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News on Nursing in the Media

"If there's ever an emergency, don't even bother trying to find me -- just call 911"

                                         -- A school nurse responsible for 7,200 students

December 13, 2005 -- Today USA Today ran a massive and influential report on the shortage of school nurses, including a very good main story and five shorter related pieces. The main ideas are that U.S. school nurses are vital but severely understaffed, and that given the serious health issues today's students confront, their health is at risk. The report covers much of the same ground as Laurie Udesky's Golden Lamp Award-winning September 2005 piece in Salon, even using some of the same anecdotes. The earlier article seems likely to have been a strong influence on this one. But the USA Today piece, while less probing in some ways, surpasses the earlier one in giving readers a better sense of what it's like to be a school nurse confronting this short-staffing, and in showing the different ways school nurses affect patient outcomes. The new report appears to have led to recent coverage by NBC's "Today Show" and other prominent news entities. We commend authors Bruce Horovitz and Kevin McCoy, contributors Paul Overberg, Tom Ankner, and Bruce Rosenstein, and USA Today for bringing these important issues to a broader public. more...

Boxing Stupid

February 7, 2006 -- One of the GAP's Valentine's Day products this year is a pair of boxer shorts covered with small, identical "nurse" figures. They are dressed in a short white dress with some cleavage, and a white cap with a red heart. It's not the "naughtiest" nurse we've ever seen. But the "nurse"'s outfit, her goofy hand-on-hip pose, her odd lack of facial features, and her placement on a pair of Valentine's boxers surrounded by the word "Lovesick" clearly associates the profession with romance and sex. Like the many other "naughty nurse" products that continue to infect every corner of popular culture, these boxers exploit a powerful stereotype that is a factor in the global nursing crisis. more...

No magic number

January 21, 2006 -- Today the ABC News site posted a useful report by Laura Marquez under the headline "Nursing Shortage: How It May Affect You." The sub-head was "Family Awarded $2.7 million over Alleged Nursing Neglect at Kansas Hospital." The piece tells the story of a hospital patient who was admitted for pneumonia and went seven hours without seeing a nurse, apparently because her nurse had 20 patients. The patient was actually having a heart attack; she became paralyzed and suffered brain damage. This is a powerful illustration of the potential effects of nurse short-staffing. The piece also describes an important new Health Affairs study, conducted by nursing scholar Peter Buerhaus and others, showing that having more registered nurses in hospitals could not only save lives, but save money as well. The piece includes some good points about the nursing shortage. It might have described the lawsuit in a way that did not suggest it was the only successful one ever based on a failure of nursing care, which may imply that nursing is not a very hard or responsible job. And the piece might have explored potential solutions to the shortage and short-staffing in more depth, perhaps describing the various legislative proposals, and the minimum ratios now in effect in California. more...

AP: "Inappropriate patient behavior tough on nurses"

December 15, 2005 -- Today MSNBC posted a short, unsigned Associated Press item about the widespread problem of sexual harassment of nurses by their patients. The Missouri-based piece provides a fairly good look at the breadth of the problem and some of its effects, though it understates the danger it can pose to patient care and nurses themselves, and does not convey the lack of support some harassed nurses feel they get from their institutions. more...

New Zealand Herald: "Nursing in terminal decline"

December 3, 2005 -- Today the New Zealand Herald ran a generally good nursing shortage piece by Vikki Bland that was not quite as distressing as its headline (above). The piece does offer an unflinching look at some of the problems nursing faces, including its ongoing image problem with career seekers. But it also offers some cause for hope in discussing recent initiatives aimed at improving conditions. Unfortunately, the piece does not convey that nurses save lives and greatly improve patient outcomes. That is arguably the most important single piece of information that the public needs to know about the gravity of the current crisis and would seem to be a key way of attracting career seekers. Even so, the piece has many helpful elements. more...

Crystal town

January 18, 2006 -- Today the New York Times ran Kate Zernike's story about the "sharp increase" in methamphetamine-related cases that is straining emergency rooms across the U.S. The piece is a remarkable one for the Times in that it relies on quotes from Iowa ED nurse manager Jeri Reese to explain the burden the cases put on hospitals. Reese was also set to speak at a news conference explaining the results of two new studies that document the growth in meth. cases. We commend Ms. Zernike and the Times, and Ms. Reese for speaking up about important care issues, which shows the public that nurses are health care experts. more...

"Every year, nurses are responsible for thousands of patient deaths."

January 5, 2006 -- Today U.S. News and World Report ran Marty Nemko's long feature "Career Center: Most--and least--rewarding careers." The feature classifies different jobs as excellent, good, fair, or poor careers for 2006. "Registered nurse" makes the "good" category. Nemko identifies some of the real benefits of nursing, including good pay and job security, and the "nice reward" that nurses are "often critical to patients' recovery." However, his brief description is marred by some language that is sloppy, if not disrespectful or inaccurate. Nemko's only "caveat" about nursing is that people should consider it only if they are "truly caring and detail-oriented" because "[e]very year, nurses are responsible for thousands of patient deaths." Of course nursing errors (like physician errors) do result in patient deaths. But many nurses will bristle at the suggestion that the major problem in nursing today is that nurses themselves are so lethally careless. Indeed, short-staffing and other workplace difficulties nurses have faced in the last decade have made the job virtually impossible for many nurses to do well. more...

Reclaiming Midwives: Pillars of Community Support

November 14, 2005 - April 2, 2006 -- "Reclaiming Midwives" is a moving tribute to African-American lay midwives in the South. The multi-media exhibit does a fine job of placing the midwives in a community context, with a focus on their social and cultural importance. Three accompanying contemporary art exhibits celebrate the bonds among black women and their children. The main exhibit might have taken a closer look at the midwives' actual care, particularly its non-cultural merits under modern scientific models. The exhibit makes clear that nurses were part of the white-dominated health system that ultimately marginalized the lay midwives. But it does not fully explore the extent to which nursing's holistic focus may be compatible with the midwives' community-oriented vision. The exhibit does profile one current African-American nurse-midwife. And it suggests that the lay midwives' strong commitment to the common good offers important lessons for today's troubled society, presumably including health workers. To that end, the exhibit urges a renewal of African-American midwifery. On the whole, "Reclaiming Midwives" is a valuable look at an under-recognized group of health providers who really were "pillars" of their communities. Sound familiar? See the exhibit (before it ends on April 2) at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. more...

New Center FAQ:

Q: Yo, dog, what's up with this nursing thing? Are you nuts?

A: Back away from the new social norms, son. Men should become nurses. Nurses make the difference between life and death, between hope and despair. Nursing is an excellent career choice for bright, ambitious men--like the more than 150,000 U.S. male nurses. Nursing is a cutting-edge science in which you can be a true leader in advancing global health. Nurses are autonomous professionals, meaning they do not report to physicians. Hundreds of thousands of nurses hold graduate degrees. Nurses are skilled clinicians, scholars, and policy-makers. They practice at the most prestigious teaching hospitals, at the sites of natural and human disasters, and in remote areas where they may be the only health resource. Nurses play a central, front-line role in responding to any mass casualty event. more...

If you value what the Center does, please donate a corresponding amount to help us continue our work. The Center needs your support!

A few weeks ago, a CVS television ad was telling many millions of viewers that a pharmacist could educate a nurse in four hours. Now the ad has been pulled. Without the Center, that ad would very likely still be out there. But that is just one of the many troubling images of nursing that contribute to public misunderstanding worldwide. We can't build a strong profession until we build a strong image. Right now we have enough funding to go after a few of the negative images of nursing. But we need far more funding to do the work that really needs to be done, including working proactively to create better images.

The Center stands ready and willing to lead that effort. But the tiny staff that donates almost all of its Center labor cannot do this without your help. We need money to pay for office supplies, internet fees, and other expenses. Most importantly, the long-term sustainability of the Center depends on core staff receiving a living wage. Please help us improve the nursing image by making a generous contribution to the Center today. And when you do, you will get cool free gifts (as below), including t-shirts. Please join or renew your membership today. Thank you for your help. When the Center has a success, all of our supporting members should feel very proud, because we absolutely cannot do this without you.


Can you help us by circulating our brochures and asking your colleagues and friends to become a donating member of the Center? If so, please email me and let me know how many brochures you would like, and we'll send them out to you. 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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We Can Change the Media!

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