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Dr. Phil responds to nurses

Dr. Phil photoNovember 30, 2004 -- Dr. Phil has responded following more than 1,300 letters in five days from nurses incensed by his recent on-air statement that he had seen "lots of cute little nurses" who wish to "seduce and marry" physicians as their "ticket out" of nursing. The show's initial response, from its Director of Media Relations, is not a personal apology from Dr. Phil himself, but it was created in consultation with Dr. Phil. The statement argues that Dr. Phil's comments were meant to apply only to the individuals on the specific episode of the show. However persuasive that proposition may be, the full statement clearly reflects appreciation for nursing, and it assures nurses that Dr. Phil had no intention to disrespect them. More importantly, the Director of Media Relations has assured the Center that Dr. Phil himself has vowed to tape a statement on the matter next week which will be broadcast on the show at some point over the next few weeks. This Director has also stated to us that Dr. Phil has promised to do an entire show on the nursing profession and its media image problem, probably in January 2005. As a result of these laudable measures, the Center is suspending its campaign. We urge all concerned to stay tuned to our site and the Dr. Phil show for new developments.

Below is the statement issued by the Dr. Phil show to the Center's executive director last night:

Dear Sandy:

Great speaking with you regarding the issue raised on The Center for Nursing Advocacy website. On behalf of Dr. Phil and the Dr. Phil show, I want to assure you that the comments referenced in the episode mentioned were intended only in reference to the specific guest's situation and the unique personalities involved and was [sic] in no way meant to cast a negative light on the profession in general. Dr. Phil is and has long been a champion of the nursing profession -- and in fact, two of Dr. Phil's sisters are nurses and have practiced for a combined 30 plus years in private practice, hospital and nursing home settings. He is personally and professionally aware of the long hours, sacrifices and dedication which characterize these vital members of the medical profession. It was certainly not his intent to diminish the importance of such an honorable profession for which he has and will continue to powerfully advocate.

When I spoke with Dr. Phil, he also insisted that we schedule an opportunity on an upcoming show to specifically clarify the comments of the prior show. I look forward to our future conversations and hope that you can share this information with your membership.


Chandler Hayes
Director, Media Relations

We appreciate the comments above which express appreciation for the work of nurses, and we are impressed by Dr. Phil's promises to address the issue on the air soon and tape a future show on nursing in the media. Of course, the notion that Dr. Phil's comments were limited to the "specific guest's situation" is unpersuasive, as he was clearly speaking of his own years of experience in health care, and used the word "lots." However, we understand that the response above is really focused on what Dr. Phil intended to communicate. We hope that in Dr. Phil's on-air comments he will come to "own" (as he might say) his statements and offer an apology, as most nurses expect in response to damaging comments made while the profession is in crisis. We encourage Dr. Phil to educate his large audience not only about nurses' "sacrifices and dedication"--which are also generally characteristics of Mom--but also about the advanced training, life-saving skills and critical innovations that make nursing an exciting field on the front lines of modern health care.

Because we believe that the show has begun a process of healing and growth that will ultimately result in Dr. Phil taking full responsibility and real steps to make amends, we are now suspending our letter-writing campaign. We want to give the show a chance to excel.

Thank you to all who have written. We have never received so many original letters on a topic. We believe it shows that nurses are starting to take ownership of their media image and working hard to transform it into a more positive one. We applaud you all for your passion in working to improve the nursing profession and public health.


See the original offensive remarks by Dr. Phil (November 18, 2004)

His initial response we discuss above (November 30, 2004)

His on air response (December 20, 2004)

A later attempt to make amends (still inadequate) (July 14, 2005)



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