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The Truth's website is going mobile friendy

Our volunteers need professional IT assistance to make it happen--and your help

Mobile-friendlyNovember 26, 2015 -- Recently our volunteers have been working hard to make our website mobile-friendly. But it has proved to be a monumental challenge, even delaying the release of our news alerts. We ultimately decided that we needed professional IT assistance, and that will take some funding. Would you please help us make this necessary transition, so our educational and advocacy efforts for nursing can keep pace with the modern era? Please click here to help us with a tax deductible year end donation. Thank you very much!


Streetwalking to Welltopia

Dr. Ken on whether nurses are more like prostitutes or work spouses

Clark on Dr. KenOctober 9, 2015 -- In tonight's episode of the new ABC sitcom Dr. Ken, the arrogant lead physician character learned that "his nurse" Clark was also his "friend" and should be treated better. Unfortunately, the plotline also suggested that nurses are low-skilled servants looking for a physician to possess them. In particular, viewers were told that (1) Clark, formerly a "nurse" or "doctor's assistant," had just become a registered nurse by taking his "boards," after studying in an RN program "since last summer"; (2) this transition was like a "streetwalker" becoming an "escort," ha ha, but it would not result in a pay raise; (3) nurses are subordinate work spouses of physicians who essentially belong to the physicians, rather than serving patients under their own practice model; (4) physician abuse of nurses is unfortunate but also kinda funny; and (5) men in nursing do not embody traditional notions of masculinity. The show has yet to suggest that nurses have actual health skills--in contrast to Dr. Ken, who offers a few passing indications of health expertise in each episode. This adds up to toxic stew of nursing stereotypes: the unskilled handmaiden, the angel, the weak male, and even the naughty nurse. In fact, nurses receive at least three years of college-level science education and they use their advanced skills to save lives, often with little or no involvement by physicians. The episode, written by Mary Fitzgerald, loses more points because lead actor and show creator Ken Jeong actually is a physician. We realize the show mocks most of its characters. But please join us in urging Dr. Ken's producers to make amends and to avoid nursing stereotypes, which harm real nurses--and their patients. read more...or please click here right now to sign our petition.



Tribute to nurses on Katie features Diana Mason

Diana Mason and Katie Couric The American NurseJuly 16, 2014 -- Today, Katie Couric spent half of her syndicated daytime talk show Katie on a tribute to nurses that was based mainly on the just-released documentary The American Nurse. Most of the half-hour segment featured interviews with director Carolyn Jones and three of the five nurses profiled in the film. There were heartfelt salutes to nurses from Couric and Jones, and the three nurses were able to deliver some helpful information about nursing, particularly its psychosocial elements. The brief appearance of one of the nurses, a military officer, effectively conveyed that nurses can be health care leaders. It is true that there was also plenty in the segment to reinforce the angel image of nursing, especially in Couric's own comments, which focused on the caring and support aspects of the profession and not much on nurses' scientific education or skill. One bright spot was the appearance in the last five minutes of the nursing scholar and leader Diana Mason, president of the American Academy of Nursing. That portion of the show was presented as advice on what viewers need to know before their next hospital visit, a common way nursing knowledge is portrayed in the mass media, more as a set of practical "tips" or "secrets" than as the kind of scientific expertise physicians provide. But the savvy, articulate Mason used the appearance as a platform to deliver strong policy messages designed to improve public understanding of nursing and to advance the profession itself. She cheerfully hammered away at the need for better nurse staffing and for nurses to be more involved in health care decision-making. Particularly as a result of Mason's appearance, the segment included some helpful information about the tangible value of nursing. We thank all who were responsible. more...and see the video clips!


Man who has a woman's job

Black-ish exploits nursing stereotypes

Black-ish Larry the nurseOctober 8, 2014 -- The new ABC sitcom Black-ish is about a financially successful black family that struggles with its racial identity in a mostly white social environment. Tonight's episode reinforced the tired stereotypes that nurses are low-skilled physician assistants and that men in nursing are doing women's work. The show's mother character, Rainbow Johnson, appears to be an anesthesiologist. In this episode, Rainbow tries to inspire her precocious six-year-old daughter Diane to be a physician by showing her around the hospital where Rainbow practices. She shows her daughter medication administration and monitoring tasks that anesthesiologists do, but that ironically also bear a striking resemblance to things nurses do. Diane is bored with the hospital at first; she is more impressed with her father's job in advertising, which involves Justin Bieber! When Rainbow is paged to the emergency department (ED), she assigns "Nurse Larry" to babysit Diane. Apparently Larry has nothing to do except whatever some physician tells him. He does try to amuse Diane by making a "turkey" from a blown-up medical glove. Diane condescendingly tells him: "I love it, man who has a woman's job!" There is no indication the show finds that comment problematic; we are invited to laugh at it. After Diane effortlessly slips away from poor Nurse Larry, she encounters the real life-and-death work of the ED, which involves a crush of injured patients, including one with a hatchet in his head. The patient dies despite Rainbow's best efforts, and Rainbow fears Diane will be traumatized, but instead she finally falls in love with the idea of being a physician. Yay! Unfortunately this empowerment plotline exploits ugly stereotypes of nurses as passive helpers who are irrelevant to serious health care and of male nurses in particular as sad, emasculated, and useless. The episode was "The Nod," written by Kenya Barris. Please join us in urging the show to make amends and to avoid expressing further contempt for nursing. more...and see the film clips!


I am Nurse Noakes. You do not wish to cross me.

A review of the movie Cloud Atlas

Nurse Noakes, Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas is a cinematic puzzle, with six distinct but cleverly interwoven narratives set in past, present, and future eras. The actors play multiple roles across gender and racial lines in these stories, which seem to highlight humanity's eternal struggle to transcend discord, selfishness, and ignorance. But there are more mundane elements, like the minor, fairly banal nurse character Noakes, a battle-axe at a fake nursing home that actually serves to confine elderly people whose relatives have tired of them. Nurse Noakes resembles Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in her desire to control and torment those under her "care." But Noakes is less subtle and more menacing than Ratched. As played by Hugo Weaving -- acting and dressing in a traditionally female way -- Noakes has no virtues, and she quickly resorts to violence against anyone who gets in her way. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, adapting the novel by David Mitchell, have made an absorbing film full of ambition and invention. Yet the Noakes character is little more than a clich. Based on Ratched and her repressed sexuality, Noakes is even worse, in part because the film seems to link her malevolence to her gender ambiguity. more...and see the film clips!


Mind, body, and spirit

Switched at Birth has strong NP character but still assumes smart people pursue medicine

Daphne, Campbell and Jorge August 2014 -- The third season of the ABC Family drama Switched at Birth included a plotline in which talented high school senior Daphne works at a Kansas City health clinic, where she meets and has flings with both a nurse practitioner (NP) and a medical student. The NP character Jorge displays health care skill, strength, and good judgment. After he explains that he chose nursing for its holistic features, we see him provide expert, autonomous care to clinic patients ranging from a boy with asthma to a young heroin addict in withdrawal. But even though Jorge has a bigger and more impressive clinic role than the medical student, Daphne appears to be heading for a career in medicine. In fact, there is no suggestion, in the many episodes touching on Daphne's future in health care, that she might consider becoming a nurse. Of course, that is the modern entertainment media's default mode for a smart character from a disempowered group (Daphne is deaf) who shows interest in and aptitude for health care. But it's more striking than usual here because of the Jorge character. And it's not just a senior physician who offers Daphne the standard Hollywood endorsement that she will be a great physician some day. Jorge himself tells her that. We do thank the show producers for including Jorge, a skilled and strong Latino man in nursing. And if they can't have Daphne even consider nursing, we urge them to at least be open to more good portrayals of nursing and to avoid suggesting that medicine is the only health profession for able career seekers. The show was created by Lizzy Weiss. more...and see the film clips!


Fall 2015 TV preview!


Support Staff

October 2015 -- The new U.S. prime time television season includes many health-related shows, but almost all follow the physician-centric model. CBS's new Code Black (premiering Sept. 30) focuses on an overwhelmed Los Angeles emergency department (ED). Fall Season 2015 PreviewThe show has one senior nurse character--who brags that he plays "Mama" to physician residents--along with seven major physician characters. NBC will offer a new entry in producer Dick Wolf's "Chicago" franchise, Chicago Med (Nov. 17), which also portrays a busy urban ED. The action-packed show has one seemingly competent nurse character and at least three authoritative physician characters. There are a couple new troubled-physician-genius shows. Fox's Rosewood (Sept. 23) follows a charismatic Miami "private pathologist" who teams with a local police detective to solve crimes. Like TNT's Rizzoli and Isles, this seems to be an odd-couple buddy show with no nurse characters. NBC's Heartbreaker (mid-season) is about a world-class female heart surgeon who must battle people, especially men, who are slow to recognize how awesome she is. There seem to be four major physician characters and one nurse. And ABC's new sitcom Dr. Ken (Oct. 2) is all about Ken Park, a cranky "HMO clinic" physician who is "brilliant" but has no bedside manner. Nurse character Clark reportedly serves as Park's "faithful nurse, confidante and partner-in-crime" and one of his "support staff." Among returning shows, the biggest news is the end this past spring of Showtime's Nurse Jackie, arguably the best showcase for nursing expertise in U.S. prime time history. At least the BBC's powerful Call the Midwife will return in early 2016 for its fifth season, with London nurse-midwives providing expert, autonomous community health care in the 1960s. Outlander (Starz) will return next year with the adventures of nurse Claire Randall among the rebels of 18th-century Scotland, but unfortunately, indications are that Claire will now be a physician, so medicine will likely get credit for her skilled exploits from here on. Also returning, Cinemax's The Knick (Oct. 16) revolves around a pioneering surgeon in the bad old days of early 20th-century New York City; the one nurse character has so far been notable mainly for her co-dependent crush on the drug-addicted surgeon. Back in the present day, we face the return of ABC's endless Grey's Anatomy (Sept. 24) (sexy, brilliant surgeons; handmaiden nurses) and the Hulu sitcom The Mindy Project (Sept. 15) (quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians; stooge nurses). NBC's The Night Shift (2016) will be back with heroic ED physicians and competent but subordinate nurses, mainly a hunky African-American man who does at least display some skill. And HBO's Getting On (late 2015 / early 2016) will return for a final season of comically sad health workers, mainly nurses, flailing at a backwater geriatric care facility. But there is always hope. Please join us in encouraging better portrayals! more... or see detailed information about each show:

New Shows

Code Black (CBS)

Chicago Med (NBC)

Heartbreaker (NBC)

Rosewood (Fox)

Dr. Ken (ABC)

Returning shows

Call the Midwife (BBC)

Outlander (Starz)

Getting On (HBO)

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)

The Mindy Project (Hulu)

The Night Shift (NBC)

The Knick (Cinemax)



Take Action!

With all these shows, we cannot possibly monitor them all on our own. Please watch one or more of the shows and let us know if you see a good or bad portrayal at And please join our letter-writing campaigns to speak out to show creators. There are a mountain of ideas about how you can help transform the way people think about nursing on our Take Action page. We are sure at least one of the activities there will be a good fit for you. If we all work on our little piece of the puzzle, we can build a society that respects nursing in line with its true worth, helping to strengthen the profession so we can deliver a higher quality and quantity of patient care. Thank you!



Uppity nurse wears "doctor's stethoscope"

The View Update #5

Open letter to Kelley Johnson to request that we work together to refute the "just a nurse" concept


The View Update #4

Please actually make amends

Our latest petition and our September 21, 2015 letter to The VIew:

We would like to thank Joy Behar, Michelle Collins, and the producers of The View for the apologies to nurses made on Sept. 18, 2015, following the comments hosts of The View made earlier in the week. Those included the suggestion that nurses do not use "doctor's stethoscopes," a reinforcement of the common image of nurses as nice but low-skilled physician helpers. It was helpful that you also had two nursing professors on air to briefly explain the value of nursing, and their distribution of stethoscopes was funny and appropriate. However, the professors' appearance on the show was too short for them to really be able to explain what nurses do. Also, the show hosts' focus on the emotional side of nursing reinforced the sense that nursing is indeed a nice pursuit but not, shall we say, "a real profession." In particular, it was unfortunate that the nurses did not have a chance to explain or demonstrate how they save lives with their stethoscopes.

And we were disheartened to hear the widespread report that Nicole Arbour had heard Ms. Collins say, off the air: "Yeah, thats not a real profession. They want to be doctors." I realize the show has denied some of the specifics of Arbour's account, but even so, it is critical to refute the content of the reported remarks, because they reinforce the common view that nursing is a lesser subset of medicine whose most ambitious members want to be physicians. Believe us, that is so false. Nursing is a distinct health science. Nurses are autonomous health professionals with their own scope of practice, one that encompasses a holistic and preventive vision of health. The vast majority of nurses who pursue graduate education do so in nursing. Yet the wannabe physician stereotype is often reinforced on television. When people think nursing is a third-rate job full of envious losers, it undermines the professions claims to adequate resources for education, research, clinical practice, and residencies. Decision-makers fail to ensure adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, so nurses are stretched beyond the breaking point. Research shows that leads to many deaths every year.

So it is critical that the public learn that nurses save lives with their advanced skills in monitoring patient health, high-tech therapies, educating and advocating for patients, making critical decisions, and taking bold action to turn around patients in decline. The work can be difficult and frustrating, but it is also thrilling and immensely satisfying. Unfortunately, the Sept. 18 segment did not allow for a comprehensive explanation of how nurses save lives, nor for a sufficient refutation of the media stereotypes about nursing raised that week, specifically the unskilled wannabe, the handmaiden, and the angel. Please make a more in-depth, sustained effort to provide accurate information about nursing and to rebuild your relations with the nursing community. We urge you to have on air nurses who are expert in nursing's media issues and experienced in explaining nursing to the public, for a more comprehensive discussion. You might also create an ongoing weekly segment of your show on nursing. Each week, you could showcase a different nurse with a life-saving story, a health care innovation, or an exciting specialty, like forensic nursing. This will show the public that nurses don't just provide emotional support, but also do vital, scientific work on the cutting edge--work that is worthy of funding. The View can be one of the first daytime shows to highlight nursing and bring real respect to the profession, instead of the misunderstanding and ill will that exists now. We hope you will seize this opportunity to make a positive difference. Thanks for your consideration. Please join us by signing our latest petition!

The View UPDATE 3:

"We apologize"

Kellie Bryant, Larry SlaterSeptember 18, 2015 -- Today The View got a little more serious about its attempts to apologize (see the video clip). Host Joy Behar said "we apologize for our remarks" and host Michelle Collins said "I'm sorry about that." Hosts Raven-Symoné and Whoopi Goldberg were not on stage while the other hosts apologized, so even though they uttered offensive comments on 9/16/15 about nurses being unable to listen and comprehend The View's sophisticated analysis of the Miss America pageant on 9/14/15, they did not appear to apologize for them. Two nursing clinical instructors from NYU, professors Kellie Bryant, RN, DNP and Larry Slater, RN, PhD, were invited to join The View cast for a couple minutes to explain nursing to the world and they did a fairly good job. They just weren't given enough time. There was a bit of the angel stereotype, in part because Michelle Collins asked the nurses to "tell us about the emotional impact" of being a nurse. Drs. Bryant and Slater did hand out stethoscopes to The View's hosts, but sadly were not allotted any time to explain what it is nurses do with these stethoscopes to save lives. We thank Michelle Collins and Joy Behar for their words, and at The Truth About Nursing, we accept your apologies. But we would also like Whoopi Goldberg and Raven Symoné to apologize. In addition, we do not believe The View has yet made amends to nursing and we would like to work with you going forward to try to make that happen. If you are tweeting about this, please send your comments to @WhoopiGoldberg, @ravensymone, @TheView and use #NursesUnite. Thank you!

Five companies pull advertising from The View

September 19, 2015 -- Johnson & Johnson, Eggland’s Best, Party City, Snuggle and McCormick Spice announced that they are going to stop advertising on The View for the time being. It is not clear for how long.

Sandy's letter to The ViewThe View UPDATE 2:

The Truth About Nursing's letter to The View

September 17, 2015 -- Today, after receiving hundreds of signatures on our petition about The View's remarks on Sept. 15, 2015, we called The View's Publicity Director and left a detailed message asking the show apologize for real and also to make amends by helping nurses explain the value of their work to the world. Publicity director Lauri Hogan soon returned our call, asked if we could put that voicemail into writing so she could circulate to her team. We surely did this and you can see our letter here. The next day she sent us a video clip that you can see in Update #3.

The View UPDATE 1:

Nurses are wonderful, but a little slow to understand our suave comic approach

Michelle Collins non-apologySeptember 16, 2015 -- Today the hosts of ABC's The View addressed the controversy surrounding their comments on Miss Colorado (see the video). Unfortunately, they did so with a non-apology apology that condescended to nurses and suggested that the hosts really do know little about nursing. Michelle Collins assured nurses that they are "wonderful," "compassionate," and "funny"; the hosts followed up with suggestions that nurses had taken the comments about Miss Colorado's monologue "out of context" and that nurses just needed to listen better. Joy Behar, who had questioned why Miss Colorado was "wearing a doctor's stethoscope," confessed that she didn't know what she was talking about; she had thought she was watching a beauty pageant and was confused to suddenly see a stethoscope. Behar said she knows nurses use stethoscopes. Behar's comments are a step in the right direction, but she never admitted that the only reasonable interpretation of her stethoscope comment is that she thought nurses don't use them, because physicians do the health work that requires skill. More broadly, Collins' heavy reliance on angel imagery about nurses strongly suggests that the hosts don't know that nurses are science professionals who use their advanced skills--and technology, including the stethoscope--to save lives. Nurses are not just about hearts and hugs. The assumption that they are is exactly what underlies comments like Behar's and what makes them so damaging. As for nurses taking things out of context, that's nonsense. Nurses took Behar's comment for exactly what it was, a statement that physicians use stethoscopes and nurses do not. Perhaps the cast's comments about context mean that their overall intent was not to attack nursing, but simply to mock earnest beauty pageant contestants. But that high-minded goal did not prevent the show from harming nursing--doing things inadvertently may lessen moral responsibility but it does not reduce the potential harm caused--and suggesting that nurses failed to understand what the show was doing simply shows more contempt for them. A real apology would first include an, um, apology, and ideally it would also involve asking experienced nurses on the show to explain what nurses really do for patients. Please sign our petition at


Initial analysis

Michelle Collins non-apologySeptember 14, 2015 -- Today, hosts from the ABC show The View offered some insights about several contestants in last week's Ms. America contest. One was Ms. Colorado, RN Kelley Johnson, who, instead of singing or dancing for the talent portion of the contest, gave a short monologue. Johnson described how, after she had told an Alzheimer's patient that she was "just a nurse" who could not alter his medications or treatments, he had reassured her that her care for him--which included emotional support and holding his hand to quiet night terrors-- had changed his life. She said that his words had reminded her that she was "a life-saver" and would never be "just a nurse." We appreciate Johnson's creative and moving effort to highlight the value of nursing, although it was somewhat angel-oriented and the possible implication that nurses lack the skills to evaluate care plans or have them changed is unfortunate. (See Kelley Johnson's monologue.) Kellie Johnson The View's short take-down of Johnson's presentation included a puzzling comment from co-host Michelle Collins that Johnson's story consisted of "reading her emails out loud," but more notable was co-host Joy Behar's indignant question: "Why is she wearing a doctor's stethoscope around her neck?" (See the clip from The View) In fact, nurses use stethoscopes constantly because they are autonomous, college-educated health professionals who save lives. Thus, there are no "doctor's stethoscopes"; there are only stethoscopes. Perhaps Ms. Behar has never seen a nurse listen for a heart murmur or other cardiac irregularities, or for a signs of congestive heart failure, subcutaneous emphysema, or pneumothorax, among other life-threatening conditions. Certainly, she hasn't seen it much on her network's drama Grey's Anatomy, where nurses tend to be passive minions of heroic physicians. In fact, such stereotypes remain common in the prevailing social and media environment. That leads decision-makers to provide insufficient resources for nursing, as reflected in the endemic understaffing that takes lives worldwide. We applaud the many nurses whose protests about Ms. Behar's comment have already gotten mainstream media coverage. Please post your comments on The View's Facebook page and sign our petition. Ms. Behar and The View owe nurses an apology and the show should correct the inaccurate information on the air, perhaps by inviting nurses on to explain how they save lives with those stolen "doctor's stethoscopes." Please sign our petition at Thank you!


Nurses can turn their ideas into life-saving health care inventions

Introduction - The Importance of Nursing Innovation,
by Sandy Summers, Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing

"Launching Your Idea, Balancing Pain and Gain," by Steve Schmutzer, Co-Founder, Firefly Medical Inc.


Introduction -
InventThe Importance of Nursing Innovation

By Sandy Summers, executive director, The Truth About Nursing

Nurse and inventor Steve Schmutzer recently told me about his invention, the IVEA -- an IV pole / rolling walker / cart to hold the patient's equipment. I was just thrilled that a nurse had created this kind of equipment. Many nurses have great ideas about new technology or practices that would make health care better. But too much of the health care environment is designed by people other than those who actually take care of patients. So I asked Steve to tell us the steps he took in creating the IVEA. Neither I nor the Truth About Nursing have received anything of value for our comments about the IVEA or Steve; we are not endorsing the product. We are simply presenting Steve's story to help other nurses consider how they might move their ideas forward and improve patient care. We hope it helps you. And we're looking forward to your inventions! more...


IVEALaunching Your Idea, Balancing Pain and Gain

By Steve Schmutzer, Co-Founder, Firefly Medical Inc.

So, you've got a great idea for a business. You've thought of a product, something you feel people need but don't have. How do you know? What are you supposed to do? Can you develop it and get it to market? My hope is that this article helps answer those questions and others like them. Raising a successful startup is as much an art as it is a science, so it's not reasonable to seek out prescriptive approaches. If it were simply plug and play, everyone would jump in and be successful. Most entrepreneurs I know had to venture uncomfortably far from traditional bounds and conventional advice in order to achieve success. But if you're a nurse, I believe you have an advantage. more...


Change agents

Two business columns offer very different visions of nursing

Robert J. Szczerba and John GormleySeptember 26, 2014 -- Two pieces by business-oriented columnists that appeared within the last few days present a striking contrast in perspectives about what nurses offer the public. Three days ago Forbes contributor Robert J. Szczerba (left), whose focus is "the intersection of healthcare, technology, and business," published "Looking to Transform Healthcare? - Ask a Nurse." That piece argues that despite nurses' traditional "back seat" role in health care, in recent years it has become clear that nurses can and should assume a leadership role in improving care and reducing costs through innovation. Szczerba cites a national initiative by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to empower nurses as clinical leaders that has prevented pressure ulcers and falls and increased patient mobility, with dramatically better outcomes and lower costs. We thank Szczerba for conveying the merits of nurses' clinical leadership to an influential audience. On the other hand, today the StarPhoenix (Saskatchewan) ran an attack by John Gormley on a nursing union's efforts to persuade the public not to allow tasks traditionally done by registered nurses (RNs) to be performed by licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Gormley, a radio host and lawyer, argues that the "wealthy union" was simply trying to protect its turf. He takes care to note that the nurses he has met have been "highly skilled," but he also observes that "on a vertical axis, physicians, medical residents, nurse practitioners (and one day, physician assistants) are all above the skill sets of a registered nurse," and "for goodness' sake, they're not winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine. They're nurses." The Nobel bit is factually correct, but only because of the kind of uninformed contempt we see in Gormley's piece. In fact, nurses should win Nobel prizes, as we have long argued, and although their skill set overlaps with others, it is unique and second to none. In addition, without commenting on this particular dispute, assigning tasks that RNs should be doing to less qualified colleagues in order to cut costs has been a recent trend, even though higher proportions of RNs mean better patient outcomes and can save money in the end. These two columns both have a business focus, but they reflect very different levels of understanding of nursing. more...


The Samaritans

NBC stations highlight nurses saving lives outside clinical settings

Linda WeissAugust 15, 2014 -- Recent reports on local NBC television news sites illustrate the media's continuing interest in nurses who save lives outside of their usual clinical settings, as well as the media's enduring impulse to reinforce the angel stereotype, even in reports on life-saving skill. On January 10, 2014, the Los Angeles affiliate NBC4 (KNBC) ran a story about a local nurse who had, working with a nurse from Wyoming, reportedly provided successful emergency care to a pilot having a heart attack on a commercial flight from Iowa. Patrick Healy's piece "'Heroic Actions' by SoCal Nurse Save Pilot Mid-Flight," included praise for the nurse's "heroic actions," including a few specifics about her use of health equipment and her "advanced cardiac life support" certification. And it even managed not to call her an "angel." But we can't say that about the stories the Philadelphia affiliate NBC10 (WCAU) ran on August 14 and 15 about a hospice nurse who had reportedly stopped to save a badly injured motorcyclist by the roadside. Maggie Bowers's pieces "Angel on the Highway: Search for Lifesaving Nurse" and "Angels on Highway: Lifesaving Women Found" do include a few specifics about the nurse's work with another female health worker to apply a tourniquet to stop the "river of blood" flowing out of the man's leg. But the headlines of both items insist that the women were "angels." Pieces like these are probably helpful if they simply report on what a nurse has done to save someone in crisis, even though we generally detect a sense of wonder that the nurse was able to do so much without a physician to take over or give commands. Such reports do often consult only physicians for expert health comment, as the Philadelphia item here does. And when the pieces insist on reinforcing stereotypes or include self-defeating quotes from the nurses, such as the common refrain that the nurses' training just "kicked in," we are not sure if they are a net gain. In this case, the Philadelphia piece quotes the heroic nurse as follows: "I don't know why, but I just knew I had to stop the bleeding." Really? Wouldn't almost anyone know why this bleeding had to stop? We thank those at the Los Angeles NBC station for a helpful item, and as for the Philadelphia affiliate, well, thanks for trying. more...


A nursemaid scorned

ABC's Black Box presents the nurse as surgeon-worshipping rebound toy

Black Box castJuly 2014 -- ABC's neurology drama Black Box, which aired its first and only season from April to July 2014, was a fairly standard Hollywood hospital show. It focused on brilliant physicians, with occasional appearances by nurses as handmaidens, romantic playthings, and the Greek Chorus, observing and commenting on the physicians who really mattered. All of the major characters were physicians, starting with lead character Catherine Black, a superstar neurologist who was also secretly bipolar and a glamorous drug abuser. Minor nurse characters were more present than in some comparable shows, and at times they actually spoke and did things. In particular, a nurse named Tinker showed some independent health knowledge and a lack of reverence for physicians in her few brief clinical interactions. But on the whole, the nurses tended to be passive order-takers in clinical scenes, while masterful physicians called the shots, at times needing to educate low-skilled nurses about what was what, even as to the psychosocial issues involved in neurological care. And the most prominent nurse character, Carlotta, was essentially a surgeon-worshipping rebound play toy, in thrall to an awesome neurosurgeon who really loved the lead character Black. That plotline reinforced the idea (common on ABC's Grey's Anatomy) that nurses are adequate short-term romantic objects with whom physicians may dally while waiting to get back with their true peers, other physicians. Carlotta could tell the surgeon was just using her while he could not be with Black, but she still stayed with him--at least until she tattled on Black for illicitly obtaining Oxycodone, ultimately getting Black fired, and showing the resentment of a nursemaid scorned. The show was created by Amy Holden Jones, with Bryan Singer (of Fox's House) as one executive producer. more...


The last word on the daily kindness

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell pays tribute to his nurses

Lawrence O'DonnellJune 23, 2014 -- Tonight MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell included a heartfelt tribute to nurses, as part of a substantial segment about the host's own experiences following a serious vehicle accident. O'Donnell focused on the critical roles nurses played in his recovery after hip surgery. The tribute was moving and it certainly conveyed, in a general way, what O'Donnell called the "extraordinary daily kindness and heroism" of nurses caring for vulnerable patients, motivated by "the goodness of their hearts." It must be said that the tribute was fully consistent with the unskilled angel image of nursing. Indeed, O'Donnell noted that he had tried to tip one of his nurses; the nurse politely declined, citing hospital rules and his own ethics. Nothing in the segment suggested that nurses had expertise or knowledge, in contrast to O'Donnell's description of his surgeon as "brilliant." We appreciate that O'Donnell's tribute reflected a sincere effort to honor nurses and that it did suggest something of the emotional strength nursing requires. But it would have been much better to hear a more balanced statement telling viewers that nurses save lives with their university educations and advanced health skills--skills that include careful monitoring, education, and advocacy for patients after surgery. more...


Oxford University PressOur newest Oxford blog post about angel imagery on Nurses Day and all year

Overcoming the "angel" perception of nursing

July 10, 2015 - Most of us have vaguely positive sentiments about nurses, but at the same time, nursing is plagued by feminine stereotypes that continue to undermine the profession. These double-edged views are never more striking than in efforts to honor nurses, which often rely on emotional “angel” images rather than recognition of nurses’ health skills or tangible contributions to patient outcomes. see the posting...

Also see our Oxford post from October 22, 2014, How Much Are Nurses Worth?


curriculum planning difficultiesNursing professors, in need of curriculum ideas?

Many nursing professors rely on the extensive and varied materials on the Truth's website to help their students engage with critical issues nurses will face in the future, from their public image to key aspects of nursing education, practice, and advocacy. Since 2001, we have explored and analyzed how the global media and society in general has seen the nursing profession. Join your colleagues and use this material to help plan your curriculum! See the full list...



Elmo, so good on vaccines, not so good on nursing

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Elmo, Nurse JaneApril 17, 2015 -- Today, Sesame Street character Elmo and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy teamed up in two public service announcements to promote vaccinations. The 30-second version emphasizes that vaccinations are safe and that they keep us healthy--an urgent message in the wake of the recent measles outbreak. Unfortunately, the three-minute version includes a 30-second interaction with "Nurse Jane," who appears to give Elmo a vaccination. Jane is dressed professionally, with a white coat and stethoscope. But there are many problems. While the spot makes a gentle joke of Murthy's many titles and credentials (we hope the Sesame Street audience is impressed by his "MBA"), the nurse is introduced only as "Nurse Jane"--no surname, no credential, no position. Murthy provides good information about vaccines and germs. But Nurse Jane shows no knowledge of anything except how to give the shot and then apply a little bandage with cute red and white hearts. She utters a total of 17 words. When Elmo asks if the shot Jane is giving will hurt, it is Murthy who answers and deftly distracts Elmo by encouraging him to sing, so Elmo does not even notice the shot--a classic nursing move. Sylvia Trent-AdamsAnd while Murthy is authoritative, friendly, and funny, the Jane character seems amiable but a bit dim, like a low-skilled handmaiden who performs simple tasks while the physician does the patient education and public health policy. In fact, nurses are autonomous, college-educated health experts (with surnames!) whose scope of practice is notable for its focus on public health and patient education. One example is the U.S. Public Health Service's own Chief Nurse Officer, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, RN, PhD. The PSA was produced by the Daily Dot, written by Evan Weiss and Matt Silverman, and directed by Silverman. We have urged the PSA creators and the Department of Health & Human Services to pull the three-minute spot before it further damages nursing--and public health--and then to eliminate the degrading nursing element. Unfortunately, that has not happened. But we remain in discussions with them about working together in the future to create public health media with more positive depictions of nursing. more...and see the video...


Smiling eyesYou can smile with your eyes

Ebola and nursing in the news media

December 2014 -- The Ebola crisis has drawn nurses into the public eye like few recent world events. And in 2014 it sparked a surprising amount of attention from the global news media for nurses as health experts and central players in Ebola care, as well as an upsurge in nurses themselves speaking out in the media. Examples range from a Washington Post op-ed by Emory University Hospital chief nurse Susan Mitchell Grant explaining why her hospital accepted the first U.S. Ebola patients, to first-person accounts in the Guardian by nurses discussing the challenges of caring for Ebola patients in West Africa, to the work of Kaci Hickox, the Maine nurse who has advocated strongly against stigmatizing health workers following her own unnecessary quarantine. On the other hand, many press items have followed the familiar media model, suggesting that physicians are the ones who really matter in Ebola care, consulting only physicians for expert comment, and using "doctors" to encompass the whole health care team. Notable examples include extensive reports about the crisis in West Africa in the New York Times. Many of those pieces do not completely ignore nurses, but do suggest that it is the work and insights of physicians that are really worth hearing about. Some of the most striking physician-centric Ebola images were the photos of Texas nurse Nina Pham's joyful release from a National Institutes of Health hospital in Maryland after she had become infected caring for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. Pham seemed to be surrounded by a large group of physicians, with no nurses in sight. At the end of the year, Time chose "the Ebola fighter" as its "Person of the Year." Although the magazine's long feature focused to a predictably great extent on physicians, it also credited nurses and others, including Liberian school nurse Iris Martor, who spearheaded an effort to identify and contain the disease in her community. And CNN reported on the work of 22-year-old Liberian nursing student Fatu Kekula (right), who single-handedly saved most of her family from Ebola, in part through her own "trash bag method" of infection control. On the whole, while the major media has a long way to go, many 2014 reports did highlight the critical role nurses play in Ebola care. We encourage nurses to make that happen more! See below for our sub headlines on the 15 pieces we analyzed or go straight to the full piece...

Head nurses and top doctors 

The Washington Post runs strong op-ed on treating Ebola patients by Emory chief nurse Susan Mitchell Grant

The field marshal and the burial boys

The New York Times on deputy nurse matron Josephine Finda Sellu, defying the odds in Sierra Leone

Life and death on the frontline

The Guardian (UK) publishes harrowing accounts of three international nurses treating Ebola in West Africa

Nurses want to know

NPR consults nursing leader Diana Mason on Ebola

A litany of damning assertions

The Los Angeles Times on Ebola treatment problems at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas

On the road

Karen Huster's New York Times op-ed on the role of transportation problems in Ebola

Turning the policymaking tables

Theresa Brown's CNN piece on Ebola and increasing awareness of the importance of nursing

Science and compassion will overcome fear

Kaci Hickox on stigmatizing health workers in the Dallas Morning News and the Guardian

Agonizing and abandonment

In this long New York Times report, Ebola care in Liberia seems to be mostly about the expatriate physicians

Welcome to afternoon

In another long New York Times report, Ebola care in Liberia seems to be mostly about the expatriate physicians

Nurse staffing is critical, say esteemed physicians

New York Times highlights "supportive care" for Ebola, but sees no need to consult those who provide it

White coat syndrome

Media messages big and small about which Ebola care givers really matter

The Ebola fighters

Time's "Person of the Year" feature is mostly about physicians, but it does make a point of crediting nurses, including Liberia's Iris Martor

She'll be a great giant of Liberia

CNN on Fatu Kekula and the trash bag method


Leading by listening

Nurses excel in public health efforts

Martha RyanDecember 2014 -- Nurses' roles in handling the global Ebola outbreak drew media attention in the second half of 2014, but during this same period, press reports also showed nurses taking autonomous leadership roles in other efforts to improve public health. On June 24, National Public Radio ran a piece by Sarah Jane Tribble describing the work of Ohio county health department nurse Jacqueline Fletcher to vaccinate patients in response to a measles outbreak in the state's largely unvaccinated Amish community. On December 19, The Huffington Post ran Nico Pitney's profile and interview of Martha Ryan, the San Francisco nurse who founded and directs the Homeless Prenatal Program, which has helped hundreds of women rebuild their lives. On December 29, the Des Moines Register had a short item about efforts to reduce drunk driving during the New Year's Eve period that focused on Sioux City nurse Carla Granstrom, who distributes cocktail napkins discouraging the deadly practice as part of a long-running program based at her hospital. And on December 30, the Sydney Morning Herald posted an item by Stephanie Gardiner about child and family health nurse Sue Colville, who discusses her work to help families manage post-natal depression and the stress of modern parenthood. These reports show nurses practicing in very different settings. But all the reports enhance public understanding that nurses play key roles in developing and implementing health initiatives, sensitively addressing community needs that others may overlook. We thank those responsible. more...


Comic relief

NY Med returns with more heroic surgeons, plus nurses with zany patients

nurseAugust 2014 -- This summer ABC aired the second season of Terence Wrong's documentary series NY Med, which focuses mainly on surgeons and other physicians at several New York City area hospitals. As in the first season in 2012, these eight new episodes mostly follow heroic surgeons and their patients over the course of extended treatment processes. Once again, TV personality and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz lends his star quality to several episodes. The series also features some emergency department (ED) physicians in New York and Newark, showing them to be expert and commanding. Last and least, as in 2012, the series includes occasional segments with three veteran ED nurses. They do, rarely, get chances to display health knowledge and skill, although their interludes are really more about the zany patients they encounter. This time, two of the nurses get a bit more attention when they temporarily become patients themselves, because of a heart condition and a car accident. The third nurse gets fired early on as a result of a social media fail, only to re-appear undaunted later at a different hospital. In contrast to Showtime's Nurse Jackie, a drama that depicts a fictional New York ED, Terence Wrong rarely focuses on nurses and physicians collaborating or interacting about the same patient. It is as if the brief nurse segments are light comic relief that he would not want to clutter the serious, in-depth surgical stories; those tend to ignore any nursing role in the care of profiled patients. If Mr. Wrong makes more shows like this in the future--and he has been at it since Hopkins 24/7 in 2000--we urge him to convey more of the life-saving roles that nurses play in critical care. Thank you. more...


ADVANCE: Truth leaders on improving the Magnet program

Magnet should be a floor -- not a ceiling

June 9, 2015 - Today ADVANCE for Nurses posted a substantial opinion piece by Truth director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Summers about ways to improve the Magnet program, whose goal is to certify hospitals at which nursing is strong. The piece is "The Magnet Program: This nursing process should be a floor, not a ceiling." The authors argue that while Magnet has provided real benefits, it could do more by "improving transparency as to program standards, ensuring adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, creating nurse-led hospitals, moving aggressively to promote safe care models, and promoting the Magnet program itself to the public." We thank ADVANCE for posting our op-ed. See the op-ed here.


What goes up

Nurse Jackie returns for final season

Zoe Nurse JackieApril 5, 2015 - On April 12, one week from now, Nurse Jackie will return for its seventh and final season on Showtime. Over the years, the critically respected show has given its global audience perhaps the strongest depiction of a modern nurse in the history of series television. New York emergency department (ED) nurse Jackie Peyton is expert, fearless, savvy, sensitive, and creative, with a wide array of psychosocial skills. She has even been a great mentor to Zoey Barkow, the gifted protegee who has emerged from Jackie's shadow and may now be poised to assume Jackie's central role in the ED and/or to become a nurse practitioner. That transition may have accelerated because, as many real nurses have complained, on a personal level Jackie is a train wreck. She is a "world class liar" who has struggled with addiction since the beginning, and never more so than at the end of the sixth season. At that point she finally seemed to have alienated almost everyone in her life, and possibly blown the one key relationship she had always managed to preserve--her relationship with nursing. She even made a serious clinical error as a result of her drug use, something the show has not shown enough. Zoey saved the patient. Many real nurses have never been able to get past Jackie's personal flaws. But none of those flaws is a nursing stereotype, and we have always felt that Jackie is a persuasively complex mix of great talents and frailties, as some humans are. Had she been perfect, we would not even be talking about a second season, much less a seventh one. We ourselves have objected to the show's occasional suggestions that hospital nurses report to physicians in the clinical setting, despite the presence of nurse Gloria Akalitus, who seems to have some administrative responsibility for the ED. In any event, we thank those responsible for what the show did well for nursing, especially producers Liz Brixius, Linda Wallem, Caryn Mandabach, Richie Jackson, and Brad Carpenter; nurse advisor Jennifer Cady, RN, BSN; and actors Edie Falco and Merritt Wever. See Nurse Jackie on the Showtime site or our review page...


Little voices

Why every school needs a full-time registered nurse

school nurse 1903May 19, 2014 -- Over the past year, news items have continued to highlight the importance of school nurses to the health and education of U.S. children, often with a focus on reversing the widespread staffing cuts that threaten students. On August 20, 2013, the Associated Press put out a good general overview by Carolyn Thompson. That piece gave readers a sense of how school nurses help ensure that the next generation is healthy enough to learn. It discussed the independence required of school nurses and the great range of duties involved, including annual health screenings, counseling and mental health services, and chronic care for conditions like diabetes and ADHD, ending with a note about pending federal legislation that would help schools get closer to safe nurse-to-student ratios. On October 18, 2013, Salon published a long, powerful piece by Jeff Bryant about cuts in school nurse staffing. In particular, Bryant pointed to the death of Philadelphia 6th-grader Laporshia Massey from an asthma attack, a tragic event that is hardly an outlier. Bryant argued forcefully that the prevailing political environment has often meant a short-sighted focus on adding security guards at the expense of health and social services, resulting in the criminalization of relatively minor student misconduct. And today, Reuters ran an excellent report by Genevra Pittman on a new study in JAMA Pediatrics by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control finding that a Massachusetts program placing RNs in schools had "more than paid for itself by averting medical costs and lost work for parents and teachers." The study authors noted that the actual savings were likely much greater, since averted emergency department visits and hospital admissions were not considered. We thank all those responsible for these pieces, which provide more compelling arguments for ensuring that all schools have nurses available to protect the nation's children. more...


The bedpan ceiling
Laurel Edinburgh

Scholar Linda Shields explains nursing on ABC

February 17, 2014 -- Today Rebecca McLaren published a remarkable article about public understanding of nursing on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Capricornia radio station in Central Queensland. "The bedpan ceiling" seems to be based entirely on input from James Cook University nursing professor Linda Shields (right); the long piece is mostly a series of quotes from her. Shields says that nursing may seem simple to the public, but in fact it is complicated, challenging, and important. She notes that the profession involves decision-making about subtle changes in patient conditions, increasingly complex technology and drug and treatment regimens, and much sicker patient populations than it did years ago, when hospital stays were far longer. Therefore, Shields argues strongly that nursing requires extensive university science education and that calls to return the profession to the days of hospital-based training must be resisted. She assures readers that those were not in fact "good old days," offering scary anecdotes about overcrowding and fatally poor care. Shields also decries the current trend toward reliance on cheaper but low-skilled health care assistants who do not report to nurses and who cannot do the life-saving work nurses do. And she concludes with a brief discussion of nursing stereotypes, including the physician handmaiden and the naughty nurse. Shields focuses on gender stereotyping, arguing that it's vital to attract more men to the profession. We thank Professor Shields and all those responsible for this helpful article. more...

Take Action!

film strip Crazy for YouPretty vacant

Hedley is crazy for a naughty nurse

April 2015 -- The video for the Canadian pop band Hedley's new song "Crazy for You" features an oddly restrained naughty nurse character. "Crazy for You" is on the album Wild Life, although the tune's safe, unremarkable dance-pop might be better described as Mild Life. The song uses insanity as a metaphor for love, which may have been done once or twice before. By itself, the song says nothing about nursing. But the equally clichéd video features the band members as inmates in a prison-like mental health institution, complete with sexy female jailers. These staffers include an attractive young "nurse" who first appears giving out pills to the inmates through their cell doors. She wears a very short white dress, white stockings, high heels, and nurse's cap; the dress has a very low-cut back but a big red cross on the front, with no cleavage visible. After the nurse arrives at the cell of Hedley lead singer Jacob Hoggard and sees how awesome he is, she simply opens the door to his cell. That seems to lead to a magical "jailbreak," with the band and jailer-babes running around with no obvious destination for the rest of the video. The nurse character reappears at the very end, walking away arm in arm with Hoggard. Overall she is pretty tame and even seems a little vacuous. At least her demeanor mostly neutralizes the ghost of Nurse Ratched that might otherwise haunt the video, with its theme of sexually-tinged female oppression in a mental health institution. But any naughty nurse image reinforces the association of nursing and female sexuality that has long undermined the profession. And it's hard to be crazy about that. We urge Hedley to withdraw or edit the video and to make amends to the nursing profession for the damage done. read more...and please sign our petition!


A girl in trouble is a temporary thing

Call the Midwife returns to PBS tonight

Call the Midwife Jenny birthingMarch 29, 2015 -- Tonight the BBC drama Call the Midwife begins airing its fourth season on PBS, as the show enters the 1960s. Last year's third season featured more great scenes of nursing autonomy and skill, and it's worth reviewing those. The show's nurse characters continued to deliver babies and provide a range of effective care in their London neighborhood. Several plotlines in the third season find the midwives struggling mightily to help pregnant women who are in desperate straits, even by the standards of their poor community.They include prison inmates, unwed mothers, and women who face severe mental challenges. This season is the last one for lead character Jenny Lee, who will move on to hospice care. But new major character Patsy Mount is a highly competent and tenacious midwife. In fact, in the sixth episode, Patsy goes well beyond the call of duty to diagnose and treat a case of roundworm that has lain dormant in a World War II veteran for 16 years.And in the season premiere Sister Monica Joan, a veteran midwife with some symptoms of dementia, diagnoses a case of cystic fibrosis that had everyone else stumped. Sometimes, in order to ensure the health of a new baby, the midwives must address critical health issues in family members--which are great examples of nursing's holistic focus. In the seventh episode, Sister Julienne and Cynthia Miller care for a new mother with a post-natal psychosis that makes her paranoid and increasingly unstable. The midwives manage to save the baby from harm, and while the mother ends up in an institution where she gets electroshock therapy, that seems to moves her closer to being reunited with her baby and husband. The season also includes some very dated examples of nurses deferring to physicians--as well as a lot of tobacco smoking by health workers in clinical settings--but we like to think the show is simply presenting those elements as signs of the time rather than endorsing them. We thank show creator Heidi Thomas and her colleagues. more...


All the costumes

Subway's naughty nurse Halloween ad is not so fresh

Subway naughty nurse commercialOctober 2014 -- A new television ad for Subway uses a naughty nurse costume, among others, to encourage U.S. customers to dine at the sandwich chain so as to be able to fit into sexy Halloween costumes. In the ad, a young female office worker urges two colleagues not to eat burgers for lunch, but instead to emulate her Subway choices, because Halloween is coming and they must "stay in shape for all the costumes!" She proceeds to demonstrate, donning a quick series of mostly naughty costumes which she helpfully labels as "attractive nurse . . . spicy Red Riding Hood . . . Viking princess warrior . . . hot devil . . . sassy teacher . . . and foxy fullback!" The nurse outfit isn't the naughtiest ever, but it is a ridiculously short, flimsy dress. Of course, as usual, it's a lighthearted "joke," and there is irony in the ad's presentation of the costumes. But that won't stop viewers from internalizing yet another naughty nurse image, yet another tired fusion of female sexuality with the traditionally female profession of nursing. Decades of these stereotypical images, in the aggregate, contribute to an atmosphere in which decision-makers and the public don't take nursing as seriously as they should, with the result that nurses continue to struggle for adequate resources and respect, and ambitious career seekers of both genders hesitate to choose the profession. We urge Subway to get a little fresher in its advertising. more...and see the commercial...


Disruptive Innovation

Create some street art with Truth posters! It's better than Banksy!

street art March 2015 -- The Truth has some new posters! They mix positive photo images of nurses with common stereotypes, along with short explanations, to help people reconsider their views of nurses. Consider deploying these posters in your clinical setting, on your college campus, around your city or town, or anywhere you think they might create cognitive dissonance. You might even take and post photos of the posters in these settings. For instance, consider placing the monkey poster near something with a biology or science theme, the battle-axe near some conflict-related location, and the naughty nurse near some appropriate venue, like a bar that advertises "penny shots for naughty nurses" (an actual promotion at a Pittsburgh bar in 2008, according to a correspondent).

Please download the posters free of charge by clicking on the links here or to the right. If you wish, send us photos showing where you've hung them at Thank you!!


Could Monkeys Be Nurses? Not What the Media Says I Am Naughty Hooray for Hollywood Battleaxe Angel

Forensic erudition

Strong reviews of the new edition of Saving Lives

March 2015 - Recently the updated second edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk has received reviews in two publications. In January 2015, a review by Glycosmedia editor-in-chief Jim Young praised the book's "forensic erudition," noting that it "is a thought-provoking dissection of the depiction of nurses and nursing in the entertainment industry and media. ... The detailed explanations of what nurses can and must do themselves to more realistically inform their own image will ensure that the book assumes a unique place in the chronology of the evolution of nursing practice in the 21st century." And in December 2014, a review of the book appeared in Doody's Book Reviews. Viterbo University nursing professor Patricia Zander gave the book 3 stars ("very good") and noted that authors Sandy and Harry Summers "document evidence of the relative absence of the profession of nursing in popular media and make a strong case that in those few instances that nurses are portrayed, they are presented erroneously or in an extremely poor light." We thank those responsible for these reviews. Read more about Saving Lives...


Take Action!


Angel of death haunts Fox drama!

November 17, 2014 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's drama Sleepy Hollow featured a strikingly clear example of the angel-of-death image of nursing: The being who was coercing patients to commit suicide at a psychiatric hospital turned out to be the demonic ghost of a real nurse who had been executed in 1959 for having caused the deaths of 21 patients. The ghost-nurse said she was acting to relieve suffering, but her method, a drug cocktail followed by powerful manipulation, was a display of creepy, monstrous evil. Nurse Mama Sleepy HollowThis is not the first time a television drama has adapted the Charles Cullen story -- a prior example is a 2004 episode of the NBC drama Medical Investigation -- but it may be the most explicit use of the angel of mercy / death image. That's partly because of the extreme plot, in which the nurse actually is a supernatural being like an angel, but also because of touches like having the nurse call herself an "angel of mercy." And the episode has no context or positive nurse counterexample. Of course, a few nurse serial killers do exist. But this kind of one-dimensional portrayal reinforces both the angel and battle-axe images. Using the term "angel" tells viewers that nurses should be spiritual beings identifiable by their virtue rather than their health care skills. The contrast between that and murder is what makes the term so powerful. And it is still applied to people like Cullen, even in the news media. At the same time, an angel of death is an extreme battle-axe; even Nurse Ratched herself did not kill dozens of people. At least the Sleepy Hollow nurse did not display the repressed sexuality that often seems to underlie the battle-axe's misdeeds. Maybe she was too busy using telekinesis to slam the show's police characters against walls before they finally managed to banish her with a hex! But as fantastical as such a plotline is, it still reinforces deeply held notions of who nurses are. We urge Hollywood to think carefully before trotting it out again for easy thrills. more...or sign our petition!


"What do nurses really do?"

Oxford blog posts quiz based on Saving Lives

December 26, 2014 - Today Oxford University Press posted a short multiple-choice quiz on the OUP Blog based on the recently published second edition of the book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All At Risk. Of course, no one could give a comprehensive account of a profession like nursing in just 10 questions. But the quiz does offer some helpful information about the key role nurses play in modern health care, with a focus on countering common stereotypes. We thank Oxford for this helpful post! Take the quiz!  


Not your everyday robot

Disney's blockbuster Big Hero 6 features a truly heroic robot "nurse"

BaymaxNovember 2014 -- Disney's blockbuster Big Hero 6 features a truly heroic robot "nurse." Based on a Marvel comic book series and set in the future metropolis of "San Fransokyo," the film focuses on orphaned teen Hiro (yes, pronounced "hero"). Hiro is a brilliant kid who has great potential but seems to be squandering it, until his older brother Tadashi persuades him to seek admission to the local university, where Tadashi and his fellow geeks design ultracool technology to create a better tomorrow. To impress the school, Hiro creates microbots that reconfigure themselves into any shape instantly based on orders from his neuro-transmitter. Unfortunately, right after a triumphant launch event, a terrible fire kills Tadashi and destroys the microbots. Hiro is bereft, but he is not alone. Tadashi has left behind his creation Baymax, an inflatable, cuddly, male-gendered android. Baymax is a "nurse," although he mostly calls himself a "personal health care companion." When it appears that the microbots were not destroyed after all, Baymax joins Hiro and Tadashi's university friends to unravel the mystery.They are an awkward but eager bunch, sort of the Guardians of Silicon Valley, and they are soon engaged in marvelous battles, comic moments, and touching personal discoveries. In the real world, calling robots "nurses" has been a problem because it equates college-educated health professionals with machines that do a few simple tasks, like lifting patients or handing objects to a surgeon. By contrast, Baymax is cognitively advanced, with diverse skills, a vast knowledge of health care, and a persistent holistic focus. He not only provides effective care to Hiro but also uses his problem-solving ability to save the geek team again and again. Granted, Baymax is so benevolent, self-sacrificing, and huggable that he could promote the angel stereotype. In fact, though, his skills, knowledge, and combat exploits--once Hiro upgrades his martial arts capacities--counter any hint of passive virtue. This is a clever, attractive film, although it is yet another male-focused one, and in the Pixar / Marvel era, most of its plot and characters seem familiar. But the idea of a "nurse" robot as action hero does not. more...


Inmate or nurse?

Boys & Girls Club billboards spark debate in Cleveland

Inmate or NurseNovember 2014 -- Since at least September, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland have been running a billboard ad campaign featuring photos of a young African-American nursing student. In one version, she wears blue scrubs and the tag line is: "Inmate? Nurse? Your donation makes the difference." Another version of the ad offers a split photo. In the right half, the woman wears the same blue scrubs, but on the left, she wears an orange prison smock. The tag line: "Inmate, or nurse? You decide." Inmate or NurseThe idea is that viewers can, by supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs, help at-risk youth avoid trouble and ultimately find worthwhile careers. We know that because the Clubs' website makes clear that the ads feature Kinyatta, a real Cleveland youth who overcame a difficult background--with lots of support from the Clubs since early childhood--to become her high school salutatorian and enroll in the nursing program at Hiram College. Thus, it appears that the Clubs intend to present nursing as a career worthy of academically advanced students and a good indicator of a life transformed by effective social programs. However, some nurses have objected, arguing that the ads suggest nursing is one step up from prison, or perhaps that young people at immediate risk of prison--who presumably don't have a lot of good career options--could just become nurses as a last resort, since that work, in the minds of many, doesn't require much education or skill. And unfortunately, the view that nurses lack serious skills does remain widely held. Nursing has been suggested as a good career choice for those on public assistance, former prostitutes, and others deemed to have few options. So there is a risk that some who see the billboards will have the "last resort" interpretation, despite the Clubs' good intentions and the real backstory, which of course does not appear on the billboards. It appears that the Clubs removed at least some of the nurse billboards after pressure from outraged nurses, although we have been told that some of the billboards have recently reappeared. In any case, we and others have urged the Clubs to consider adding billboards with some other non-inmate success stories. Or, if they wish to keep the prison-or-health-care scrubs overlap, they might craft ads with other health professions, like physicians and pharmacists, that do not suffer from an unskilled stereotype. That would clarify that the ads' goal was not to suggest that nursing is one step removed from prison, but instead that it is a world away. more...


Ebola? Bring it on.

Our Baltimore Sun op-ed stresses the critical role of nursing in resolving crisis

Baltimore SunNovember 18, 2014 - Today the Baltimore Sun ran Truth executive director Sandy Summers' op-ed arguing that the United States and other developed nations should offer to bring as many Ebola patients as possible to those nations for treatment as the best way to stem the global outbreak. In particular, Summers argued that because skilled nurses play a central role in Ebola care, the higher ratio of nurses to patients in the developed world was a critical advantage. see the op-ed...


How Much Are Nurses Worth?

Our Oxford blog post on nursing in recent media on Ebola and other issues

gold barsOctober 22, 2014 -- If you ask many people about nurses, they will tell you how caring and kind nurses are. The word “angel” might even appear. Nursing consistently tops the annual Gallup poll comparing the ethics and honesty of different professions. But it’s worth exploring the extent to which society really values nursing. In recent decades, a global nursing shortage has often meant too few nurses to fill open positions, woefully inadequate nurse staffing levels, and not enough funds for nursing education. Many nurses have migrated across the globe, easing shortages in developed nations but exacerbating them in the developed world, where health systems are already under great stress. In a world where funds for health care are limited, nursing does not seem to be getting the love we profess to have for it. more...  


Love! Witchcraft! Cupcakes!

Fall 2014 television overview

Fall overviewOctober 2014 -- The fall U.S. prime time television schedule has several new shows with nurses among the regular characters, although there is a notable trend toward the distant past. Outlander, the Starz series which has now aired half its first season and will resume in April, is based on popular books about a British World War II combat nurse who is transported back in time to 18th-century Scotland. There, she falls in with local rebels, has romantic adventures, and occasionally displays impressive emergency health skills--which are mistaken for witchcraft!There's not much health care, but nurse Claire is smart, tough, and ready for action. Cinemax's The Knick, which ended its first season on October 17, focuses on the exploits of early 20th-century surgeons at a New York hospital. The show's tone is unusually harsh and corruption is everywhere, but it still embraces the traditional view of surgeons as the brash 'n' brilliant heroes of health care. The nurses are peripheral handmaidens; the only one who really seems to emerge from the background is also a lover of the main surgeon character. Both shows will be back for second seasons. Perhaps capturing the Fault in Our Stars Zeitgeist, Fox's new Red Band Society follows a group of seriously ill teens in the pediatric ward at an LA hospital. The show has two nurse characters and one physician, but early episodes are consistent with show ads, which label the characters using stereotypes:  the physician gets "the hot doc," the junior nurse is "nurse cupcake," and the senior nurse is "nurse tough love" (which is at least better than "Scary Bitch," the label for her seen on some LA bus ads). The show's nurses have some psychosocial skill, but otherwise seem to lack health care knowledge. Another unpromising new show is ABC's sitcom Black-ish, which focuses on a successful black family struggling with its racial identity. Mom is an anesthesiologist who wants her gifted 6-year-old daughter Diane to become a physician too, so in an early episode she takes the adorable tyke to work, where Diane tells the useless emergency nurse who is babysitting her that he is a "man with a woman's job." Physician-centric returning shows include ABC's endless Grey's Anatomy (attractive, brilliant surgeons; handmaiden nurses); the Fox sitcom The Mindy Project (quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians; stooge nurses) and the CW's Hart of Dixie (returning mid-season) (smart, attractive small town physician; no nurses). Of course, some returning shows are better for nursing. In spring 2015, Showtime's powerful Nurse Jackie will return for a seventh and final season of clinical expertise and creative patient advocacy. Returning for a fourth season on PBS in 2015 will be the BBC's Call the Midwife, which focuses on skilled, autonomous nurse midwives caring for poor women in 1950's London (admittedly, that show is part of the distant past trend). Channel 4's U.K. documentary 24 Hours in A&E will be back for a seventh season, moving from King's College to St. George's Hospital, but we hope skilled emergency nurses will remain key members of the cast. We're not sure which category HBO's patheticomic Getting On (returning Nov. 9) falls into; the engaging portrayal of modern geriatric care seems to view both nurses and physicians with sad-eyed contempt. On the whole, a few good shows for nursing are hanging on in the midst of the flood of physician-centric television, but we are hoping for more before those veterans have to be, like Jackie . . . getting on. more...

Want a historical look? See our fall TV previews from:

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003


We crave a different kind of buzz

The American Nurse opens nationwide today!

posterMay 8, 2014 -- The American Nurse is a fine feature-length documentary about five nurses from director Carolyn Jones's 2012 book of portraits with the same name. The nurses, three women and two men, work in varied settings: a home health nurse in Appalachia, a prison nurse in Louisiana, a nun at a nursing home in Wisconsin, a military nurse working with veterans in San Diego, and a labor and delivery nurse at Johns Hopkins. The movie consists mainly of commentary from the nurses and footage of them in clinical interactions, particularly end-of-life care. It has a quiet, restrained power, reflecting the evident strength and dignity of the nurses and the moral gravity of their work. Without fanfare, Jones reveals that nurses today do far more for patients than would be expected under the traditional conception of nurses as smiley hand-holders. And the film is extraordinarily good at conveying nursing autonomy, without saying anything about it directly. These nurses come off as strong, committed people who are thinking holistically and making their own decisions; there is no suggestion here that nursing is about following physician orders. The nurses are articulate in describing how they got into the profession, what they do for patients in a basic sense, and what it takes to keep doing it. And the film highlights their psychosocial care, while avoiding the angel stereotype. Sadly, there is far less to show that the nurses have advanced physiological skills and virtually nothing about their nursing educations, although the film does reveal that at least some of the nurses were academically adrift in high school. And despite the diversity of care settings, the film's focus is a bit narrow for one called The American Nurse. These are all direct care nurses. There are no advanced practice nurses, nurse managers, or union activists, and there is little or nothing about nursing research, innovation, or policy leadership, the profession's history or care model, or its recent challenges. It's a collection of personal stories, and no one says much about "nursing." Still, the film is an engaging, affecting look at how modern nurses can improve lives. more...


You can do it another day

CBS's 60 Minutes on the Health Wagon!

Health Wagon AppalachiaApril 6, 2014 -- Tonight a segment on CBS's long-running news show 60 Minutes offered a very good portrait of two nurse practitioners (NPs) who provide vital health care to still-uninsured residents of rural western Virginia from an old Winnebago called "The Health Wagon." Correspondent Scott Pelley explains that many residents of that poverty-stricken part of Appalachia, along with nearly 5 million others nationwide, have fallen between the cracks because they do not earn enough to afford coverage under the Obamacare health exchanges, but they live in one of the 24 states that has refused to expand Medicaid coverage despite federal subsidies. The report focuses mostly on the plight of the poor and uninsured--many of whom work full time--whose lives are at risk because they lack access to care. But the piece also conveys that NPs Teresa Gardner and Paula Meade are skilled and autonomous professionals, showing them examining, counseling, cajoling, and laughing with patients. Pelley notes that "with advanced degrees in nursing, Gardner and Meade are allowed to diagnose illnesses, write prescriptions, order tests and X-rays." And there is no real suggestion that they report to physicians, although the report also briefly profiles the "volunteer medical director" Joe Smitty, who drives a tractor-trailer X-ray lab around. The piece does emphasize how challenging the NPs' work is, particularly in view of the shortage of funds that means the nurses must wrestle with the battered RV (which breaks down at one point) and that they must work into the night writing grant proposals, while worrying about their own futures. One third of the Health Wagon's funds come from federal grants, and the rest are from private donations. But the report avoids the angel image. Toward the end, when Pelley asks if the nurses sometimes feel they can't do it anymore, Meade says yes, but it's the patients' gratitude and reliance on them that reminds them that they have "a purpose." And then, as Gardner adds, "you can do it another day." The report was produced by Henry Schuster and Rachael Kun Morehouse, and we thank all of those responsible. more...


Q: Get a sense of humor!

How could jokes possibly affect the way people think about nursing?

just jokingA: Jokes do affect how we see the world. And few people would accept "just joking" as an excuse for stereotyping of other disempowered groups. Even humor and fantasy images affect people. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Granada (Spain), published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2010, found that men who had listened to a series of "sexist jokes" later displayed more tolerance for violence against women than those who had not listened to the jokes. more...


Chapter Action Ideas

Place FREE Truth About Nursing posters at your school or workplace -- it's good fun and good for you!

I am your RN poster Tell colleagues and patients the truth! Our "I Am Your Registered Nurse" poster presents nurses as autonomous professionals on whom patients can rely. The poster explains that nurses are modern science professionals who protect and advocate for patients and empowers nurses to meet those challenges. Designed for the bedside, the poster comforts patients by educating them about the care environment and assuring them that nurses are there to fend for them.

Short dresses posterOr consider the Truth's "Can Short Dresses Cause Short Staffing?" poster. This one takes humorous aim at the naughty nurse image that continues to haunt advertisements and other media, especially those aimed at males. The poster connects the naughty nurse image with the broader undervaluation that leads to gross underfunding of nursing education, research, and practice, ultimately threatening patients.

We'll send you up to 20 posters free to hang at your school or workplace. Just email us at to tell us how many you'd like and where to send them. If you'd like more, they are just 50 cents each! Thank you!


Megan LeClairTeach medical students about the value of nursing

June 2012 -- Megan LeClair, RN, BSN, of the University of Wisconsin's Trauma and Life Support Center, recently performed a study based on a program from Dartmouth University in which medical students follow nurses at work to learn about the life-saving skills that nurses have. Her study was effective and we urge you to design your own! See the original Dartmouth program designed and led by Ellen Ceppetelli, RN, PhD. See Megan's abstract and results.


Elizabeth Winslow, RN, PhD, FAANEncourage nurses who speak publicly to identify themselves as nurses!

August 2012 -- Elizabeth Winslow, RN, PhD, FAAN, wrote a great opinion piece in the August issue of the American Journal of Nursing entitled "We Silence Our Profession When We Fail to Identify Ourselves as Nurses." Winslow encourages nurses who speak publicly to weave into the message that the speaker is a nurse. We are reminded of a similarly great piece, "Pick Up That RN Flag and Wave It" by Pam Meredith, RN, NP, which appeared in Nursing Spectrum in December 2002. Get up, stand up, nurses!


Nursing: Isn't that Sweet?!

The new Truth movie has everything... Sexual content! Raw insults! And odd, computer-generated voices! Watch now!

Wendy and JimCheck out the Truth's movie "Nursing: Isn't That Sweet?!" It's all about what happens when nurse Wendy encounters her old high school classmate Jim at a restaurant, many years later--after the two have taken their lives in very different directions! Can Wendy and Jim make a new connection? Or will things get a little ugly? Made using xtranormal software for Halloween 2011, the short video explores some chilling stereotypes that still infect public understanding of nursing. And for a different take on nursing stereotypes, check out the Truth's classic 2005 report "Nursing: Who Knew?" about a groundbreaking study in which leading researchers discover nurses' real contributions for the first time! See the video! Or if you can't access YouTube at your workplace, click here to see the video on our site. Thank you!


New Truth About Nursing FAQ:

Money differences between medicine and nursingJust how undervalued and underfunded is nursing?

In our new FAQ, we explore a few dramatic comparisons that illustrate how poorly nursing is valued and funded relative to medicine and other professions. See the comparisons...


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In our imperfect state of conscience and enlightenment, publicity and the collision resulting from publicity are the best guardians of the interest of the sick.

-- Florence Nightingale

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A Few Successes —
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