Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Can nurses help new parents?

October 2003 -- This month's issue of the monthly magazine Parenting illustrates the difficulty nurses face in getting proper recognition from a physician-centric parenting media that often seems convinced that nurses lack valuable health care expertise.

The issue includes Leah Hennen's "Secrets to a Happy (and Healthy!) Pregnancy," a lengthy, positive article about midwives that, despite quoting several midwives who are almost certainly nurses, never mentions that most midwives are nurses. Nor does she discuss the many thousands of graduate-prepared Certified Nurse Midwives. At one point, the piece notes that midwives provide mom with support and comfort through delivery, then says good nurses can also do that, though they often must divide their time among several women. This suggests that midwives and nurses are entirely separate. Would any otherwise uninformed reader realize that nurse midwives autonomously and successfully manage countless births, doing all of the above and more?

Jessica Snyder Sachs' "Should I Call the Doctor?" is a fairly standard discussion of what worried parents should do when they feel their infant may need health care on an emergent basis. As is often the case with such articles, the assumption is that only pediatricians provide primary care to children, despite the fact that many thousands of pediatric nurse practitioners (PNP) do so in an exemplary and cost effective way. The article consults pediatricians, but of course, no PNP's. It does include a sidebar called "The telephone nurse," which briefly discusses the growth in "telehealth" nurse centers where parents can speak with "a nurse who's trained to evaluate the level of medical attention a child needs, as well as provide advice on more routine matters." To find such a center, "first ask your pediatrician." The overall effect of this is to present pediatric nurses as physician helpers, rather than autonomous professionals with an independent body of health care knowledge.

Barbara Rowley's "Simple Truths All Moms Can Use" offers seven basic tips to help new parents cope, each with a lengthy explanation. In the introduction to the article, Rowley tells how "the pediatrician's nurse" had once told her that "[b]abies aren't fragile," advice that she says became her "mantra" when she had to do something difficult with her baby daughter. She notes that in "an ideal world" all new parents would have people around "telling them everything will be fine," and then goes on to offer the seven "simple yet soothing truths" that she has gleaned from "other moms," grandmothers" and "pediatricians." Within two of the "truths," two different pediatrician experts are quoted by name. Evidently, pediatric nurses have nothing to offer--even though the author's own "mantra" came from one. Of course, that was the "pediatrician's nurse," whose expertise was evidently owned by the pediatrician. If nothing else, the article could at least have described this nurse as "the nurse who works at my pediatrician's office."

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