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The Varieties of Nurses' Day Experience

May 12, 2005 -- On May 12, nurses and supporters across the globe celebrated International Nurses Day (also Florence Nightingale's birthday) with an impressive range of activities. In South Africa, Xoliswa Zulu, a reporter for The Mercury, tried to follow nurses around on a 12-hour shift at a busy city hospital--but appeared to become overwhelmed with exhaustion (and appreciation) less than half way through the shift. In India, Lopamudra Maitra marked the day by publishing a May 11 piece on the expressindia web site about the changing demographics of Indian nurses and the increasing demand for them abroad. This piece lacked needed context. In the United States, noted journalist Suzanne Gordon published a strong op-ed piece in the Boston Globe arguing that nurses should be honored not merely with once-a-year "angel"-oriented lip service, but with passage of the mandatory safe staffing legislation currently pending before the Massachusetts legislature. And in San Francisco, the California Nurses Association (CNA) honored Nightingale (the "original nursing activist") by holding a protest against Johnson & Johnson--noted for its $30 million nursing recruitment campaign--because of the drug giant's alleged support of a statewide measure to "silence" nurses and other public employees in the political process, and its efforts to defeat measures designed to lower drug prices. The CNA story does not appear to have been covered by the mainstream media; perhaps it was just too difficult to reconcile with the prevailing angel image. Happy nurses day!

Serenading the unsung heroines in South Africa

May 12, 2005 -- Xoliswa Zulu's follow-a-nurse piece in The Mercury today is entitled "Have You Thanked a Nurse Today?" (subtitle: "The people who hold the health system together often go unacknowledged"). Its vision of nursing is largely limited to the "unglamorous" job's physical demands, the unpleasantness of some care tasks, and the nurses' connection with their patients. So readers will not get a sense that nurses are educated professionals with advanced skills. On the other hand, the piece is at least a strong portrait of the aspects of nursing it identifies. The author marvels at the nurses' endurance and their ability to tolerate things like foul-smelling wounds and bedpans, and concludes by paying "tribute to these unsung heroines whose shoes I could never fill." more...

The changing face of Indian nursing

May 11, 2005 -- Lopamudra Maitra's piece posted on the expressindia web site today reports that, as nurses celebrate Florence Nightingale's birthday, Indian nursing schools are seeing more young women and more men taking an interest in the profession, as well as an increased demand for Indian nurses in English-speaking developed nations. The piece appears to be based mainly on conversations with local nursing school leaders and teachers, and it provides some interesting and important information about these trends. Unfortunately, it lacks any sense of the broader context of such migration, and it also presents some regressive stereotypes of nursing--the most egregious of which appear to come from a local dean of nursing. more...

Boston Globe op-ed: "Nurse understaffing harms patients"

May 12, 2005 -- Today noted journalist and relentless nursing advocate Suzanne Gordon marked National Nurses Week with an important, well-written op-ed piece in the Boston Globe. The piece argues that the best way to honor nurses is not through more of the traditional lip service and self-sacrificing "angel" imagery that has often been used to exploit nurses, but through passage of safe staffing legislation like that pending before the Massachusetts legislature, which in her view would relieve the dangerous short-staffing that has driven many nurses from the bedside. The op-ed takes on some of the claims presented by Massachusetts hospitals and nurse executives who oppose mandatory staffing ratios, and although the piece might have done a bit more to counter these, it is effective in arguing that voluntary measures will not be adequate to address the current nursing crisis. more...

ONA Original Nurse Activist

May 11, 2005 -- Today the California Nurses Association (CNA) issued a press release vowing to celebrate Florence Nightingale's birthday by staging a protest at the downtown San Francisco offices of Johnson & Johnson, the company known for its massive nursing recruitment campaign. CNA's release argued that the pharmaceutical giant had supported recent efforts to limit the political participation of nurses and other public employees, and that it had also donated huge sums to defeat measures designed to lower drug prices in California. The union called the company's policies "hypocritical," and said its protest honored the "legacy of the original nurse activist." The press release appeared on a few web sites, including Yahoo Finance and, but we have seen no coverage in the mainstream media. more...


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