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Saving lives, and getting inspiration from Mom

March 6, 2006 -- Tonight ABC airs the series premiere of a midseason reality show called "Miracle Workers." The network describes the show as "a life-changing new series about real people overcoming insurmountable odds with the help of an elite team of medical professionals." Tonight's episode features a "revolutionary new treatment" that may restore a blind man's sight, and a "procedure" that may enable a woman with a "degenerative bone and disc disease" to again lead an active life. If this sounds to you like a show that's going to equate great health care with the work of prominent surgeons, you won't be surprised to hear that the show's two "lead doctors" are pioneering heart surgeons. However, commendably, the other two members of the "Miracle Workers" team are actually nurses, one a clinical nurse specialist and pediatric nurse practitioner, and the other a veteran OR and recovery nurse. So will the show give a real sense of how important nursing is to the health of patients who undergo its "miraculous" procedures? The material on the ABC site details the two surgeons' impressive clinical and academic achievements, but essentially just lists the nurses' specialties and a little about their family backgrounds, so it's hard to be optimistic. But tune in and find out for yourself!

The ABC site says that each episode will feature the stories of two people with "seemingly overwhelming" health problems. These patients lack "the network, access to the necessary medical community or in some cases the resources" for the procedures that would apparently be best. The patients' lives will be "transformed" through "cutting-edge medical technology," with the team restoring not only their health, but also their hopes for a full life. The show will take patients from their "first consultation with their team of doctors" through "the medical procedure itself" and the effect the "life-changing event" will have on them and their loved ones. The four members of the show's "team" are described in the main show summary as follows:

The Miracle Workers team will include lead doctors Redmond Burke, a pioneering cardiac surgeon who performed New England's first heart lung transplant on a child; Billy Cohn, a cardiovascular surgeon who has been called the "Thomas Edison" of heart surgery for his impressive list of inventions that have changed surgery techniques; UCLA Medical Center nurse Janna Bullock and McLennan Community Recovery RN Tamara Houston.

A link called "medical team" provides more detail on these four, and here it is in full:

Dr. Burke is the Chief of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at The Congenital Heart Institute at Miami Children's Hospital and Arnold Palmer Hospital in Florida. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, and then received his medical degree from Harvard. As an attending at Boston Children's Hospital, he performed the first pediatric Heart Lung Transplant in New England in 1992. He has pioneered new surgical techniques, published over 60 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, and lectures worldwide. Since building a new heart center in Miami in 1995, Dr. Burke and his team have repaired thousands of children with complex heart defects.

Dr. Cohn, who has been a Cardiothoracic Surgeon for 12 1/2 years, is Director of Minimally Invasive Surgical Technology and Co-Director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Lab at the famed Texas Heart Institute in Houston, TX. He has over 30 patents for medical devices, several of which have revolutionized heart surgery techniques. A graduate of Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, and of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, he served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for 11 years as an Associate Professor, before returning to The Texas Medical Center.

Janna Bullock, RN, MSN is affiliated with Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA and has been practicing for over four years. She was inspired by her mother, also a RN, to go into the medical profession. The daughter of a career naval officer who grew up in various parts of the country, she is a clinical nurse specialist and a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Licensed in 30 states and currently affiliated with Mt. View Hospital in Las Vegas, NV, Tamara Houston's nursing specialty is PACU, Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit/Recovery and OR. She has worked OR since 1994 and PACU for the past two years. The Texas native attended the University of Texas at Arlington, majoring in accounting, when time off spent nursing her ailing mother inspired her to change professions.

This does sound like quite a line-up, and we salute the show for making half of its main team nurses. We also give the show credit for recognizing Ms. Bullock's masters degree, and her CNS and NP qualifications. But we also wonder why we don't hear where either of the nurses got their nursing degrees, or how many patients they've saved. From these descriptions, we might suppose that medicine is a profession of world-changing high achievers, and nursing is a noble devotional pursuit for generations of caring females. In fact, it appears that Ms. Houston spent time "nursing" her mother before she even was a nurse; perhaps nursing is more a state of mind or physical commitment than a profession requiring college-level education. Was either of the physicians inspired to attend medical school by time spent acting as a physician for an ill family member?

We suppose it's unlikely that "Miracle Workers" will include much about nurses pioneering life-saving clinical practices or publishing ground-breaking research. But we hope it at least gives some sense of the key role nurses play in the actual physical and emotional outcomes of the patients profiled.

Miracle Workers main web page:

Miracle Workers "About Us" page:


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