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News on Nursing in the Media

Duck Soup

December 2005 -- Mattel, the world's leading toy maker, has just released as part of its Furryville Collections (Series 2) a small doll called the "Nurse Quacktitioner." The doll is a soft duck wearing a white lab coat and a white cap with a red heart on the front. Furryville dolls are on sale at Target, Wal-Mart, and other major toy retailers and supermarkets, just in time for the holiday season. Selling a doll called "Nurse Quacktitioner" would seem to reflect little regard for nurses or public health. That's because the name suggests that nurse practitioners (NPs) are "quacks," a term that has long been understood to refer to untrained persons who pretend to be physicians and dispense medical treatment. Mattel says it did not occur to the company that this doll would be taken as an attack on NPs, whose main professional stereotype has been that they are, uh, untrained persons who pretend to be physicians. Mattel--which is also responsible for Barbie--has trademarked the name "Nurse Quacktitioner." That, along with the fact that the doll is a duck, suggests that the name was carefully considered. In any case, while Mattel has stopped making and distributing the dolls because of the standard limited production of this collectible, we are working with the company and major retailers to see that the adorable Nurse Quacktitioners leave the market quickly. We are urging Mattel to recall the dolls from retailers, which it has not yet agreed to do; urging retailers to stop selling the dolls, or sell them back to Mattel, as Wal-Mart is willing to do; and urging everyone to find a lawful, environmentally sound way to rid the world of the dolls. Read our analysis, or see Mattel's initial response and the current status of our campaign.

UPDATE -- NBC News Broadcast Standards

December 15, 2005 -- NBC has responded to the 3500+ letters sent as part of our campaign about the "Today" show segment on nurse practitioner (NP)-staffed quick clinics that aired November 14, 2005. Please see their letter here, and our response to them. Although the Center is not satisfied with the position of NBC News on the segment, we do appreciate its consideration of our views, and especially that the "Today" show has agreed to work with a new group of nursing organizations to improve its coverage of nursing issues going forward. In fact, we understand that "Today" has already run a segment about the worrisome school nursing shortage, although the Center has not yet seen that piece. So we are ending our "Today" show campaign as to NBC today. But Dr. Edward Hill and the AMA refuse even to respond to the Center or (to our knowledge) any of the thousands who have written to protest Dr. Hill's unfounded comments denigrating NP care. So we are continuing our campaign as to the AMA; to participate, please click here.

"OK, folks, the good news is the hospital has approved four-to-one ratios."

November 17, 2005 -- In a plotline begun in the November 3 episode and resolved tonight, NBC's ER" again showed nurses managing nurses, contrary to years of "ER" practice in which physicians did that. The show also made an unprecedented, if brief and unclear, statement about nurse short-staffing, overtime and the shortage. We applaud those efforts. In the first episode, ED nurse manager Eve Peyton abruptly hired major nurse character Sam Taggart as her lieutenant, and together they abruptly fired veteran nurse Haleh Adams for working excessive overtime. Adams was later rehired, but as you may have guessed, some elements of the plotline left something to be desired. They suggested that hiring nurse managers and firing veteran nurses were fairly casual affairs, and that the big OT problem now is some nurses seeking to work too many extra shifts, rather than the reverse problem of mandation, in which hospitals force nurses to work excessive hours in order to cut costs. The Nov. 3 episode was "Dream House" by David Zabel, and the Nov. 17 episode was "Two Ships" by Joe Sachs, MD, and Virgil Williams. more...


Here comes the fear again

November 12, 2005 -- Two recent press pieces highlight the reaction from organized medicine to the seemingly inexorable increase in nurses' authority to prescribe medications. In a good November 10 piece in the Guardian, John Carvel reported that U.K. health secretary Patricia Hewitt would outline plans to give experienced nurses--not just nurse practitioners (NPs)--the "right to prescribe almost every medicine in the national formulary," a "historic move that smashes the demarcation barrier between doctors and nurses." The piece described the British Medical Association (BMA) reaction as one of "outrage," with a representative citing the usual training and "patient safety issues." Today, New Zealand's Stuff site ran a generally fair piece from The Press (Christchurch) about the aggressive reaction by local physicians to plans to expand prescription rights for NPs. The report, by Mike Houlahan and Amanda Warren, gives somewhat more play than the Guardian item did to the "scathing" physician attacks. Articles in the New Zealand Medical Journal have argued that nurse prescription would be unsafe because NPs have less formal training than physicians. Both the U.K. and New Zealand pieces seem to reflect a growing realization by policy makers that many people are not getting adequate care under current health systems, and perhaps a sense that the "sky-is-falling" warnings about nurse prescription have no scientific basis. more...

A Short Herstory of Violence

November 10, 2005 -- Today South Africa's Independent Online (IOL) site posted a fairly good Cape Argus story by Di Caelers headlined "Nearly half of our nurses suffer abuse." The piece indicates that research in South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S. suggests that among health workers, nurses experience a disproportionate amount of physical and psychological violence by patients and colleagues, especially physicians. The article might have explored why nurses face such abuse, and done more on its effects on patient care and the global nursing shortage. But the piece, which was based mainly on a recent South African study, does note that 80% of nurses surveyed "blamed abuse--largely by male doctors--in the private sector for nurses leaving the profession." more...

Keith Anderson's: "XXL"

Bigger is better. "XXL" is country/rock poster boy Keith Anderson's not-so-tongue-in-cheek ode to the Big and Tall, and their ability to get all the hot babes. By an odd coincidence, Anderson himself is reportedly a large ex-athlete, a former college football player and bodybuilder who might have played major league baseball if not for an injury. The song, which Anderson wrote with Bob DiPiero, is a swaggering but fairly bland bit of sleek, radio-ready country/rock, like much of the rest of Anderson's well-named debut album. The first verse describes the singer's birth, where it "[t]ook two nurses to hold me and one nurse to slap me," and the physician informed his exhausted mother that the baby was "off the charts." If it was just this charming creation myth, we could let it go. But unfortunately, there's also the video. That features the famously well-endowed Motley Crue drummer and sex film guy Tommy Lee as the leering "doctor" (any more questions about what "XXL" really means?). Tommy's lab coat says "Dr. Feelgood," and in the delivering room he is on intimate terms with three "naughty nurses," who are spilling out of their tiny dresses as they pose and pout. So, "Dr. Feelgood" is hooking up with several half-dressed babes while they all deliver the "XXL" speaker and care for him and mom. The Freudian weirdness and the ugly association of OB care with sex make the video an even more cynical than usual exploitation of the naughty nurse stereotype. more...

Everything's turning to white?

November 14, 2005 -- Today the Chicago Tribune published a generally good story by Dahleen Glanton about the ongoing debate over what nurses should wear, and especially the return to more traditional white uniforms in some hospitals. The piece, headlined "White garb returning to hospitals," was soon picked up by other Knight Ridder newspapers nationwide. The piece gives a good sense of the "divisive and heated" debate in some quarters over how to identify nurses in an increasingly diverse and often confusing hospital environment. It notes that perspectives range from those who believe that white uniforms enhance professionalism to others who feel it prevents individual expression. The piece also includes several quotes from Truth executive director Sandy Summers about the underlying identification problem, white uniforms, and "RN" patches. more...

UPDATE -- Treats, lies, and Good Housekeeping

December 12, 2005 -- To date over 200 supporters have sent letters to Good Housekeeping as part of a Center campaign about the 75 health tips in the magazine's November issue, not one of which came from a nurse. We were particularly concerned about a tip from the mysterious "Dr. X" advising ED patients to lie to the triage nurse in order to be seen faster, and another from Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic, who advised patients to get better hospital care by "supplying the staff with treats." In a recent telephone call with the Center, Good Housekeeping health editor Toni Hope indicated that the magazine plans to print a nurse's letter to the editor on these subjects in the February 2006 issue. In addition, Ms. Hope promised to work with the Center to ensure the accuracy of future nursing portrayals, and to include us on her list of consulting health experts. Please register with our nurse expert database today, so that if we need an expert in a specific field, we will be able to call on you. Our current list has gaps; for instance, we do not yet have HIV experts. Please help us to improve media portrayals of nursing and other important health issues. Thank you!

Send a Holiday card to the Benghazi Six

December 12, 2005 -- When you're filling out your holiday cards this season, please save six cards out and send them to the Benghazi Six who are lingering in a Libyan prison. Not only will this mean a great deal to the five nurses and one physician in jail, it will send a message to the Libyan government that the international community remains concerned that the six have been sentenced to death despite the views of independent experts that the health workers were not responsible for the tragic infections of over 400 children with HIV. Please click here and join the Royal College of Nursing's holiday card campaign for the Benghazi Six. Thank you.

Talking health care

December 5, 2005 -- A UPI item released today reports that nurses have again topped Gallup's annual poll on the "honesty" and "ethics" of various professions. A reported 82% of U.S. respondents rated nurses at least "high" in those categories; physicians came in third, with 65%. If everyone loves nurses so much, why has a global shortage rooted in a lack of resources and understanding been taking lives worldwide for years? Because what this poll measures seems to have little to do with real respect, and little to do with how economic and social resources are allocated. We recall Bob Dylan's lyrics from "Talking New York" (1962):

The man there said he loved m' sound,
He was ravin' about how he loved m' sound;
Dollar a day's worth.

See the Center's FAQ "Why aren't you more excited that public opinion polls often put nurses at the top of the list of "most trusted" and "most ethical" professions?"

New Center FAQ:

Q: You're always asking the media to change what it's doing, or even to withdraw a media product completely. Don't you think people have a right to say whatever they want? You act like the speech police!

A: The media has a right to say whatever it wants within the bounds of the law, and grassroots non-profit organizations like the Center for Nursing Advocacy have the same right to urge it to change its speech. The idea that the Center is somehow interfering with free speech seems to be based on several misconceptions about our work and the nature of speech in a modern liberal democracy. more...

Messages from the Center's Executive Director

Stories we are working on -- We have seen the meltdown and ejection of nurse manager Eve Peyton on NBC's "ER" and will soon post an analysis. We will also be looking at the recent "Grey's Anatomy" episode in which intern Cristina Yang suggests to a fellow intern that he had better pass his medical boards or he will be stuck as a nurse. And we are considering doing an analysis of the recently rebroadcast season premiere of CBS' "Cold Case" with the scary school nurse.

Please help us spread the word -- We need your help to spread the word about our work. So many nurses, students, and other potential supporters still aren't aware of what we do to improve public understanding of nursing. And we need more supporters to get involved in our letter-writing campaigns and other outreach efforts. So we are asking you to help us by telling all of your colleagues and associates about us. An easy way to do that is to distribute our new brochures. Do you have 5, 100 or 500 colleagues you'd like to ask to get involved with the Center's activities? If so, and if you are a member, please email us at and let us know how many brochures you would like. We need your involvement on many levels to help make the Center's activities more effective!

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.) We 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. 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. And our new t-shirts come with our slogan on the back: "When was the last time the media told you the truth about what nurses do?" If you donate at the $50 level or higher, you get one (or more) free.

Click here to become a member now. Thank you!

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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