Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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March 2005 -- Currently Lifetime Television is sponsoring a petition drive to persuade Congress to bar "drive-through mastectomies," which involve insurance reimbursement policies that force women to leave hospitals soon after breast cancer surgeries. Though inpatient nursing care is obviously what this legislative drive is mainly about, the network's online message about the petition manages to give the impression that the care is the province of physicians.

The message notes that the petition drive is "a partnership with physicians, advocates and survivors across the nation"--even though the item itself later lists the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) as one of the groups supporting proposed legislation on this issue. The piece goes on to note that the legislation, which establishes minimum stay periods for relevant procedures, "ensures that a doctor and a patient will make a decision together about staying at a hospital after a mastectomy." The piece stresses that the American Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons believe most patients require longer hospital stays, as if members of these groups would know more about that than the nurses who are expert in post-operative care, and who actually provide it. Noting that drive-through mastectomies have become distressingly common, the piece states that they force women to leave the hospital while still in pain, groggy from anesthesia and with drainage tubes still in place "against the advice of their doctor," once again giving the impression that physicians are deeply involved with these aspects of a patient's post-operative experience. Apart from the AWHONN listing noted above, the piece contains no reference to the role of nurses in the care at issue.

It's not hard for us to believe that physician groups actually have been more prominent in pushing for a legislative solution to this problem, given nurses' continuing reluctance to speak up about the importance of their work. To the extent that is the case, it's not hard to understand how Lifetime would believe physician care is at issue here. It's also possible that nurses have been active in pushing for the change, but no one has been paying any attention. Alternatively, perhaps those responsible for this Lifetime piece have been watching too much of the network's own drama "Strong Medicine," in which the physician characters probably would be the ones to perform all of the nursing care described above.

Despite the problems with Lifetime's vision of healthcare delivery, please join their campaign to increase the amount of nursing care patients receive after mastectomies. Click here to sign their petition.