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News on Nursing in the Media

The Benghazi Six

October 17, 2005 -- Today a fairly good International Herald Tribune piece by Brian Knowlton reported that U.S. President George Bush has asked the Libyan government to release five Bulgarian nurses who, along with a Palestinian physician, face imminent execution for allegedly intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus. The New York Times and Bulgaria's Focus News English also covered the story. As the press pieces note, international health experts have found that the tragic infections were due to poor sanitation practice at the hospital, not intentional acts by these caregivers. The prisoners' plight has been the subject of protests by the European Commission and the U.S. State Department. Major human rights organizations and health care groups, including the American Nurses Association and Physicians for Human Rights, have called for their release after seven years of captivity that has allegedly included torture. If nurses' close contacts with patients subject them to criminal prosecution and even execution for what seem to be systemic health care problems, nurses will not just be unable to act as patient advocates, but may be deterred from serving vulnerable populations and having the kind of close patient contacts that are critical to good outcomes. The Center thanks the press for its coverage and President Bush for his support, and we urge supporters to add their voices to those calling for the release of all six prisoners. read more and click here to send a letter to free the Bulgarian Nurses!

Please donate to help the Earthquake victims

October 2005 -- The earthquake victims in Pakistan and India who have been devastated by the earthquake need our help. Aid organizations need funds to supply water, food, blankets, tents and health care to the areas where many remain injured, homeless, thirsty and hungry. Please be as generous as possible to help all of our patients worldwide. Thank you. We suggest making donations to Oxfam, Care or Save the Children.

Pull up the people

September 22, 2005 -- Today New Zealand's Stuff web site posted an unsigned piece about a new tactic by the national nurses' union to highlight short-staffing: placing a cardboard "nurse" called Mia (as in "Missing in action") on wards in which the staffing has fallen below the level nurses deem to be safe. The story is "Cardboard cut-out nurse to highlight shortage." It explains that the New Zealand Nurses Organization created Mia to focus attention on a "safe-staffing inquiry" by a joint union-management panel that the union hopes will lead to an improved staffing system. The Center commends Mia for her unusually creative patient advocacy. more...

Salon: "No school nurses left behind"

September 29, 2005 -- Today Salon posted a lengthy, generally good piece by Laurie Udesky about the denursification of U.S. public schools, which has come at a time when the number of children attending with serious, chronic health issues like asthma continues to grow. Udesky's story includes harrowing anecdotes illustrating the "often tragic results" as non-nurse school workers try to care for sick children. Part of the problem, Udesky reports, is the tremendous financial pressures that the No Child Left Behind program and local budget demands have placed on public schools. The piece might have focused more on the views and experiences of the nurses themselves, but it still provides a good sense of the value of nurses and the gravity of the problem. more...


September 26, 2005 -- Today the Globe and Mail (Toronto) ran a simple but powerful "comment" by Corinne LaBossiere about the value of nursing. LaBossiere's piece compared the expert palliative care that her dying mother's nurse provided without fanfare, on the one hand, to the images on the TV in her mother's room, which showed celebrity Pamela Anderson getting quite a bit of male attention simply for parts of her body. The headline asked: "What assets do we value most?" more...

Christmas in July syndrome?

September 22, 2005 -- Tonight's 12th season premiere of NBC's "ER" went out of its way to acknowledge that veteran nurses play a role in coping with "July syndrome," which occurs when new physicians arrive in U.S. hospitals to begin their internships. The episode included nurse character Chunie Marquez acting to prevent several dangerous intern errors, and nurse Haleh Adams critiquing a new second year resident's intern teaching. For a major network television show, this is extraordinary, and we thank episode writers John Wells, Joe Sachs, MD, and Lisa Zwerling, MD. Unfortunately, the episode seemed to present these veteran nurses mostly as assistants to the senior physicians. Rather than directly teaching the junior physicians and giving them a chance to improve, as real nurses generally would, the nurse characters simply reported the problems to the senior physicians. And of course, the whole focus of the episode's clinical scenes, as usual, was the training of physicians. The show has never addressed nurse training in any significant way. more...

Feel Good, Inc.

July 14, 2005 -- In an episode aired on April 14 and again today, "Stories of Survival," the Dr. Phil show looked at the experience of two victims of "senseless" violence who are living with permanent facial disfigurement. They are a former deputy sheriff named Jason and Dr. Phil's sister-in-law Cindi Broaddus. The idea seemed to be to help Jason and his family, using Cindi as an inspirational example. At one point, the show introduced a nursing assistant who had helped Cindi during her recovery. Dr. Phil, Cindi and Clarice Marsh, director of pediatric nursing at UCLA, then offered brief testimonials for nursing as the under-appreciated "backbone" of health care, as Dr. Phil put it. This seemed to be part of the show's efforts to make amends for its host's November 18, 2004 remarks suggesting that many nurses were simply looking to marry a physician. We commend the effort. The image presented here is certainly better than Dr. Phil's comments last year, and Marsh did have time to say that nurses were "incredibly intelligent." But the testimonials mostly suggested that nurses were virtuous, hard-working hand-holders. No one said what nurses actually do to improve physical outcomes, or suggested what it really takes to provide skilled emotional support. The nursing assistant literally said nothing. Of course, nursing assistants, who have minimal training, are not nurses, despite Dr. Phil's suggestions to the contrary. Jason finally received a series of large promotional "donations," including the services of a Hollywood plastic surgeon and a dentist, who were presented as highly skilled professionals. These limited, possibly illusory "donations" form a striking contrast with nursing's holistic public health focus, and they send a dubious message to those facing serious adversity without access to show business largesse. more...

New Center FAQ:

Q: Should we refer to every non-physician caregiver as a "nurse," no matter what type or level of training that person has?

A: No, just as we would not refer to every non-nurse caregiver as a "physician." Nurses are life-saving, autonomous professionals with advanced health training and unique legal and ethical responsibilities. Referring to non-nurses as nurses is not just confusing and unfair. It can be dangerous. In particular, by helping to blur the distinctions between nurses and less highly trained assistive personnel, the practice adds to the devaluation of nursing that has been a critical factor in the denursification of clinical settings and the life-threatening nursing crisis. The Center urges everyone to do her part, in a sensitive way, to increase awareness of who is and is not a nurse. see the rest of the FAQ, which can be printed and shown to anyone you feel might benefit...

Messages from the Center's Executive Director

Gillette update --

We have heard that the Gillette TAG Body Spray naughty nurse commercial has been airing on basic cable station Spike TV in the last few weeks. I have contacted Gillette about it. The company apologized for what it said were inadvertent airings of the ad, and promised to work on eliminating them promptly. Gillette also asked us to let the company know if any of our supporters see the ad air again, so if you do, please let us know where and when you saw it by emailing me at immediately. We need your help to monitor this. Thanks very much.


News we are working on --

For our next alert, we are working on the Boston Globe pieces featuring an in-depth look at ICU nurses, the "Grey's Anatomy" naughty nurse porn episode and the new nurse manager episodes on "ER." Please stay tuned to news alerts.


Center update -- we're making a difference, but we need your help today!

In recent weeks, I have been able to spread the Center's message by speaking to nursing groups in different parts of the U.S. This has been worthwhile, but an unfortunate side effect has been delay in other Center activities, including the production of this news alert. While the work of most organizations would not be severely affected in such a situation, the Center is understaffed. In fact, I am the only full-time Center staffer. Our senior advisor/writer works about 20 hours per week, our project associate about 8 hours per week, and our web programmer 5-10 hours per week. Over 90% of our total labor costs are donated to the Center, and before June of this year, they were 100% donated. Maintaining a professional operation with almost no money for salaries is an enormous challenge, and the resulting stress on our staff is considerable. Despite these very limited resources, we have made a significant impact over the last four years, regularly influencing the news, entertainment, and advertising media. (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 harder 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. Click here to learn more.

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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