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News on Nursing in the Media

CVS pharmacist returns from Matrix; can now download entire nursing curriculum into your brain in four hours!

January 24, 2006 -- The CVS drug store company has recently run a 30-second television ad in which a pharmacist explains how he spent several hours of his own time helping a patient's husband figure out how to administer her 20 different medications. That's great, except that the pharmacist twice stated that the husband was now "a nurse." Of course, we know what he probably meant--modern drug regimens are very complex, and (we might add) the current health financing system has left many patients and their families with the impossible task of trying to nurse themselves. But it's possible that some viewers, lacking knowledge of the nursing crisis, would simply see the ad as a criticism of nurses for failing to do the teaching the pharmacist had to step in to provide. And given the poor public understanding of nursing, we fear that people might think nurses really can be trained by pharmacists in a matter of hours. Last week, the Center persuaded CVS to pull the ad. Today, CVS told the Center that it will edit out the "nurse" comments and run the ad without them. We commend CVS, especially the helpful VP of customer service Mark Kolligian, for listening to nurses' concerns and responding to them in a timely and constructive way. more...

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The Gash Cam

December 19, 2005 -- Tonight, CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman" included a short segment in which a hand surgeon removed several stitches from Dave's hand, which he had injured in a household mishap. Standing by were two giggling, attractive "nurses" in short white dresses and white caps. Letterman gave credit to nurses following his heart bypass a few years ago. But this segment was another tired suggestion that nurses are brainless bimbos, which is especially reprehensible at a time of critical shortage. more...

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Nurse Follies...well, we can't improve on that for a headline

January 2006 -- The Center has learned that a video reel slots game called "Nurse Follies" has been placed in casinos throughout the United States. The game appears to present the hospital as a kooky den of lust and greed, relying on several nursing stereotypes, including the young naughty nurse, the older battleaxe, and the financial enforcer. Such images, while endlessly amusing, are the last thing the nursing profession needs during a critical shortage that is claiming lives worldwide. "Nurse Follies" is sold by IGT (International Game Technology), a Nevada-based Fortune 500 company that claims to be the world's leading gaming machine maker, with 80% of the U.S. market and more than half a million machines in place worldwide. We were first alerted to the slot machines appearing at the Wynn Las Vegas casino. But when we called to register our concern, we learned that Wynn had just finished reconfiguring its Nurse Follies machines to exclude any reference to nurses because of a prior letter from just one nurse. However, manufacturer IGT insists the machines are good for nursing, and is unwilling to do anything to eliminate Nurse Follies from Las Vegas or any other gaming resort. more...

Nurses strike Seattle Grace Hospital? What nurses?

January 23, 2006 -- The Jan. 22 episode of ABC's hit "Grey's Anatomy" (analysis pending) actually had a minor subplot in which nurses expressed frustration with short-staffing (!). And the episode set to air on Jan. 29 will evidently feature a nursing strike, with a focus on the struggle of the show's 10 physician characters to cope without nurses. Of course, since these physicians already provide virtually all the nursing on the show, including key procedures, monitoring, and patient relations that nurses do in real life, you might well ask just what additional things the physicians are going to do in this episode. If the Jan. 22 episode is any guide, we'll see the pretty intern stars trying to do their important jobs as well as what the show will likely present as the nurses' annoying administrative and grunt work. In the Jan. 22 episode, the nurses' jobs seemed to consist of managing room occupancies and paperwork. The show's few, generally nameless nurses are often associated with problems (bureaucracy, petulance, infidelity, STDs, p*orn, failure, strikes, we could go on), but not with important patient care. And while we appreciate the show's nod at the short-staffing that now threatens many nurses' practice, the Jan. 22 episode wrongly told viewers that the disgruntled nurses reported to the chief of surgery--a damaging inaccuracy for an autonomous profession in the midst of what may be the worst shortage in its history. By the way, none other than TV Guide noted in its preview for the Jan. 29 episode (Jan. 23-29 issue) that it had "hardly even noticed there were nurses on this show. (Except for the syph-giving one...)" Right. Anyway, we urge all to watch the episode, and let the show creators know whether it gives a good sense of what happens to patients when nurses are not there. more...

Ratched Redux

December 4, 2005 -- She lives. Two recent episodes of popular U.S. television dramas have retooled Nurse Ratched for the feminist (or post-feminist) era. Neo-Ratched still embodies institutional oppression and sexual intolerance. But these new depictions are less plainly misogynist than "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Many of Neo-Ratched's victims are female. And now modern, empowered women are working heroically against her unethical (if not illegal) efforts to enforce what are seen as regressive notions of proper sexual conduct. The season premiere of CBS's "Cold Case," written by series creator Meredith Stiehm and re-aired tonight, followed an investigation into a 1988 case involving an anti-abortion extremist school nurse. This nurse, by unethically manipulating a high school couple into having their baby, set in motion forces that destroyed their lives. The November 2 episode of NBC's "Law and Order," David Slack's "Birthright," focused on an investigation of the death of an abusive mother, who had been jailed for allegedly killing a man who reported her to child protective services. The mother's death was caused by a reaction to an IUD given to her by a nurse practitioner, who was secretly sterilizing inmates she deemed unworthy of having children. The nurses in these plots may seem to take opposite approaches to the reproductive choices of troubled women. But both are denying the women the right to make those choices themselves. Unlike Ratched, the nurses here are motivated by understandable goals. But far beyond merely taking a principled stand against abortion or child abuse, they embrace criminal extremism and a total abdication of their ethical duties to their patients. Law enforcement, if not exactly full of bleeding heart Hollywood progressives, represents the professional tolerance of a modern pluralistic society. Thus, nursing is seen not only as a loser job that smart, ambitious women have left behind, but a backwater populated by medieval zealots. Only a dangerous kook would still be doing such "women's work." more...

"Pioneer nurse wins award for life-saving heart scheme"

January 3, 2006 -- Today the Scotsman site posted a very good Evening News piece by Alan McEwen about a life-saving initiative by an Edinburgh nurse to enable paramedics to treat heart attack victims with "clot-busting" thrombolytic drugs. The nurse, Scott McLean of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, has received an Excellence Award from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for his "pivotal" role in the project. The piece is especially impressive in that it recognizes a nurse for taking the lead in actually saving patients' hearts, rather than simply having a good heart himself. more...


January 23, 2006 -- Today Reuters issued a short unsigned piece reporting that a Japanese nurse had just been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison for pulling the fingernails and toenails off six female patients. The piece is predictably running as an "oddly enough" item; Reuters' own headline is "Whatever you do, don't call for the nurse." But the Kyoto sentencing court's reported finding that the woman committed her inexcusable acts "to relieve stress she was under from extra work forced on her by supervisors" might be worth a little more serious consideration in an era of rampant nurse short-staffing. more...

Paging Dr. X to the triage booth

February 2005 -- This month's issue of Good Housekeeping includes a letter from a nurse protesting the magazine's November "What Doctors Wish You Knew" feature, which offered dozens of health tips from physicians. One tip advised readers to lie to ED triage nurses in order to be seen faster. Another urged readers to get better hospital care by plying staff with "treats." The letter, by Berni T. Martin, RN, MSN, CEN, is a strong piece of nursing advocacy, and we salute her for writing it and the magazine for printing it. However, the "editor's note" accompanying the letter is so non-committal as to whether the triage tip actually is a good idea--and so apparently deferential to the mysterious "Dr. X" who provided the tip--that we are inviting this "experienced" physician to debate us (confidentially of course) as to the tip's merit. more...

Powerful op-ed explains why Wisconsin nurses back medical marijuana

December 10, 2005 -- Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a hard-hitting op-ed by nurse Gina Dennik-Champion, executive director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA). The piece explains why the WNA supports a pending state bill that would authorize medical marijuana use (AB 740, "authored by Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh)"). The well-argued piece is an excellent example of patient advocacy that shows nurses to be serious professionals who are fully engaged with key public health issues. more...

Telegraph: "Charity calls for alcohol nurses"

November 25, 2005 -- Today the Telegraph (U.K.) site posted a short but good piece by Rosie Murray-West reporting that a "leading addiction charity is calling for an alcohol nurse to be appointed in every hospital in Britain to deal with the rise in binge drinking." The piece coincided with a historic easing of British liquor licensing laws. It stressed the value of specialist nurses in identifying and addressing such alcohol problems. The piece noted that such specialists can play a key role in later patient follow-ups, which the piece reported can significantly reduce problem drinking. The piece offered a good illustration of nursing's holistic health focus. more...

The baby man

September 18, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of Lifetime's "Strong Medicine" included two commendable subplots recognizing the autonomy and skill of hunky advanced practice nurse Peter Riggs. Peter got fed up with seeing yet another poor young mother getting inadequate support from her baby's gangbanging father, so he set up a "baby boot camp" for those fathers, which he ran with considerable skill. The episode also briefly highlighted Peter's skills as a midwife, setting him up in competition with surgeon Dylan West in caring for their pregnant colleague, physician Lu Delgado. But most of the episode offered the usual portrait of commanding physicians providing all important care. The anonymous nurses who did appear accepted their "orders" without comment, never speaking to patients or having an extended interaction with the physicians or other nurses. The episode, "It Takes a Clinic," was written by Darin Goldberg and Shelley Meals. more...

Are there any hot nurses at Walter Reed? Sean Hannity is on the case!

January 18, 2006 -- Today popular talk show host Sean Hannity reportedly had on his ABC radio show a U.S. soldier who had been wounded in Iraq. The soldier was an inpatient at Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington DC, where he had undergone many leg surgeries. We understand that Sean, apparently reading from an instant message one of his friends had sent him, asked the soldier whether there were any "hot nurses" at Walter Reed. The soldier reportedly replied that there were "a few pretty ones," but that most were "motherly." Center supporter Kerry Scott immediately notified us, and we called Sean's office to express concern about this exchange. Twenty minutes later, Sean himself called us back. He initially denied that the exchange could damage the nursing image, noting that his three sisters are nurses. We asked him if his sisters were hot. He hesitated--it seemed to us that he was squirming--before telling us that they were indeed hot. We talked about harmful nursing stereotypes for some time, including the "naughty nurse" and the motherly "angel" without health care training. In contrast to our experience with most national media figures, Sean actually appeared to listen to our concerns. He assured us that he is a big nursing supporter, and noted that he has discussed nursing on occasion on his show. He declined our offer to come on the show to clarify what nurses really do. Even so, according to Center member Patricia Andronica, Hannity made a few supportive comments about nurses on the air within a couple days after our conversation. We thank Sean Hannity for responding so quickly, taking the time to listen to our concerns, and making some effort to make amends. And we urge supporters to let us know whenever you see or hear something about nursing that you think is worth our efforts, so we can take quick action. Thank you.

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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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