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Women's eNews commentator highlights nursing the media

March 30, 2005 -- Today the Women's eNews web site posted a very good commentary by Sheila Gibbons about the low visibility of nurses' work in the media, apart from stories about the nursing shortage. The piece explains why the news and entertainment media's treatment of nurses matters, and suggests that more attention to nurses' real contributions is a key part of overcoming the current nursing crisis.

Gibbons begins by explaining that a recent hospital stay underlined for her the importance of nursing care. She says it made her wonder why nurses received relatively little coverage in the media for their work and their perspective on the health care system, as opposed to coverage of the shortage. This an excellent point, and part of a larger one Suzanne Gordon and Bernice Buresh have made, namely that coverage of nurses still tends to focus on problems (the shortage, nurse serial killers, nursing strikes) rather than important nursing clinical skills, research, and policy views.

The commentary discusses nursing's flawed image in advertisements and television shows like "ER," which tend to emphasize the role of physicians and understate that of nurses. The piece relies on Center executive director Sandy Summers at several points. It notes that the Center has begun a campaign to persuade companies to refrain from advertising on "ER" until the show improves its portrayal of nursing. Gibbons explains why these fictional portrayals matter, citing research showing how seriously people take them.

Moving on to the news media, Gibbons lists several journalists who have recently written good articles about nurses. However, she cites Summers for the important point that many of the countless shortage articles do not tell readers why nurses actually matter to patient outcomes. The piece describes the 1997 Woodhull study, which indicated that the media rarely relies on nursing experts for health care stories generally.

Gibbons says she's encouraged by what she sees as increased recent press attention to the nursing profession. But she warns that real progress would entail seeing nurses "sourced in wider-ranging articles about our fragile health care system, in which they play such an important part. Without more attention to their contributions, we health consumers soon may end up mournfully singing the lyrics of the old Joni Mitchell song: 'You don't know what you've got till it's gone.'"

See the article "Nursing Shortage: It's Also in Press and Other Media" by Sheila Gibbons in the March 30, 2005 edition of Womens eNews.

Please sent notes of thanks to Sheila Gibbons for her much appreciated article at and blind carbon copy us so we will know how many letters went out. Thank you!


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