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News on Nursing in the Media

Please see all 12 items in our news alert.

The world crashes in, into my living room

September 2005 -- The fall 2005 U.S. television season promises a lot of influential health-related serial programming. But since nearly every major character is a physician--literally dozens--it seems unlikely that nurses will receive their due. At the top of the list are the three hugely successful returning prime time hospital dramas: NBC's "ER" (premieres Sept. 22), Fox's "House" (Sept. 13), and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" (Sept. 25). Of the 25 major characters in these three shows, 24 are physicians, and only one--"ER"'s Sam Taggart--is a nurse. "ER" will reportedly add another nurse character--someone TV Guide refers to as a "take-charge nurse manager" who "mentor[s]" Taggart and, oh, is also a "bitch"--but it is not clear if she will be a major character. NBC's new fertility clinic drama "Inconceivable" (Sept. 23) focuses on two physicians and a therapist; it also includes one nurse character, but her only role in the extended preview now on the NBC web site seems to be seducing a physician. On the reality show front, ABC's new "Miracle Workers" (mid-season) will reportedly feature an "elite team of physicians" who help people with "revolutionary medical treatments." Ohio family nurse practitioner Margaret Bobonich is one of the 16 contestants on CBS' "Survivor: Guatemala" (Sept. 15), and as of this writing, Las Vegas ED nurse Maggie is one of only three guests left on CBS' "Big Brother 6." NBC's fading sitcom "Scrubs," which includes several major physician characters and nurse Carla Espinosa, returns in mid-season. On CBS' new sitcom "Out of Practice" (Sept. 19), four major physician characters look down on a family member for being "'just' a psychologist." Lifetime's "Strong Medicine," now in its sixth season, focuses on two physicians but occasionally features nurse midwife Peter Riggs, as it will in the Sept. 18 episode. The WB's small-town drama "Everwood" (Sept. 29), which has a physician lead character and includes "nurse and office manager" Edna Harper, returns for a fourth season. FX's nasty drama "Nip/Tuck" (Sept. 20), starting its third season, focuses on two plastic surgeons and has no recurring nurse character, but many viewers mistake its assertive, pro-women anesthesiologist Liz Cruz for a nurse, if that's any consolation. And staffing agency Access Nurses has selected the six cast members for its web-based "13 Weeks" (November), a reality series about travel nurses. more...

"I'm here full time, thank you God for that"

September 2, 2005 -- Today the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) ran a short but very good piece by Norman Miller about local school nurse Mary Lou Rivernider, who saved a six-year-old student's life after he had a severe reaction to a bee sting. The story, "School nurse praised for quick thinking," does not just offer the standard "hero" comments. Instead, in an era in which school nurses have been cut back despite the increasing complexity and importance of their care, the piece includes powerful quotes from Rivernider and a fire lieutenant that stress how critical it is that nurses be available at school. The article, unlike many, tells us several of the specific things Rivernider did for the boy. And we can't resist any piece whose headline includes the words "nurse" and "thinking." more...


September 1, 2005 -- Today's Bangkok Post ran a short unsigned item reporting that five nursing schools and a medical school in the south of Thailand, where most of the nation's Muslims live, had banned female students "from wearing the Islamic headscarf, or nijab, and veil during clinical procedures." The piece signals the difficulty in balancing vital infection control measures, the need to avoid deterring nursing students in the midst of a critical shortage, and respect for a small minority's religious practice, especially in the context of the deadly sectarian tension in southern Thailand. more...

Charity in the eye of the aftermath

September 1, 2005 -- Yesterday the Associated Press released an astonishingly nurse-centric report on how New Orleans hospitals are coping with the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, especially the flooding and power outages that threaten the operations of the hospitals themselves. Adam Nossiter's piece, "New Orleans Hospitals Trying to Make Do," includes quotes from three local nursing leaders working to care for patients in horrendous conditions, including two nurse managers at the legendary Charity Hospital. Without saying it is doing so, the story suggests the central role nurses play in keeping patients alive. By contrast, today's stories from CNN and The New York Times rely solely on physicians for their accounts of the deteriorating conditions at Charity, which reportedly now include sniper fire and perilously scarce resources. more...


Please donate to help Hurricane Katrina victims

The devastation in New Orleans and the Gulf area of the US is overwhelming. We urge you to donate generously to either the American Red Cross or America's Second Harvest to help with emergency services and the public health crisis. Thank you. For volunteer information see the American Nurses Association or California Nurses Association. Nurse Practitioners click here for information on how you can volunteer to help in relief operations.

Nursing the baby nurses

August 28, 2005 -- Today the New York Daily News ran a lengthy and fairly good piece, "Scandal of 'baby nurses,'" about the lack of regulation and awareness of the minimally-trained infant caregivers who market themselves as "baby nurses." The piece, by Pete Donohoe and Caitlyn Kelly, stems from the recent high-profile case of Noella Allick, the New York infant caregiver who has reportedly "confessed to violently shaking and seriously injuring two babies in her care." The piece rightly suggests that a key part of this specific problem is that anyone can call herself a "nurse," though it does not explore the deeper implications for global health posed by the endemic abuse of the word "nurse." In fact, the media commonly refers to female care givers as "nurses" no matter how little training they have, and whether they actually provide health care or not. Products doing so range from news pieces like those on the "baby nurse" case (including one in the Daily News last week by Donohoe himself) to marketing for popular Hollywood films (such as the "The Skeleton Key" and "The Grudge") to more arcane products in the media's vast sex-and-violence marketplace (such as the Japanese anime video series "Amazing Nurse Nanako"). This kind of confusion may be exploited not just by minimally trained caregivers, but even by some hospitals that may see a benefit in leading patients to believe they are getting care from "nurses" without having to actually pay for nurses. Legislation to make the word "nurse" a "protected title," which the Daily News reports is pending in New York, may have some positive effect. But the abuse of the word is so entrenched and widespread, and its common associations with breastfeeding and generic nurturing remain so strong, that some may wonder whether the profession of nursing should consider finding a new name. more...

Anti-social behavior

August 29, 2005 -- Recent press articles in the U.K. and the U.S. have highlighted the ongoing physical security risks faced by nurses working on the front lines of health care. Today the BBC published an unsigned piece, "Rise in charges over NHS assaults," reporting a large increase in prosecutions of those who assault National Health Service staff. A short unsigned Associated Press piece published on August 21 in the San Jose Mercury News, "Newspaper: Psych nurses ask for additional security," reported that nurses are calling for heightened security after a "spate of attacks on employees" at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center's inpatient psychiatric unit. more...

Wages and conditions

August 26, 2005 -- Today Sierra Leone's Awareness Times ran a short piece by Tom S.E.C. Tommy describing the national nurses association's dismay over the recent "incorporation" of the National School of Nursing into the College of Medicine and Allied Health Services. The report, "Sierra Leone Nurses Blast College of Medicine," also describes the association president Patricia Abu's concern about the extreme lack of resources devoted to the nation's government hospitals. According to Mrs. Abu, 70% of the nurses at those hospitals are unpaid volunteers, with the result that most qualified nurses seek other opportunities, and those who remain are forced to "live on the income from the [medicines] they sell." more...

Could shortage-driven migration change nursing's gender gap?

August 23, 2005 -- Today the New Kerala web site posted an interesting unsigned piece about the apparent surge in interest in nursing among the men in the Indian state of Kerala. The story, "Kerala male nurses storm traditional female bastion," suggests that local males are being lured by the "[l]ucrative nursing options" overseas, with 20% of current Indian nursing school graduates going abroad. The piece is very positive about nursing, noting its intellectual components and at times sounding more like a recruitment ad in discussing how interesting and fulfilling the profession is. The piece does not explain exactly what nurses do to save lives and improve outcomes. And it seems oblivious of the larger context of the nursing shortage, and the effect this talent drain is having on health care in India. But the piece does--without seeming to realize it--raise the question of whether the huge pay differentials and transnational migration stemming from the shortage could alter the profession's gender makeup, potentially helping to empower the profession and ease the shortage. more...

The Enforcers

August 31, 2005 -- Today the Boston Globe published a persuasive op-ed piece by journalist Suzanne Gordon about the Tufts Health Plan's apparent return to the health care "micromanagement" of the 1990's, including placing nurses in Massachusetts hospitals to "patrol" treatment and patient stays. Gordon argues that this poisons nurses' relations with physicians and patients, exacerbates the nursing crisis, and does not even result in the cost savings that are its goal. Instead, she contends, only the kind of universal health care system that prevails in other industrialized nations will be able to contain the runaway expenses of the private insurance industry, prescription drug costs, and other wasteful features of the current system. more...

Checking up on Checkup Day

September 20, 2005 -- Today is the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) 2005 "Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day," a national campaign to improve the health of minority communities by encouraging people to visit health professionals. This year, HHS changed the name of the campaign in response to nurses' concerns that the prior one, "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day," excluded the advanced practice nurses (APRNs) who play a critical role in the primary care of the campaign's target populations. As the campaign day approaches, it's worth briefly examining the way in which HHS and its partners in government, the media and the health care community have reacted to the name change. HHS itself explains the change on its web site as an effort to acknowledge the efforts of all health professionals engaged in community health, whether they are "doctors, nurses, dentists, physician's assistants, or other health providers." This recognition of nurses and others is commendable, though it does not tell people that APRNs function in a way that is comparable to physicians in primary care settings. HHS has also given its partners the discretion to use any name they wish. Tom Joyner, whose ABC Radio show reaches millions, and who ignored nurses' concerns about the old "doctor" name, appears to have stuck with that name. On the other hand, it appears that many other governmental, media and health entities have gone with the new HHS name. more...

New Center FAQ:

What is Magnet status and how's that whole thing going?

Magnet hospital is stated to be one where nursing delivers excellent patient outcomes, where nurses have a high level of job satisfaction, and where there is a low staff nurse turnover rate and appropriate grievance resolution...And we understand that some nurses are enthusiastic about the program and feel that it promotes the important practices outlined above. However, it is important to be aware that others, notably nursing unions, have been highly critical of the way the Magnet program has been implemented. The Center has heard many first-hand reports of some hospitals trumpeting their new Magnet status even as they proceed to betray some of the program's key principles...But we would like to hear what all nurses think, especially those who are at magnet facilities. see the full FAQ...

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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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