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Nurses protest Clairol shampoo commercials

May 8, 2003 -- A Clairol shampoo commercial has angered nurses with its depiction of a female nurse who leaves her patient unmonitored to go wash her hair in his bathroom, proceeding to dance around his room, waving her hair in ecstasy.

Nurses may differ as to how serious Clairol's offense is compared to more substantial errors and omissions on "ER", "MDs" and other recent television programming. However, all harmful media portrayals of nursing must end, and therefore the Clairol commercial merits action by concerned nurses.

In an attempt to get Clairol to stop running this commercial, a number of nurses have written to the company, including Katie Krisko-Hagel, RN, MS, who sent this letter. Barbara Blakeney, president of the American Nurses Association, also sent a letter. Also see the editorial on it by Cheryl Mee, RN, BC, MSN, Editor-in-Chief of Nursing2003. On the left, click "Journal contents" then the "May 2003" issue, then find Cheryl Mee's editorial.

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See our executive director's letter to the company below:

Dear Clairol:

I am writing to object to the Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo commercial with a female "nurse" who, rather than care for her critically ill monitored patient, instead borrows his shampoo and washes her hair, which leads her to a state of sensual ecstasy.

I realize this commercial is intended as a fantasy, but nursing is not just any profession, but one which is struggling to overcome decades of harmful misconceptions. When nurses are shown abandoning their patient care duties for frivolous gratifications that are obviously inappropriate for the workplace, it appears that they don't have vital responsibilities. That the nurse is female reinforces the idea that women are not serious professionals (or if they are, they don't become nurses). In fact, nursing is an autonomous, highly skilled profession in which men and women make critical assessments and take actions that save or improve million of lives every day.

How the public understands nursing is of vital importance today. The nursing shortage is so severe that in some areas of the U.S., 20% of nursing positions are unfilled. This public health crisis is only predicted to worsen over the next two decades as baby boomers age and the aging nursing workforce retires.

I urge you to immediately stop running this damaging commercial. I suggest that Clairol make amends to the nursing profession by working with nursing groups to create a commercial that shows nurses in a positive light. Our organization, The Center for Nursing Advocacy, will be more than happy to help guide you in creating nurse-friendly commercials.

Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you,

Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing

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