Uppity nurse wears "doctor's stethoscope"
Miss America, Kelley Johnson and The View
Our latest petition and our September 21, 2015 letter to The View asks The View to actually make amends
We would like to thank Joy Behar, Michelle Collins, and the producers of The View for the apologies to nurses made on Sept. 18, 2015, following the comments hosts of The View made earlier in the week. Those included the suggestion that nurses do not use "doctor's stethoscopes," a reinforcement of the common image of nurses as nice but low-skilled physician helpers. It was helpful that you also had two nursing professors on air to briefly explain the value of nursing, and their distribution of stethoscopes was funny and appropriate. However, the professors' appearance on the show was too short for them to really be able to explain what nurses do. Also, the show hosts' focus on the emotional side of nursing reinforced the sense that nursing is indeed a nice pursuit but not, shall we say, "a real profession." In particular, it was unfortunate that the nurses did not have a chance to explain or demonstrate how they save lives with their stethoscopes.
And we were disheartened to hear the widespread report that Nicole Arbour had heard Ms. Collins say, off the air: "Yeah, that’s not a real profession. They want to be doctors." I realize the show has denied some of the specifics of Arbour's account, but even so, it is critical to refute the content of the reported remarks, because they reinforce the common view that nursing is a lesser subset of medicine whose most ambitious members want to be physicians. Believe us, that is so false. Nursing is a distinct health science. Nurses are autonomous health professionals with their own scope of practice, one that encompasses a holistic and preventive vision of health. The vast majority of nurses who pursue graduate education do so in nursing. Yet the wannabe physician stereotype is often reinforced on television. When people think nursing is a third-rate job full of envious losers, it undermines the profession’s claims to adequate resources for education, research, clinical practice, and residencies. Decision-makers fail to ensure adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, so nurses are stretched beyond the breaking point. Research shows that leads to many deaths every year.
So it is critical that the public learn that nurses save lives with their advanced skills in monitoring patient health, high-tech therapies, educating and advocating for patients, making critical decisions, and taking bold action to turn around patients in decline. The work can be difficult and frustrating, but it is also thrilling and immensely satisfying. Unfortunately, the Sept. 18 segment did not allow for a comprehensive explanation of how nurses save lives, nor for a sufficient refutation of the media stereotypes about nursing raised that week, specifically the unskilled wannabe, the handmaiden, and the angel. Please make a more in-depth, sustained effort to provide accurate information about nursing and to rebuild your relations with the nursing community. We urge you to have on air nurses who are expert in nursing's media issues and experienced in explaining nursing to the public, for a more comprehensive discussion. You might also create an ongoing weekly segment of your show on nursing. Each week, you could showcase a different nurse with a life-saving story, a health care innovation, or an exciting specialty, like forensic nursing. This will show the public that nurses don't just provide emotional support, but also do vital, scientific work on the cutting edge--work that is worthy of funding. The View can be one of the first daytime shows to highlight nursing and bring real respect to the profession, instead of the misunderstanding and ill will that exists now. We hope you will seize this opportunity to make a positive difference. Thanks for your consideration. Please join us by signing our latest petition!
September 18, 2015 -- Today The View got a little more serious about its attempts to apologize (see the video clip). Host Joy Behar said "we apologize for our remarks" and host Michelle Collins said "I'm sorry about that." Hosts
Raven-Symoné and Whoopi Goldberg were not on stage while the other hosts apologized, so even though they uttered offensive comments on 9/16/15 about nurses being unable to listen and comprehend The View's sophisticated analysis of the Miss America pageant on
9/14/15, they did not appear to apologize for them. Two nursing clinical instructors from NYU, professors Kellie Bryant, RN, DNP and Larry
Slater, RN, PhD, were invited to join The View cast for a couple minutes to explain nursing to the world and they did a fairly good job. They just weren't given enough time. There was a bit of the angel stereotype, in part because
Michelle Collins asked the nurses to "tell us about the emotional impact" of being a nurse. Drs. Bryant and Slater did hand out stethoscopes to The View's hosts, but sadly were not allotted any time to explain what it is nurses do with these stethoscopes to save lives. We thank Michelle Collins and Joy Behar for their words, and at The Truth About Nursing, we accept your apologies. But we would also like Whoopi Goldberg and Raven Symoné to apologize. In addition, we do not believe The View has yet made amends to nursing and we would like to work with you going forward to try to make that happen. If you are tweeting about this, please send your comments to @WhoopiGoldberg, @ravensymone, @TheView and use #NursesUnite. Thank you!
September 19, 2015 -- Johnson & Johnson, Eggland’s
Best, Party City, Snuggle and McCormick Spice announced that they are going to stop advertising on The View for the time being. It is not clear for how long.
September 17, 2015 -- Today, after receiving hundreds of signatures on our petition about The View's remarks on Sept. 15, 2015, we called The View's Publicity Director and left a detailed message asking the show apologize for real and also to make amends by helping nurses explain the value of their work to the world. Publicity director Lauri Hogan soon returned our call, asked if we could put that voicemail into writing so she could circulate to her team. We surely did this and you
can see our letter here. The next day she sent us a video clip that you can see in Update #3.
September 16, 2015 -- Today the hosts of ABC's The View addressed the controversy surrounding their comments on Miss Colorado (see the video). Unfortunately, they did so with a non-apology apology that condescended to nurses and suggested that the hosts really do know little about nursing. Michelle Collins assured nurses that they are "wonderful," "compassionate," and "funny"; the hosts followed up with suggestions that nurses had taken the comments about Miss Colorado's monologue "out of context" and that nurses just needed to listen better. Joy Behar, who had questioned why Miss Colorado was "wearing a doctor's stethoscope," confessed that she didn't know what she was talking about; she had thought she was watching a beauty pageant and was confused to suddenly see a stethoscope. Behar said she knows nurses use stethoscopes. Behar's comments are a step in the right direction, but she never admitted that the only reasonable interpretation of her stethoscope comment is that she thought nurses don't use them, because physicians do the health work that requires skill. More broadly, Collins' heavy reliance on angel imagery about nurses strongly suggests that the hosts don't know that nurses are science professionals who use their advanced skills--and technology, including the stethoscope--to save lives. Nurses are not just about hearts and hugs. The assumption that they are is exactly what underlies comments like Behar's and what makes them so damaging. As for nurses taking things out of context, that's nonsense. Nurses took Behar's comment for exactly what it was, a statement that physicians use stethoscopes and nurses do not. Perhaps the cast's comments about context mean that their overall intent was not to attack nursing, but simply to mock earnest beauty pageant contestants. But that high-minded goal did not prevent the show from harming nursing--doing things inadvertently may lessen moral responsibility but it does not reduce the potential harm caused--and suggesting that nurses failed to understand what the show was doing simply shows more contempt for them. A real apology would first include an, um, apology, and ideally it would also involve asking experienced nurses on the show to explain what nurses really do for patients. Please sign our petition at bit.ly/doctors-stethoscope
September 14, 2015 -- Today, hosts from the ABC show The View offered some insights about several contestants in last week's Ms. America contest. One was Ms. Colorado, RN Kelley Johnson, who, instead of singing or dancing for the talent portion of the contest, gave a short monologue. Johnson described how, after she had told an Alzheimer's patient that she was "just a nurse" who could not alter his medications or treatments, he had reassured her that her care for him--which included emotional support and holding his hand to quiet night terrors-- had changed his life. She said that his words had reminded her that she was "a life-saver" and would never be "just a nurse." We appreciate Johnson's creative and moving effort to highlight the value of nursing, although it was somewhat angel-oriented and the possible implication that nurses lack the skills to evaluate care plans or have them changed is unfortunate. (See Kelley Johnson's monologue.) The View's short take-down of Johnson's presentation included a puzzling comment from co-host Michelle Collins that Johnson's story consisted of "reading her emails out loud," but more notable was co-host Joy Behar's indignant question: "Why is she wearing a doctor's stethoscope around her neck?" (See the clip from The View) In fact, nurses use stethoscopes constantly because they are autonomous, college-educated health professionals who save lives. Thus, there are no "doctor's stethoscopes"; there are only stethoscopes. Perhaps Ms. Behar has never seen a nurse listen for a heart murmur or other cardiac irregularities, or for a signs of congestive heart failure, subcutaneous emphysema, or pneumothorax, among other life-threatening conditions. Certainly, she hasn't seen it much on her network's drama Grey's Anatomy, where nurses tend to be passive minions of heroic physicians. In fact, such stereotypes remain common in the prevailing social and media environment. That leads decision-makers to provide insufficient resources for nursing, as reflected in the endemic understaffing that takes lives worldwide. We applaud the many nurses whose protests about Ms. Behar's comment have already gotten mainstream media coverage. Please post your comments on The View's Facebook page and sign our petition. Ms. Behar and The View owe nurses an apology and the show should correct the inaccurate information on the air, perhaps by inviting nurses on to explain how they save lives with those stolen "doctor's stethoscopes." Please sign our petition at bit.ly/doctors-stethoscope Thank you!