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CVS pharmacist returns from Matrix; can now download entire nursing curriculum into your brain in four hours!

January 24, 2006 -- The CVS drug store company has recently run a 30-second television ad in which a pharmacist explains how he spent several hours of his own time helping a patient's husband figure out how to administer her 20 different medications. That's great, except that the pharmacist twice stated that the husband was now "a nurse." Of course, we know what he probably meant--modern drug regimens are very complex, and (we might add) the current health financing system has left many patients and their families with the impossible task of trying to nurse themselves. But it's possible that some viewers, lacking knowledge of the nursing crisis, would simply see the ad as a criticism of nurses for failing to do the teaching the pharmacist had to step in to provide. And given the poor public understanding of nursing, we fear that people might think nurses really can be trained by pharmacists in a matter of hours. Last week, the Center persuaded CVS to pull the ad. Today, CVS told the Center that it will edit out the "nurse" comments and run the ad without them. We commend CVS, especially the helpful VP of customer service Mark Kolligian, for listening to nurses' concerns and responding to them in a timely and constructive way.

See the original ad in Quicktime or Windows Media Player

See the revised version in Quicktime or Windows Media Player

The ad is/was one of a new series of CVS TV ads featuring apparently real pharmacists explaining their people-focused practice. In the ad in question, an earnest CVS pharmacist makes the following statement in a naturalistic, conversational setting:

One day I had a patient come in. His wife was a lung transplant patient. Trying to explain 20 medications in two minutes time is almost impossible. The next day I was off, so I offered to come [] to his house. You know, I arrived at the house, and there [were] medications everywhere. And I spent half my day helping them, teaching him what he needed to know, now that he was a nurse. He had never been a nurse before. That was new to him. My name is Dave Morgan. I'm a CVS pharmacist.

Of course, it's also new to us that you can become a nurse through a four-hour session with a pharmacist. In reality, nurses have at least three years of college-level education. And because pharmacy is a very different field, pharmacists would be qualified to provide very little of that training. If the public had a good understanding of nursing, Mr. Morgan's statements might be no big deal, perhaps no more than a revealing comment on the inadequate aftercare the short-staffed health care system often gives seriously ill patients. But because knowledge of nursing is so limited, we fear that many may conclude that a person actually could more or less duplicate the pharmacological knowledge of a nurse in a few hours. In fact, U.S. registered nurses typically receive at least two semesters of pharmacology, in addition to their years of training in other nursing science courses.

Some nurses have noted that some viewers may also see the ad as a statement that nurses are failing to do their jobs. Of course, nurses provide expert teaching about issues including medications upon patients' discharge from hospitals, in home care settings, and elsewhere--if they have time. Today, they often do not because of short-staffing. And as a result of the same cost pressures, patients are being discharged in more fragile states of health than ever, which may mean they are trying to cope with even more complex medication regimens. But if you have no sense of that, it might seem reasonable to conclude that nurses are responsible for this patient's plight.

We thank CVS for pulling and revising this ad. Please send letters of thanks to Mark Kolligian, VP of Customer Service at CVS by sending them to us at and we will forward them on to him. Thank you!

Click here to see the commercial in Quicktime.


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