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News on Nursing in the Media

The ventilated elite

March 12, 2006 -- Two major news entities have recently run stories about the current lack of intensive care resources, primarily ventilators, that would be needed if a bird flu pandemic hit the United States. Today the New York Times published "Hospitals Short on Ventilators if Bird Flu Hits," by Donald G. McNeil Jr. On February 10, National Public Radio's Morning Edition ran "Health Officials Consider Strategy for Possible Bird Flu Pandemic," by Richard Knox. This is an important topic, and both reports include helpful information. Both stress that U.S. hospitals would not have enough ventilators in such a pandemic. But both reports also give the sense that care for affected patients revolves mainly around whether or not physicians grant access to vents. The reports wrongly suggest that physicians make all key health decisions by themselves, and that they are the only health experts worth consulting on this issue. No nurse or respiratory technician is quoted in either piece, even though they play far more active roles in such ventilator care. And the skilled, time-consuming nursing care that keeps such critically ill patients alive involves much more than ventilators. In a pandemic, there would not be enough nurses to provide that care. Neither piece inquires where we might get the 1.5 million additional ICU nurses that it could take to care for such ventilated patients, when we can't find the couple hundred thousand nurses (of all specialties) that we need right now. In focusing on physicians and vents, both reports also miss the broader perspective that a nurse expert might provide. The NPR piece describes a physician proposal to ration access to vents in a pandemic. But sadly, it might not be a wise use of scarce ICU nurses' time to provide ventilator-related care to any flu patients, rather than life-saving care to many other patients with a better chance of survival. Of course, getting that perspective would require an understanding that health care involves more than physicians and machines. more...

Are we the world?

March 7, 2006 -- Recent articles have painted a grim picture of how nursing is valued in Kenya--and elsewhere. Today the Standard (Nairobi) ran a short piece by Elizabeth Mwai reporting that Kenyan assistant health minister Enock Kibunguchy has called for his government to ignore a hiring freeze imposed by the World Bank and IMF, so it can hire more nurses and others to address urgent health needs. On March 3, Reuters issued a long article by Katie Nguyen that described the state of Kenyan nursing in detail. Nguyen's generally good piece reports that "underpaid" and "undervalued" Kenyan nurses have continued to flee the nation for better opportunities in developed nations, which are eager to get them. In those nations, not coincidentally, working conditions have also driven away many local nurses with other options. more...

Reuters: "Clinton group, India to train nurses in AIDS care"

February 19, 2006 -- Today Reuters issued a short, unsigned piece reporting that former U.S. President Bill Clinton's foundation and the government of India have announced "a joint plan to train nurses in AIDS care in a country which has the world's second-largest number of HIV/AIDS cases." The brief piece may suggest to some that nurses do not have much AIDS expertise simply by virtue of being nurses. And it includes comments from Clinton that arguably understate nurses' role as formulators (not just deliverers) of AIDS care. But Clinton's reported comments also explain that nurses provide life-saving care and vital education to society about AIDS--a rarity coming from a U.S. president. And the piece highlights the importance of nurse training in the care of patients with deadly diseases. more...


February 28, 2006 -- Today the Denver Post ran a very good piece by business columnist Al Lewis about the situation of veteran Colorado ICU nurse Donna Jaynes. Jaynes was fired after reportedly complaining about care issues at her hospital. Jaynes sued the hospital, which has argued that Jaynes was fired because she was a "confrontacious" "problem" employee, and that in any case, there is no statutory protection in Colorado for hospital whistle-blowers. The piece focuses on a bill pending in the Colorado legislature that would create such protection for nurses, who may risk their jobs if they speak up about dangerous conditions. Thus, the column's headline is: "First aid for 'problem' nurses." more...

Like a dog

When you're thinking of hip new media--like, say, a new music video from a respected U.K. electronic-alternative-pop duo--which one of the following items does not belong?  

  1. Edgy, cool, yet sensual text.
  2. Comically subversive imagery.
  3. Retro-futuristic sound and visuals.
  4. Mindless reinforcement of old stereotypes.

You're probably going with number 4, right?

If so, you just haven't been paying attention. The new Goldfrapp video takes the band's single "Number 1" to a plastic surgery clinic where everyone but singer Alison Goldfrapp has a human body and a dog's head. Goldfrapp acts like a dog, dances with the human/canine clinic staff, and spins the tale of animalistic se*xual obsession she wrote with bandmate Will Gregory. The key lyric: "I'm like a dog to get you." But in director Dawn Shadforth's video, the "nurses" are all females in short dresses who hand things to the all-male "physicians." The camera dwells on the nurses' bottoms. At one point, the physicians playfully apply their stethoscopes to said bottoms. The video confirms that most of the cultural elite has no more understanding of nursing than the purveyors of naughty nurse po*rn. It may be the 21st century, but the sun still rises in the east, and nurses are still subordinate se*x objects. more...

The way out of "Strong Medicine"

February 5, 2006 -- Lifetime's "Strong Medicine" wrapped up its final season with a minor subplot in which advanced practice nurse Peter Riggs affirms that he would rather be a nurse than a physician. In Diane Messina Stanley's "Special Delivery," Peter resists pressure from his girlfriend, physician Kayla Thornton, to go to medical school, which she calls his "way out of nursing." We give the producers credit for showing that an attractive character like Peter prefers nursing, for highlighting the contemptuous views of nursing that some physicians hold, and for a scene in which Peter makes a diagnosis that an intern has missed. But it's hard to see Peter's marriage proposal to Kayla at the end of the same episode as a sign of nursing self-respect. And aside from Peter's few scenes, the episode proceeds as the cable drama has for six years, focusing on heroic physician characters who provide care that nurses do in real life, while anonymous nurse characters meekly obey the physicians' commands. Although the show has ended production, that grossly distorted vision of health care still airs in reruns for three hours each week. more...

A portrait of the arts major as a young nurse

February 19, 2006 -- Today the Washington Post's Sunday Magazine included a fairly good article by Christina Ianzito about a former "personal organizer" with an art history degree who has returned to school to become a nurse. "The Need to Be Needed" includes much of the standard information about the merits of nursing as a second career today, including its financial security, diversity, and appeal for those who wish to help others in a "more palpable way." More interesting is the piece's portrait of restless liberal arts graduates finding meaning in nursing, and the comments of Georgetown nursing professor Colleen Norton, RN, DNSc, about how much nursing has changed since she graduated in the 1960's. Norton suggests that nursing education today is "so much more sophisticated, scholarly and demanding" than it was four decades ago that it "cannot even be compared." We understand that such suggestions are intended to persuade the public that today's nurses deserve respect. But we doubt they help the profession overall, as they may suggest that serious nursing was born yesterday, and that past nurses, including influential health leaders, are of little importance. more...

Land of dreams

February 28, 2006 -- Today the National Public Radio show "Fresh Air" ran a long interview by host Terry Gross with Jeanne Dumestre, a New Orleans nurse practitioner and one of the founders of the legendary local club Tipitina's. The Fat Tuesday interview focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, particularly how it has affected Dumestre's patients and her own residential neighborhood. The report is certainly complimentary of Dumestre, an articulate nurse doing "important" work. She offers some good general observations about post-Katrina challenges her mostly poor, mostly African-American clinic patients face. But the show seems oblivious of the fact that Dumestre is a masters-prepared, nationally-recognized expert in the care of HIV-positive women--not just a first-hand witness to the storm's dislocations. Some of the report's language will reinforce stereotypes of nurses as noble helpers, rather than highly skilled professionals. And as far as giving the public insight into the specific practice of a key nursing leader in HIV care in the ravaged area, or the work of nurse practitioners generally, the piece is a missed opportunity. more...

"[H]uman interaction is not value-added, and might be slightly detrimental."

January 9, 2006 -- An Associated Press piece headlined "Study: Alone time with dogs helps seniors," which reported on research by nurse Marian Banks and physician William Banks, ran today in The Press (Atlantic City). Cheryl Wittenauer's AP article also appeared in other papers, and the story got network television coverage. The AP piece reports on a study to be published in the March 2006 issue of Anthrozoos, a journal focusing on the "interactions of people and animals." The study found that nursing home residents "felt much less lonely after spending time alone with a dog than when other people joined in the visit." We commend Ms. Wittenauer and the AP for covering this research, and giving Marian Banks significant attention in the piece. The story raises interesting issues about the differences in media attention to medical and nursing research--including the piece's reference (in accord with "AP style") to only the physician as "Dr. Banks," even though Marian Banks has a doctorate as well. more...

Please ask your non-nurse friends to take a survey to help us understand what the public thinks about nursing

March 6, 2006 -- Julia Ward, RN, MSN, DNSc (c) from Widener University School of Nursing is doing her dissertation on the public understanding of nursing. She has prepared a questionnaire, which we at the Center have commented on. Now she needs at least 65 participants to take the survey, but they cannot be nurses. And for the sake of the validity of the study, they shouldn't be people who have participated in long conversations about the media's portrayal of nurses and its effect on the nursing shortage. If you know such lay people, please ask them to volunteer to take a 10-minute survey online to help Julia--which will also help the Center, because we're looking forward to her survey results! Please click here to find the request letter, where you can direct your non-nurse friends. Thanks very much for helping us!

Please place RN patch orders for May graduations now

Over the last few weeks we have taken a number of orders for bulk "RN" and other nursing patches for upcoming nursing graduations. Many schools are giving out patches to their graduates instead of flowers. If you would like patches, please order them in the coming week so we can guarantee delivery in time for May graduations. Thank you. The regular member price for an "RN" patch is $1.50, but in bulk of 50 patches or more, patches are just $0.85 each. Click here for more information or call us at 1-410-323-1100.

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

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 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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