. Johnson:

We have spent many hours, many letters and much energy in trying to persuade you to remedy the inaccurate and insulting portrayal of nursing on NBC's "ER". Now that you have made Abby a medical student, who is praised for the combination of science and caring that she learned in her nursing education and career but you imply makes her too good for nursing, you need another nursing character and perhaps you could make this one really portray today's nursing. We know you mainly care about medicine and showing stories of physicians but you have always had a nurse character who is one of the major elements of the program. We would love it if you would finally get the nursing profession right. For instance, nurses are more than 50 times as likely to go to graduate school in nursing than to go to medical school. "ER" should stop showing nurses even thinking very hard about going to medical school let alone actually doing so. It would be far more realistic if Abby quit medical school in disgust because she is not encouraged or even allowed to give the kind of care to patients that she knows is beneficial and start a nursing graduate program (there are two in the city of Chicago!) to get her masters or doctoral degree in nursing. Hiring nurse advisors to consult on "ER"'s scripts would go a long way to help you eliminate the inaccuracies that you are continue to perpetuate about the nursing profession.

Other inaccuracies that you continue to show include:

Nurses are not hired, fired or supervised by physicians. Nursing is an autonomous profession and nurses report to nursing managers and directors or vice presidents of nursing. Please depict these managers on your show.

Please stop showing the work that nurses do in real life being done by physician characters on "ER." Physicians deserve credit for the work that they do--but they don't deserve credit for the work that nurses do.

"ER" routinely uses medical students as vehicles for educating the public about medicine--yet it never shows nursing students, clinical nurse specialists or (very rarely) nurse practitioners. "ER" could become a great vehicle for educating the public about nursing if it would depict varying levels of nurses.

We strongly encourage "ER" to hire a nursing advisor to advise on every script. Otherwise, "ER"'s inaccuracies about nursing will surely continue--and continue to contribute to the nursing shortage.

Please be part of the solution to the shortage. Help us improve public understanding of nursing at this critical time.

Thank you,

Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN



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