News on Nursing in the Media
December 21, 2005 -- Mattel, the world's leading toy maker, has notified the Center that the company refuses to withdraw or buy back from retailers its Furryville "Nurse Quacktitioner" dolls. The doll's name suggests that nurse practitioners (NPs) are "quacks," untrained persons who pretend to be physicians and dispense medical treatment. We understand that, as part of the normal practice for such "collectible" dolls, Mattel will no longer make or distribute the dolls. And the company has expressed regret for “upsetting” NPs. We appreciate that, but as long as the dolls remain for sale, Mattel will continue to make money from them, and the dolls' pernicious effects will continue. (See our initial analysis here.) Mattel’s assurances that it values nurses and its commendable support for children’s hospitals are irrelevant to the anti-NP message consumers receive from the dolls. The Center has gotten Wal-Mart's agreement to sell the dolls back to Mattel. But because Mattel refuses to buy them back, the Center urges everyone to:
A Lump of Coal
December 8, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of NBC's "ER" seemed to mark the final exit of ED nurse manager Eve Peyton, the only significant nurse character ever presented as the clinical peer of the attending physicians. Her departure after six episodes marked such a crude and implausible swerve into extreme battleaxe territory that it's hard not to see it as a dramatic hit against any nurse uppity enough to challenge the senior physicians who dominate "ER." In fact, it could even be seen as a message to any nurse presumptuous enough to challenge the show's own physician-centric vision. Peyton was always a rule-bound micromanager who was considered a "b*itch." But she was also a formidable, doctorally-prepared clinical expert who acted as a mentor to lone major nurse character Sam Taggart. She modified decisions that proved unworkable, displayed a sharp wit, and seemed to be a consummate professional. But tonight, Peyton got dumped by her boyfriend; decked an offensive patient dressed as Santa Claus and poured urine on him, with no physical provocation and no regret; was fired on Christmas Eve; and bid farewell to the ED staff with standard PhD-type phrases like "bite me," "s*crew yourselves," and "you all s*uck." The episode did at least have Peyton fired by the "nursing supervisor" rather than a physician. But it also began with new chief of ED medicine Luka Kovac sending three of Peyton's ED nurses home because he foresaw a light shift, and calling them "support staff" as he did so, showing once again that even on "ER," you just can't keep a good handmaiden stereotype down. The episode, "All About Christmas Eve," was written by Janine Sherman Barrois, and seen by 15.4 million U.S. viewers. more...
December 9, 2005 -- Recent press articles in the Bahamas have reported on a massive and apparently successful sickout by the Bahamas Nurses Union (BNU) with respect to the nation's public hospitals. A fairly good piece by Erica Wells in yesterday's Bahama Journal describes the basic outlines of the dispute, which appeared to center on the nurses' demands for higher wage increases and for medical insurance. A shorter and somewhat unbalanced story by Lededra Marche in today's Freeport News reports that the nurses ended the brief sickout after signing a contract that addressed their concerns, including unspecified measures to deal with workplace threats and violence. These articles are notable for several things they suggest, more or less in passing, about factors in nursing practice in the Bahamas, including the status of women, the role of nurses from overseas, and the role of Christian churches in such disputes. more...
December 6, 2005 -- Today career columnist Carol Kleiman had a piece in the Chicago Tribune headlined "Pink-collar workers have own barriers to break." The piece examines how women can escape the "low wages" and "lack of a career path" in the "pink ghetto" of traditionally female jobs, including nursing and teaching, and move into "demanding" "professional" careers like law and accounting. We agree, of course, that women should not be excluded from careers on the basis of gender. But the column assumes that traditionally female jobs are menial and insignificant, and defines success solely in terms of the money, prestige and obvious power available in some traditionally male jobs. The author and the consultant who is her main source seem unaware that some of the jobs they hold in such contempt are vital, autonomous professions, many of whose members hold graduate degrees, nor that a world without nurses and teachers would also lack the lawyers and accountants they value so highly. Nurses use their years of college-level science training to save lives and improve patient outcomes every day, many as clinical leaders. Many nurses are underpaid, but the average annual US nursing salary was recently reported to be well over $50,000. As nurses confront a deadly shortage rooted in part in a lack of understanding of their work, press pieces like this one are very damaging. And use of the phrase "pink ghetto" will be especially unhelpful for attracting men to nursing. more...
December 20, 2005 -- Today the Baltimore Sun ran the last installment of Fred Schulte's massive three-part series "Masking malpractice cases." The gist of it is that Maryland's system for overseeing physician practice is failing to protect patients. According to the report, that is because regulators pay insufficient attention to malpractice claim trends, rules keep most physicians' claim histories confidential, and litigation practices by lawyers and elite hospitals often allow physicians to escape liability and scrutiny. The piece focuses on the small number of physicians who have had unusually high numbers of malpractice claims or payments; regulators in other states reportedly examine those physicians closely. So what's our problem with all this reporting about physician errors? The problem is that the subtext of the huge focus on physician malpractice in recent years, whether from the angle of patient safety or the cost of malpractice insurance, is that only physician care has important effects on patient outcomes. Nursing is ignored because it is not deemed important. more...
"This family only meets in hospitals and funerals." That fun-loving line, from the first song on "The Good Nurse" (2000), is not a bad summary of the record, which pursues Five Eight driving force Mike Mantione's apparent fascination with serious illness and death. Most of the songs are not explicitly about nurses. But they do reflect concern with how illness affects our lives, including our relations with health workers. A nurse narrator/facilitator--The Good Nurse--surfaces now and again in the mix to explain, conversationally, how we deal with being sick. The band has stressed that it is older and bigger than the "emo" label, and its well-received self-titled 2004 release seems to support that claim. But Mantione's keening and brooding do dominate "The Good Nurse." And the record seems to present nurses as pragmatic experts whose role is to help us cope with the inevitable decay of our bodies and minds. more...
New Center FAQ:
Q: But that television show you're complaining about just happens to be about physicians. How can you expect it to show nurses or nursing?
A: Oh yes, of course. That show just "happens" to be all about physicians. In 2005, roughly 24 of 25 major characters on the top three U.S. hospital shows (ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," Fox's "House," and NBC's "ER") just happened to be physicians. However, in all these hospital shows, the physician characters also just "happen" to spend about half their time doing key tasks that nurses do in real life. This includes crucial monitoring, life-saving procedures, psycho-social care, patient advocacy and education. And even if a show actually stuck to showing what physicians really do, at some point Hollywood would have to take responsibility for the fact that virtually every significant hospital show in recent decades just "happens" to have focused overwhelmingly on physicians and their work, clearly reinforcing the prevailing social view that they provide all important care. We can easily name a dozen significant shows of the last decade that have focused overwhelmingly on physicians, many of the shows monster hits. But try naming one U.S. show from that time that has focused on nurses--or even given them comparable treatment. At a time when nursing has been in the midst of a life-threatening global shortage for many years, it will no longer do to pretend that the health care media landscape is the result of anything but a dangerous lack of understanding and widespread social bias. more...
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Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
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