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News on Nursing in the Media

Take Action with us as we kick off our "House" campaign!
And on the eighth day, the Lord Physician created nurses, to clean up the mess

November 15, 2005 -- Both Fox's "House" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" have shown utter contempt for nursing. But the two new prime time hits have taken somewhat different approaches. "House" is addicted to physician nursing. Its six physician characters are constantly doing key care tasks that nurses do in real life. The rare nurse characters are silent, barely visible clerks, like wallpaper that assumes human form to move or hold objects. "Grey's Anatomy," with nine physician characters, has at times had nurses utter a minor substantive line. However, it has often insulted nursing directly. Its interns regard the word "nurse" as a slur, and the nurses who do appear tend to be bitter or fawning losers, whose lives revolve around the godlike physicians. But two recent episodes of "House" (Thomas L. Moran's "Daddy's Boy," aired on Nov. 8, 14 million viewers, and Sara Hess's "Spin," aired on Nov. 15, 13 million viewers) prove that the Fox show is more than capable of its own specific anti-nurse slurs. In these, "House"'s brilliant physician heroes suggest that they consider nurses unskilled clean-up staff, "nurse-maids" who are good for handling stool and patients who have fallen down. The money quote? Über-diagnostician and wit Greg House has just temporarily relieved a patient's thymoma with a Tensilon injection, and gone off on a "playing God" riff. When the drug wears off, as expected, the patient falls to the floor. House says this is "exactly why I created nurses," then calls out into the hallway, "clean-up on aisle three!" more...

Take Action "House" Part II
What do nurses do all day?

November 29, 2005 -- Hi kids! My name is Peter Blake. I'm a Hollywood screenwriter, and I'm going to tell you a story. My story is called "The Mistake." It is actually just part of a much longer story called "House." "House" is on television every week, on the Fox network. And millions of people watch it--like the 15 million who are watching right now. My story is about what physicians do in hospitals to make sick people better. Physicians are really smart and cool and pretty and they save people's lives every day. But they have a few flaws, and when they make a mistake, people may die! Oh, and nurses help patients get to see physicians. Nurses also move objects around for physicians, and do secret naughty things with big powerful male physicians. See how it works? Let's begin! Please click here to read more and join our letter writing campaign...

Take Action!
Not sure if you'd rather hit nurses or have sex with them? Do both!

December 1, 2005 -- Recent reports on computer gaming web sites say that two popular wrestling games now being released in new versions--Rumble Roses XX (Xbox, Playstation 2) and WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 (Playstation 2)--feature an icky mix of violent and sexy "nurse" images. Competing gamers in barely dressed female "nurse" modes can slap, kick and grapple, toss each other on a bouncy bed, rip each other's clothes off and spank each other, and, you know, use the body parts of their victims to create a malevolent cyborg wrestler that will help them rule the world. Yeah, baby. These "nurse" characters are not helpless handmaidens, to say the least. But we do have a problem with the games' mixing of two other key nursing stereotypes, namely the naughty nurse and the battleaxe, in a toxic stew of crypto-sexual assault. We urge Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (Playstation 2) and game developers Konami and Yuke's to move away from this kind of mindless stereotyping, which degrades a profession in the midst of a global shortage. Click here to read more and join our letter writing campaign!

Take Action!
UPDATE -- "Today" quick clinic campaign on fire

December 4, 2005 -- Over the past two weeks, 3500 nursing supporters have sent letters to NBC's "Today" show. They have objected to the November 14 segment in which nurse practitioner (NP) care at "quick clinics" was portrayed as fast, cheap and out of control, and in which AMA President Edward Hill was allowed to deliver unfounded criticism of the quality of NP care, with no response from an NP. Letters came from every part of the United States and abroad, from nurses in rural clinics, major teaching hospitals, and the military, and from patients and physicians. An astonishing 42% of the letters were original. Because of this outpouring of concern, the Center has been able to establish a contact with a "Today" show producer. He has promised to work with us on presenting accurate information about nurses through "Today" and possibly other venues. We plan to continue to push the show to take steps to repair the damage caused by the Nov. 14 segment. We understand that a statement about this segment from the "Today" show is forthcoming, but it was not available in time for this news alert. We plan to set up a working group of nursing organizations to pitch story ideas about nurses to the show on a regular basis. To learn more about being part of this working group, please contact us. If you have an idea for the show, please send a one paragraph summary to AMA President Hill has not responded to the 3500 letters the AMA has received, and he has failed to return our many calls asking for a dialogue. Please send our new letter to the AMA asking it to base policy positions about nurses on research, rather than bias or economic self-interest. Thank you. See our analysis of the "Today" quick clinic segment here.

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The Drunk and the Ugly

November 6, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," seen by 19 million people, featured yet another anti-nurse slur from one of the show's pretty physician heroes. Hotshot intern Cristina Yang dismissed a veteran nurse from a patient's room with a comment that the physicians would let her know if a bedpan needed changing. Rather than objecting to this, the nurse took revenge by paging Yang to do a series of grotesque bodily fluid tasks. We realize that this fantasy about workplace roles was likely intended as a token effort to show nurses respect. But it still associates nursing with icky tasks that seem menial, wrongly suggests that physicians help with them, reinforces battleaxe stereotypes, and does nothing to show what nursing is really about. On the contrary, it is fully consistent with the show's vision of nurses as fawning or vindictive losers whose lives revolve the physician characters who provide all meaningful care, including key tasks that nurses do in real life. The episode suggests that the problem with anti-nurse slurs is not that they're inaccurate, or ultimately a threat to public health. It's just, as one resident notes, "stupid" to "piss[] off the nurses"-- the petty little clean-up crew of health care. The episode, "Something to Talk About," was written by Stacy McKee. The medical consultant was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. more...

Striking a rock

November 4, 2005 -- Today South Africa's Business Report ran a generally good opinion piece by Terry Bell about nurses' displeasure in the wake of the national assembly's recent passage of the Nursing Bill. The piece, "MPs leave nurses feeling angry and undervalued again," does a good job of setting nurses' objections to the Bill in the larger context of the nursing crisis that has crippled South African health systems. Relying heavily on a nursing union leader, the piece stresses that persuading the nurses who have gone overseas to return home will require that the nation address both nurses' low pay and poor working conditions, especially the "severe" understaffing that afflicts the public hospitals. more...

We can be "heroes"

November 7, 2005 -- This week's TIME magazine features a massive report on global health, "Saving One Life at a Time." It discusses preventable and treatable diseases that claim millions of lives each year in the developing world. The 50-page report examines the terrible effects of such diseases, but seems to focus even more on those fighting the diseases and how readers can help. This is commendable. But the piece fosters the impression that physicians provide virtually all important developing world health care, a message that itself poses a threat to public health by perpetuating the undervaluation of nursing that is a critical factor in the global nursing crisis. Slightly more than half of the total report is devoted to profiles of 18 "heroes" whose "energy and passion are making a difference" in the fight against these diseases. Of the 15 health care professionals profiled, 12 are physicians. Not one is recognized for her nursing, though one profile of a nutritionist notes that she has a nursing degree. With all the high-level journalistic effort on display here--an effort celebrated in the editor's less than modest column, "Journalism That Makes a Difference"--we saw only one passage that could be considered a tribute to the valiant work of the world's estimated 12 million nurses to stem disease. That was in the concluding essay by rock star Bono. more...

NPR science correspondent explains it all for you: Kenyan clinical officers are "not quite a doctor, but more than a nurse"

November 3, 2005 -- Today National Public Radio's Morning Edition ran a lengthy report by "Science Desk Correspondent and Editor" Brenda Wilson about the trend of developing world physicians migrating to wealthier nations. "Developing Countries See Health Care 'Brain Drain,'" which is part of NPR's extensive global health series airing this week, highlights some of the worrisome effects of this "exodus" on developing world health. But as the quote in the headline above makes clear, the piece regards nurses as peripheral health workers who have only basic physician skills, rather than members of a distinct profession with its own unique skills and approach to care. The report also portrays nurses as qualified to care only for patients with less serious illnesses, and as workers poor nations will have to settle for until a solution to physician migration is found. We would not necessarily ask the piece to discuss the devastating nursing exodus from these same nations. Many good nursing shortage pieces do not discuss physicians, and the brief introduction from the Morning Edition hosts does mention that the brain drain includes physicians and nurses. But because the Wilson report does focus so closely on who is left in places like Kenya when the physicians leave, its apparent failure to even mention the nursing shortage is glaring. It is, however, consistent with the overwhelming physician-centrism (even physician glorification) in the prior reports Wilson has filed on Africa as part of this week's series, which focus on the work of Doctors Without Borders and the Flying Doctors in Africa. In these reports, only diagnosis and treatment by heroic roving physicians matters in the health of the population. Nurses are ignored, except to receive the occasional "order." more...

CBS MarketWatch: Nursing a good field for "lower-skilled workers" with "no college"

October 27, 2005 -- Today CBS MarketWatch posted a piece by Andrea Coombes explaining that some "good fields," including nursing, do not require a bachelor's degree. Although most of the piece is fair enough as far as nursing goes--it stresses that nursing training is competitive and demanding--the original headline suggests that the listed fields require "no college" and are for "lower-skilled workers." This language does not provide an accurate picture of nursing. Although we acknowledge the difficulty of describing a field whose members may have some three to ten years of college-level education, we urge Ms. Coombes and CBS MarketWatch to be more careful in the future. more...

New Center FAQ

Q: Why are you so darn critical of everything the media says about nursing? Don't you know that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, that if you can't say something nice you shouldn't say anything at all, and that sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little nurses are made of?

A: The Center for Nursing Advocacy tries to present a balanced, rigorous analysis of the media's treatment of nursing. In fact, we devote significant time to media products that we find to be mostly positive for nursing, and to positive aspects of mixed portrayals. We want the media, the public, and nurses to see the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the nursing image. We want people to think and learn. We provide a great deal of positive reinforcement to media creators, for instance in our annual Golden Lamp Awards, which honor the best and worst nursing-related media products. The Center promotes nurse-created media and the use of nurse experts. And we have worked collaboratively with a range of media creators, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Wal-Mart to the television show Jeopardy!, to improve media treatment of nursing.

Having said all that, we have major problems with how nursing is often presented in the media, and it is our job to explain why that is and what we think should be done about it. If all we did was point out what the media does right, or offer criticism that was so gentle as to barely register, it would fail to adequately address the nursing crisis that is taking lives worldwide. Indeed, in our view, we can see the results of the "only-nice-things" approach nurses have traditionally followed in the current state of nursing. see the full FAQ...

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We're making a difference, but we need your help today!

Please help us bring you a more respectful image of nursing by supporting our work. We are funded solely by your member donations. We can have great success when we all work together. (Click here to see our recent successes.) I hope that you will consider making a gift to the Center so that we can better advance public health by building a larger, stronger organization. The more you support us, the better we can work to help nursing gain a more accurate professional image. Thank you very much for helping. Please click here to become a member. And your tax-deductible donation will earn you cool free gifts (pictured below) including our new RN patches with credentials. In a few weeks we will also be getting in new patches: "RN, MSN", "RN, PhD", "RN, DNSc", "RN, BScN", "LPN" and"LVN". Sign up now and we will send you your requested patches when they arrive.


Thank you for helping us to improve nursing's media image. Please circulate our news alerts to your colleagues or post them on a bulletin board at work or school if you can, to help empower other nurses and/or students, and encourage them to take a leading role in working to educate the world about the value of nursing. Thank you.

Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH,
Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
office 1-410-323-1100
fax 1-410-510-1790


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