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This will hurt like hell

May 2005 -- This month Outside magazine printed a short but excellent letter from Julie McMahon Falk, R.N., protesting the magazine's March item "Get Well Soon." That item featured a large photo (right) of a naughty nurse as part of its description of several "feel better tools," products that relieve pain after intense physical activity. The Center had started a campaign about this photo, and the magazine did ultimately promise to print a letter reflecting nurses' concerns. Although this is not the apology we had sought, we commend Outside for at least printing the letter, and we salute Ms. Falk for her nursing advocacy.

Following is the complete text of her letter, along with the heading the magazine supplied (p. 26):


I get so tired of illustrations and photographs, like the one that accompanied your March article "Get Well Soon" (Dispatches), that portray nurses as sex playmates: skimpy uniforms that show lots of cleavage, spiky heels and a cap. Real nurses of both genders generally wear scrubs or other clinical garb, and their wallets are stuffed with certifications that attest to their ability to save your life. When your readers are suffering from hypothermia, dehydration, lacerations, fractures, or chest pain, they had better hope they see a real nurse.

Cape May, New Jersey

This is a concise statement of the basic problem with portraying nurses as sex objects: it reinforces harmful stereotypes and offends the hard-working nurses who spend their working hours trying to save your life. We might add, as we often do, that this kind of imaging is the last thing the profession needs at a time of crisis due to an unprecedented global shortage. The magazine's "sting" heading may be a bit condescending--and we can't resist noting that many things will actually sting quite a bit unless nursing gets the respect it deserves--but we'll give it a couple points for wit and let it go.

We salute Ms. Falk for her work, and encourage all nurses to follow her example. This kind of advocacy is a critical way to improve public understanding of nursing, which will help the profession gain the resources it needs to meet the daunting public health challenges ahead. These are challenges that we're sure the intrepid editors of Outside can appreciate, as the magazine's May cover story is entitled "Get FIT (for Life)."

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