News on Nursing in the Media
January 11, 2006 -- Mattel has now received letters from over 2,000 nurses and supporters, and the Center has held discussions with Vice President of Corporate Communications Lisa Marie Bongiovanni, about the Furryville "Nurse Quacktitioner" doll. Sadly, the company still refuses to remove or buy back any dolls. Mattel has suggested that nurses aren't really that upset about the doll because some unspecified number have actually told the company they like it, and because it thinks all the negative letters it has received are form letters. (In fact, we know the company has received and seen the hard copies we sent of 400+ different original letters). The company stresses that it had no malicious intent in creating the doll, and that the name of the duck doll includes the word "quack" because ducks quack, a point that had eluded us completely. Mattel still does not seem to understand that the doll exploits a pernicious stereotype of nurse practitioners, and that it has infuriated thousands of nurses, many of whom control or influence the purchasing decisions of countless family members, friends, patients, and students. Please: (1) call Mattel as often as you wish, using this contact information, and explain that you are really are upset about the doll, and that you will urge everyone you know to boycott all Mattel products until the company pulls or agrees to buy back all remaining dolls and issues a genuine apology; (2) if you have written an original letter, send a copy directly to Ms. Bongiovanni; (3) if you have not written an original letter, send one to Ms. Bongiovanni, even if it is only one sentence; (4) in all communications, urge Mattel to consult the Center and other nursing organizations in creating the forthcoming Nurse Barbie. Thank you very much! more...
January 9, 2006 -- The Center made no effort to publicize its campaign to have Mattel's "Nurse Quacktitioner" dolls removed from U.S. store shelves, because we suspected that the doll's name might prove irresistible to those lacking wit and maturity. Our fears were confirmed after the campaign become known to a group of physicians, probably through the huge Doctors.net.uk network, which is not accessible to the general public. As of this writing, at least 11 U.K. physicians have sent letters to Mattel urging the company to keep selling the doll because it will foster contempt for nurse practitioners. Their letters (excerpted here) display varying levels of ignorance and disregard for public health. Many are primary school-level inversions of language from our model letter. But all provide powerful support for nurses' argument that the doll will reinforce widespread stereotypes that threaten lives worldwide by exacerbating the nursing crisis, encouraging health care errors, and reducing access to care. We trust that those 11 ugly letters, though a drop in the bucket of 2000+ letters Mattel has so far received urging it to withdraw the doll, will be a persuasive advocacy tool in our effort to help the company see just how damaging the doll is and why it must go. Incidentally, the Center thanks and salutes several other physicians who have written to Mattel in support of their NP colleagues. read more and join our letter-writing campaign!
January 4, 2006 -- Today the Sydney Morning Herald posted Robin Oliver's short but very positive review of the new six-part SBS television drama "RAN," which stands for Remote Area Nurse. The premiere is tomorrow. The lead character is "young and much-loved" nurse Helen Tremain (Susie Porter), who runs a health clinic for the inhabitants of a small, remote Coral Sea island. It's not clear to what extent the show will portray nursing as the highly skilled profession it really is. But we are at least encouraged that it seems to highlight the work of the intrepid RAN nurses who care for remote underserved populations, and to portray Tremain as caring and autonomous. We encourage all who can to watch. more...
Plot devices in scrubs
December 11, 2005 -- The last two episodes of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" are notable for more of the show's now-familiar explicit expressions of contempt for nurses (e.g., "skanky syph nurse"). But they also illustrate how nurse characters serve as convenient plot devices for the show. Nurses are vehicles through which the show's pretty physician heroes confront failure, fate, infidelity, class differences, and, for the women, latent fears about female subservience and their own sexual virtue. In fairness, several scenes in the December 4 episode, Mark Wilding's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (20.75 million viewers), make a stab at "ER"-style handmaiden portrayals, which would actually be a step up. In these, nurses are minimally skilled subordinates who may detect basic changes in patient conditions, and in one case even predict that a specific treatment will not work. But they are helpless to address serious problems, and they look to the physicians--interns, no less--for all care decisions that matter. And with tonight's episode, Krista Vernoff's "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," it's back to the physician nursing, as the physician characters do all monitoring, all patient interactions, and all key procedures, including defibrillation. The nurses do seem up to catching vomit, though, so that's something. more...
December 25, 2005 -- Today CNN posted an unsigned AP story reporting that the Libyan Supreme Court had overturned the death sentences imposed on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian physician convicted of intentionally infecting hundreds of hospitalized Libyan children with the HIV virus. The court "accepted" the appeal of the health care workers, who had argued that their confessions were the result of torture, and ordered a retrial, though it was not clear when that would occur. more...
January 2, 2006 -- Today the Daily Times (Malawi) posted a story by Anthony Kasunda reporting that there appeared to be some reduction in the number of nurses emigrating from the impoverished nation to the developed world, perhaps as a result of recent foreign aid-financed measures to improve pay and other aspects of local working conditions. Despite the unfortunate implications of the headline above, the short piece is a generally fair look at the problems faced by the "few remaining" nurses in Malawi, and what is being done to address those problems. more...
December 4, 2005 -- The "Ideas" section of today's Baltimore Sun included a short photo-based item by Elizabeth Malby about two "baby nurses" who are helping a local woman who recently gave birth to quintuplets. A longer November 27 story by Nicole Fuller about the quintuplets also included discussion of these care providers. Both pieces describe them as "nurses," but they appear to be infant care providers who at most have taken a CPR class, not health professionals with years of college-level science training. Of course, such providers often wrongly refer to themselves as "nurses." The main provider profiled here, Meredith Ball, builds much of her web site around the term "babynurse." But this marketing practice and the Sun's effective endorsement of it reinforce the common view that any nurturing female may properly be termed a "nurse," regardless of her health training or skill. Because that basic misunderstanding is a factor in the nursing crisis, the Sun's pieces reflect serious reporting and editing failures. more...
January 3, 2006 -- Today the lead health stories on the New York Times site illustrated some of the more subtle ways in which the public's notion that nurses are peripheral may be reinforced. A "Cases" piece by Abigail Zuger, MD, "Cleaning Up the Mess of Medicine in the Pages of Posterity," describes the essential human struggles, screwups, and dramas of front-line health care that are not recorded in the "medical journals." Though Zuger never explicitly takes credit for nurses' work, her persistent use of the undefined term "we" in describing care activities in which nurses actually take the lead, along with her almost complete failure to mention nurses, will reinforce the impression that most readers already have that physicians do everything of importance, including handling difficult, abusive, messy ED patients, and providing the full range of bedside care. Of course, a significant part of the problem is that physicians provide the vast majority of expert health content to the mainstream media, and as if to prove this, two of the three lead health pieces on the Times site today were written by physicians. The other, Richard A. Friedman, MD's "Well-Served as Patients, Dissatisfied as Customers," manages to discuss hospital patient satisfaction without using the word "nurse." It seems to us that nurses will never get full credit for their work by waiting for others to provide that credit. Instead, nurses must do everything they can to speak up for themselves in the media. more...
New Center FAQ:
Q: Is it OK if we keep saying that only nurses who currently work at the bedside are "real nurses?" Demonizing everyone else helps us fight for workers' rights!
A: That's totally fine, unless, of course, you'd like nursing to be considered an autonomous, scientific profession. It's understandable that bedside nurses and their advocates resent what they believe to be the disregard for their concerns about staffing and other key issues on the part of some nursing executives, academics, policy-makers and consultants. Good bedside nursing requires an extraordinary combination of intellect, skill, courage, and strength, and when other nurses seem not to appreciate that, it is especially distressing. The same is true when nurse executives make television ads suggesting that because they do not favor certain staffing legislation, "nurses" in general do not. But to say that nurses are not "real" nurses simply because they do not currently provide direct care will suggest to many members of the public that nursing is not a real profession whose members might actually be senior health policymakers, executives, and scholars, but a category of rank-and-file workers who happen to provide custodial care to patients. In fact, by the "real nurse" standard, Florence Nightingale would not have been considered a nurse for most of her career. more...
Media coverage on the Golden Lamp Awards
The Center's Golden Lamp Awards, issued late last month, are being covered widely in the mainstream and nursing media. In addition to the publication of Award highlights in the January issue of the American Journal of Nursing, which partnered with us to release the awards, there have been several prominent national press stories so far. An Internet Broadcasting Systems story with the headline "Popular Hospital Shows Panned By Nurses Group" ran on the web sites of at least 30 US network television affiliates last week. The New York Post's Michael Starr featured the awards in his December 29 "Starr Report" entertainment column under the headline "Bad Medicine?" On January 4, All Headline News ran a short piece about the awards by Christina Ficara with the headline "Nursing Profession Unhappy with Media Portrayal." And on January 12, the influential newspaper industry publication Editor & Publisher ran an article about the Awards by Nekoro Gomes headlined "Print Press Receives Clean Bill of Health From Nursing Advocacy Groups." That headline, of course, is not an accurate summary of the Center's view of print press coverage of nursing. Though we said that most of the best portrayals we saw were in the print press, many of the worst were also. In fact, the print press frequently publishes pieces that ignore or marginalize nursing. But the text of the Editor & Publisher story does discuss the specific awards in some detail, and in general we're happy for the coverage.
Stories we are working on:
January 10, 2006 -- CVS has recently launched a 30-second television commercial featuring a CVS pharmacist telling an anecdote to illustrate his concern for patients. He tells how, on his own time, he visited one of his customer's homes for a few hours one day to teach him how to administer his wife's 20 different medications. The pharmacist says that he was "teaching [the husband] what he needed to know, now that he was a nurse. He'd never been a nurse before. That was new to him." Of course, it's also new to us that you can become a nurse through a four-hour session with a pharmacist. We have been in contact with CVS and the company has assured us that it will look into it. We are not starting a campaign at this time, but please check the next news alert for follow-up.
American Association of Blood Banks
January 10, 2006 -- Our supporters have alerted us to a commercial they find to be damaging, which is sponsored by the American Association of Blood Banks, now running across the US. We will report on this in the next news alert. In the meantime, if you have seen the ad, please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and please copy us at email@example.com. Thank you.
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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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