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News on Nursing in the Media

Here it is! The Center wishes you "Happy Nurses Week" with its analysis of some of the TV ads and recruiting videos in Johnson & Johnson's Campaign for Nursing's Future. Our analysis has already sparked outrage and intimidation tactics from several major U.S. nursing organizations. And J&J had its academic consultants re-write one of their research papers specifically to counter the Center's arguments. Read the Center's balanced analysis below, along with J&J's response. Then decide for yourself if the Center is really an "enemy of the people." Does nursing's future really depend on squelching even thoughtful criticism of the recruiting messages of one pharmaceutical company? What would Florence Nightingale say?

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Touching the world

May 10, 2006 -- Since last year, Johnson & Johnson has been running new 30-second U.S. television ads with the laudable goal of promoting nursing careers. These sentimental ads are part of the company's massive "Campaign for Nursing's Future" begun several years ago. Their theme is "the importance of a nurse's touch." In them we see caring young nurses helping patients ranging from a newborn to an older man. The spots are certainly well-produced. And they do include a few elements that suggest the nurses have some skill. But sadly, the ads rely mainly on the same kind of unhelpful angel and maternal imagery that infected the Campaign's original "Dare to Care" ads. And that era's four-minute Recruitment Video, complete with the gooey theme song, is still circulating. Of course "caring" is an important part of nursing. But everyone knows that, and we believe that only greater understanding that nurses actually save lives and improve patient outcomes will attract the resources nursing needs in the long term. For a great alternative ad, consider the wacky, infectious rap recruiting video from 2004 by Craig Barton and the ED staff (below) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Fortunately, J&J has done more than disseminate troubling ads and videos. They have also financed a helpful nursing web site (which we helped to create) and raised funds for faculty fellowships and student scholarships. The company has also sponsored the longer 2004 recruiting video "Nurse Scientists: Committed to the Public Trust," apparently made for the Friends of the National Institute for Nursing Research. This helpful 11-minute video features nursing academics discussing their research in key areas like cancer, HIV, geriatrics, and domestic violence. It's not exactly going to enthrall the Total Request Live audience. But it tells the public that nurses can be scholars, and it may help address the faculty shortage that is hampering efforts to reduce the overall crisis. See and join our campaign...

"We're E.R. nurses! Medications we disburses!
When things get their worses--our talents just emerges!"

May 2006 -- In 2004, Craig Barton, RN, and other ED staff at the University of Alabama at Birmingham created an irreverent one-minute rap video, in response to a hospital-wide nurse recruitment video contest. They won. Their low-budget video is a clever and infectious slice of the life of an urban ED nurse, with a focus on nurses' life-saving skills. There's nothing angelic, maternal, or handmaidenish in it. And the joyous video gives viewers a better sense of what modern nursing is really like, and what's good about doing it, than any other recruiting video of comparable length that we've seen. more... (and see the video)

Family presence and the physician in charge

April 3, 2006 -- This week's issue of The New Yorker included an article by Jerome Groopman, M.D., about the trend toward allowing "family presence" during resuscitations. The piece ably summarizes some apparent pros and cons of allowing family members to witness attempts to revive loved ones, efforts that it notes can be scary and are usually unsuccessful (except in Hollywood). "Being There" recognizes that nurses and chaplains have played the leading role in advocating for family presence, often despite the objections of physicians. And to its credit, the piece briefly quotes two nurse experts, giving nursing some voice on the issue. The piece says that the growth in family presence reflects the decline in physicians' formerly absolute power over clinical settings. Yet the article itself seems to assume that physicians remain in charge. Accordingly, its focus is the extent to which physicians have accepted family presence. So the piece relies overwhelmingly on physician expert comment, and discusses a number of articles published in medical journals, but none from nursing journals. Perhaps as a result, Groopman seriously undervalues the nursing research showing the benefits of family presence. He presents trauma surgeon claims that family presence can distract code teams, and that nurses are more focused on emotional needs than quality clinical care. But he does not subject those claims to the same scrutiny as he does nurses' arguments that family presence aids in grieving. The piece does not explore measures that could reduce any adverse effects of family presence, misses the potential benefit patients themselves may derive from the practice, and fails to mention some less flattering potential reasons for opposition to it, such as lingering paternalism, fear of liability, and difficulty in seeing the big health care picture. more...

Helping Africa...with nursing knowledge

March 23, 2006 -- Today the Woburn Advocate (Massachusetts) ran an unsigned article about nurses at a local hospital who are sending nursing texts to several communities in Africa. "Nurses fund African medical libraries" explains that the nurses of Winchester Hospital have raised funds from each other and their physician colleagues to ship the libraries of up-to-date texts. The piece has quotes from some of the Winchester nurses involved. Several of their comments suggest the central role nurses play in health care in ways that are unusual for mass media products. The piece also underlines the life-saving importance of nursing knowledge in Africa. We salute the Woburn Advocate and the nurses of Winchester Hospital for highlighting a form of foreign aid whose value may not be evident in a society with little overall understanding of nurses' education or clinical expertise. more...

Darfur, nursing, and network drama

May 2006 -- On March 27, the Liverpool Daily Post (U.K.) ran a good story by Mike Chapple headlined "City-based nurse joins ER crew in Africa." The piece tells how "expert" nurse Marielle Bemelmans, from Liverpool's School of Tropical Medicine, spent six weeks on location in South Africa advising the producers of the U.S. television drama "ER." The producers needed help with several episodes set in the ravaged Darfur region of Sudan. The story includes significant comment from Bemelmans about African refugee camps, and we salute Mr. Chapple and the Post for the piece. We also commend "ER" for its Darfur episodes, which have now aired in the U.S. They have exposed millions of viewers to basic aspects of that crisis, including the ethnic cleansing and the massive human suffering, in a clear effort to spur the developed world to do more about it. Sadly, the "ER" producers were not inspired enough by Bemelmans's expertise or the key role nurses actually play in such settings to alter their dramatic approach. The Darfur episodes focus almost exclusively on the heroic work of physicians, while the nurses who do appear are relegated to their usual role as skilled sidekicks. more...


Our May 5 news alert incorrectly gave the name of one of the hosts of "HealthStyles," the radio show hosted by Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein on WBAI in New York City. That show routinely features nurse experts. Sign up for free weekly email reminders to listen to nurse-hosted radio shows "HealthStyles" and/or "Health in 30" by emailing us at

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 when 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, voices that are not beholden to any economic interest. 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 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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A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

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