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Latest verses in the "Nurses' Song": University of Alberta Medshow finished; CBC covers Truth campaign; University promises Sigma Theta Tau "major emphasis" on interdisciplinary education

August 10, 2005 -- Recent weeks have seen several encouraging developments in the Truth's campaign with regard to the "Nurses' Song" sung at the recent University of Alberta Medshow, though in our view the University's response still falls short of what is needed to eliminate the anti-nurse attitudes reflected in the song. On July 27, the President and the CEO of nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau International wrote a letter to the University's board of governors, and on that same day, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio ran a story about the Truth's campaign by Adrienne Lamb. The University's board chair James S. Edwards today responded to Sigma Theta Tau with a letter promising that "[t]here will be no Med Show in future." He stated that former University nursing Dean Genevieve Gray had received a "full apology" from the 2005 show organizers and the Medical Students' Association. Edwards also stressed that the medical school will be "placing a major emphasis on interdisciplinary and interprofessional education" at a new "Health Sciences Ambulatory Learning Centre," and that the medical students already take part in an interdisciplinary student-led clinic for local street youth. The letter also repeats the medical students' defense that the song was merely intended to "mock an antiquated stereotype." This is a dubious position given the song's range of still-current slurs, including several that reflect very credible resentment of modern nurses' inclinations to weigh in on care plans and demand decent working conditions, all presented in a context that was at best ambiguous. Moreover, to our knowledge Dean Gray has not received a "full apology" from the 2005 MedShow organizers, who have yet to be publicly identified or disciplined. And none of this necessarily means that future medical students will receive any significant additional education by nursing experts as to the vital contributions nurses make. Thus, though we applaud the measures taken, we urge supporters to continue applying pressure to the University to ensure that it undertakes meaningful reform.

Proposed remedy we would find sufficient

The students responsible for the song should issue individual public apologies (failing which a letter about the incident should accompany their academic records). The students should further attend training in gender relations, including sexual harassment. And the University should establish a permanent program under which all medical students receive training from nursing leaders in the nature of nursing, including its autonomy, its patient advocacy focus, its key role in patient outcomes, and its current crisis, in which poor relations with physicians are a significant part. Community service like that attributed to the street youth clinic is good, but it does not necessarily teach medical students anything about nursing, nor ensure that they will treat colleagues with respect.

How you can help pressure University of Alberta officials to create a sufficient remedy

We urge all supporters to continue putting pressure on the University of Alberta to individually discipline students involved in the "Nurses' Song" and to set up a permanent, nurse-taught program to ensure that all future medical students have a basic understanding of the nature and situation of nursing.

Please send our second letter--or preferably a second one of your own--as a follow-up to the communications from University officials. Thank you!

Our current letter count is over 750. Let's make it 1000 by the end of the week. Please ask your colleagues, friends and families to join the campaign.

Copies of your letter will also be sent to:

Michael Robb, Medical School Public Affairs;
Verna Yiu, Assistant Dean, Student Affairs;
Jennifer Bailey, Med Show Representative;
Rosemary Conliffe, Canadian Federation of Medical Students; General Manager;
Mitesh Patel, Medical School President;
Desiree Fofie, VP External, Junior CFMS Representative;
Meghan Elkink, Communications Officer;
Karen Kam, Univ. Alberta Medical Alumni Association;
Momoe Hyakutake, Kristin Haugrud, Student Affairs Representatives;
Rick Sultanian, Class Representative, Med 2005;
Ni Lam, Class Representative, Med 2006;
Ashish Mahajan, Class Representative, Med 2007;
Steven Schendel, Class Representative, Med 2008.

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