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News on Nursing in the Media

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An Inconvenient Truth

May 15, 2006 -- Tonight's two-hour season finale of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" featured a remarkable level of physician nursing, even by the no-nurse standard the show has maintained since its two January 2006 nursing strike episodes. Those episodes now seem like a token effort to get nurses off the show's back, so it could go on with its inaccurate and damaging portrayal, regardless of the central role nurses actually play in hospital care--a reality that seems to be no more than a minor inconvenience to the show. In the finale's main care-related subplots, physician characters do everything that matters, with no nurses in sight. And an enormous amount of what they do would have been done by nurses in real life. Physician characters do all patient monitoring, all patient emotional support, all family relations, all patient advocacy, and virtually all supportive and therapeutic care. When nurse Olivia does briefly appear, she is presented as a timid physician lackey whom senior resident Bailey drags in to take over heart-pumping for intern Izzie, who has lost her heart to transplant patient Denny, and her mind to the show's producers. As in other post-January episodes, no one here directly suggests that nurses are or losers, and perhaps nurses' protests have at least achieved that. The first episode, "Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response," was written by Joan Rater and Tony Phelan; the second, "Losing My Religion," was written by series creator Shonda Rhimes. This initial airing drew an estimated 22.5 million U.S. viewers. read more and send our 11th new instant letter to the show!

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Careless advice columnist threatens profession

June 2, 2006 -- Today the legendary syndicated advice column Dear Abby (now written by Jeanne Phillips (far right)) ran a piece headlined "Careless nurse threatens marriage." The main item is a letter from "Mike in Tucson" complaining about a nurse in a recovery room who reportedly told a patient's wife that patients emerging from anesthesia cannot lie. The patient's wife then asked her groggy husband if he had ever cheated on her, and when he said he had, she ran from the room. Mike wonders if he "should let the doctor know about his nurse's unwise remark." Abby responds "[a]bsolutely," and proceeds to opine that people coming out of anesthesia have no idea what they're talking about, so the "doctor needs to counsel his nurse for her poor judgment." Just how poor the nurse's judgment was would seem to require knowledge and analysis of a number of facts that we don't get here. But what's not so complex are the damaging assumptions Abby makes, namely that the nurse belongs to a physician and that it would be the physician's role to "counsel" her. Of course, hospital nurses report to other nurses, not physicians, and nursing managers and clinical leaders would be the ones to undertake any counseling needed. Even if the scene occurred in an outpatient setting in which the physician was an owner and thus the nurse's employer, readers are unlikely to see the above comments solely in that light, and very likely to have their sense that nurses generally report to physicians confirmed. Just an advice column? Dear Abby's daily readership is estimated at 100 million people. read more and send Dear Abby a letter...

AP: "Widow Sues HCA, Says It Understaffs Nurses"

April 11, 2006 -- Today an unsigned Associated Press piece reported that a new lawsuit alleges that the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, HCA, sought to increase profits by "compromis[ing] patient care by deliberately understaffing registered nurses at its hospitals." The piece provides a good look at the basics of the Kansas lawsuit, which seeks class action status. It might have explored the overall context of the surrounding nursing crisis, in which nurse short-staffing has played a major role. Even so, we thank AP for the article. more...

"Stacking nurse numbers for a healthier society"

April 7, 2006 -- Today Business Day (South Africa) posted a fairly long article by Chantelle Benjamin headlined "Stacking nurse numbers for a healthier society." The piece is based primarily on a new World Health Organization report showing how important the number of health workers is to patient mortality, and how inequitably such workers are distributed around the world. The regions with the biggest health problems, especially Africa, have the fewest health workers. The piece does not really discuss nurses specifically, despite the good headline. But it does provide a striking picture of the crushing burden a lack of nurses and other health workers places on poor nations, as well as measures that could improve the situation. more...


May 3, 2006 -- Today Myrtle Beach Online ran a very short unsigned Associated Press piece about The Nightingales, a group of nurses who work to reduce the harmful impact of tobacco, with a special focus on direct protests against major tobacco companies. The AP piece is headlined "Nurses join forces to address Reynolds American." It reports that some members of the group have become shareholders of the tobacco giant "so they can speak out about the tobacco-related problems they see in their work" at the company's annual shareholders meeting. We thank the AP for its coverage of this important example of community-oriented patient advocacy. more...

Johnson & Johnson still airing cuddly "nurse's touch" television ads

June 15, 2006 -- As of this week, Johnson & Johnson is continuing to air its emotional, highly gendered "nurse's touch" television commercials on CNN Headline News. Cable news channels like this draw a highly influential audience. It includes those who make policy relating to nursing practice, education and research, those who administrate hospitals and control nursing budgets, and policy-aware members of the public. What major corporations like J&J say on television affects those who control the resources we need to resolve the global nursing shortage, and to improve the related short-staffing, which increases patient mortality and drives nurses from the workforce. If we want decision makers to know what nurses really do so they will adequately fund our work, we must ask J&J and others who create media about nurses to improve communications that promote the handmaiden image. Such ads may enhance Johnson & Johnson's image, but since the soft, cuddly image of nursing has been strong throughout the nursing crisis, we doubt reinforcing it will inspire any significant long-term change in how society treats nursing. Please join our letter-writing campaign and ask J&J to work with nurses to create ads that tell the public what it really needs to know--that nurses save and improve lives. And ask your nursing organizations to join our campaign too! Read our analysis of the J&J ads or go straight to the instant letter. Thank you!

Please join our other campaigns

Join our full list of letter-writing campaigns including one of our most recent, "Akeelah and the Bee." The film suggests that nurses do not need college education to pursue their dead end jobs. About 90 nurses have protested so far, but we need to send a stronger message to encourage the producers to apologize for this depiction of nursing and to make more positive media on nursing in the future. See our full list of campaigns...

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

In order to continue speaking honestly about media images of nursing--even if it displeases major corporations and their nursing allies--the Center needs your help. Help us show that there is a place for independent voices in nursing. Help us overcome the limited "angel" and handmaiden images that have contributed to the nursing crisis. We must tell the public that nurses save lives and improve patient outcomes, so we can get the resources we need to resolve the nursing shortage. Please help us do that by making a contribution today.


The Center for Nursing Advocacy fights inaccurate media images of nursing because those images affect how decision-makers and members of the public value the profession. For most people, the media is the major source of information about nursing. But because the profession's image is so inaccurate and degraded, decision-makers tend not to fully fund nursing clinical practice, education or research. Short-staffing is one result. If we want to resolve the global nursing crisis, we must change the way the world thinks about nursing. Nurses save lives and improve outcomes every day, but few people outside nursing know that. Right now the Center has the resources to address a few of the most influential images of nursing. But we need far more funding to do what 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 join, you will get cool free gifts, 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. See our free member gifts.

Distribute our brochures to your colleagues and students

Can you help us by circulating our brochures and asking your colleagues and friends to become donating members 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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