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Surviving the "Crisis in White"

August 31, 2003 -- Today's USA Today Weekend magazine ran a useful special report, cosponsored by Nursing Spectrum, about surviving the nursing shortage, though there was a bizarre disconnect between the authoritative article and the regressive language and imagery of the cover, which featured the title "Crisis in White" along with a highly stylized photo of a white female model dressed in an outdated white uniform--complete with a cap. The report briefly provides some of the standard information about the shortage and quotes from nursing luminaries like Linda Aiken, but the heart of it is practical tips to help families cope with the direct effects of the shortage on them. Many of these tips, which were clearly crafted by or with input from practicing nurses, could be summarized as trying to find ways to help (or "partner with") the overwhelmed nurses, such as by asking "whether there's any particular complication you can help watch for." No doubt this would be good advice even if there was adequate staffing, and if readers follow the tips it could actually improve patient outcomes, as well as the day-to-day work lives of nurses. Still, there is something unsettling about the health care system revealed here, where your survival may increasingly depend on the ability of your untrained, distressed loved ones to play nurses' aide 24 hours a day.

See USA Today's The nursing shortage & you: What all patients -- and their loved ones -- need to know.

Contact USA Today and let them know what you think about the photo and the article. While you're at it, please send a copy of the letter to Corbis stock photo company which stores many nursing photos for use by the media, not all of them very positive for nursing. Then please post your letter(s) on our bulletin board for all to see. Or if you haven't written one yet, you can see what others have to say about the USA Today article on our bulletin board.