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Astute patients come to appreciate nurses, but most of the media bravely resists the irksome reality that nurses are at the core of modern hospital care

September 2, 2003 -- Though even patients with strong preconceptions may learn that hospitals are mainly places where they receive the benefits of nursing care, this basic reality still eludes most of the elite media, as illustrated in an article by Robert Pear in today's New York Times which manages to discuss Bush Administration plans to ease federal emergency hospital care requirements without mentioning or consulting a single nurse. The article, which focuses primarily on plans to relax requirements that hospitals provide physician emergency services to patients, was certainly justified in consulting physicians, along with Administration and hospital representatives. But there are as many nurses as physicians in emergency departments, and surely they would have had something to say about the overcrowding and other compliance burdens allegedly associated with the existing law.

Indeed, nurses could have provided not only the perspective of professionals who are directly affected by what happens in emergency departments, but a more balanced view of the potential effects of the new rules on other interested parties--such as, to take a random example, the patients. As it is, the 28-paragraph piece deals overwhelmingly with the concerns of hospitals and physicians. The interests of patients are addressed only in a quote by one physician about how the new rules could make "timely access" to certain specialists more difficult, and the reporter's unexplained observation that, in patient lawsuits to enforce the current rules, "[c]ourts have often ruled for patients, and against hospitals." Perhaps this state of affairs is so clearly against good policy as to require no further comment, but we can't help but feel a nurse or other patient advocate might have enhanced the discussion.

See the Center's new FAQ "What does a nurse really do? One patient's perspective."

See Robert Pear's article in the New York Times: Emergency rooms get eased rules on patient care.

Let the editors of the New York Times and author Robert Pear know that you expect their reporting to reflect the central role nursing actually plays in hospital care and the contributions nurses can make to press coverage of key health care issues, such as the Bush Administration's plans to relax emergency care rules. Please also blind carbon copy the Center so that we can evaluate the effectiveness of this campaign.

To comment on the proposed rules themselves, President Bush would be the point person.

Please post copies of your letters to the New York Times or to President Bush on our bulletin board for all to see.

On September 4, the Washington Post ran a shorter piece by Ceci Connolly about the proposed changes which was far more balanced, quoting consumer advocates with concerns about the new rules' impact on the nation's uninsured, in addition to current and former federal officials. However, this article offered no comment from anyone identified as a nurse or physician.

See the Washington Post's Hospital Rules Change Faulted.