News on Nursing in the Media
March 26, 2006 -- Tonight's episode of HBO's "The Sopranos" portrays ICU nurses as nasty, rule-bound physician subordinates who actually impede the psychosocial care of the gravely wounded Tony Soprano and his distraught family. One nurse rudely chastises Tony's wife Carmela (right) for dislodging the comatose Mafia boss's drains by climbing into bed to comfort him. Carmela replies that she has "to think that physical affection counts for something." The nurse reacts with contempt, as if she never heard of such nonsense in her two-week nurse training course. The episode, written by Matthew Weiner, was "Mayham" (No. 68, 8.9 million viewers). As in hospital scenes in "Six Feet Under" last year, the physicians here are no Welbys either. They mostly come across as indifferent intellectuals who don't relish interacting with patients or families. The notable exception is series regular Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony's long-time psychiatrist. But unlike the battleaxe nurses, all the physicians are seen as expert lifesavers who direct the important care. No one is likely to suggest that Carmela's daughter Meadow (right), a recent Columbia graduate considering a career in medicine, look at nursing instead. more...
May 14, 2006 -- Last week two prominent U.S. news entities ran pieces whose basic theme was that not even health professionals are safe from the health threats posed by...hospitals. TIME magazine's May 1 issue featured a cover story by Nancy Gibbs and Amanda Bower called "Q: What Scares Doctors? A: Being the Patient." The piece's all-physician vision of hospital care, based on expert comment by 12 physicians, excludes nurses so completely that readers can be forgiven for wondering if nursing is in the final stages of being phased out. At one point, the piece plaintively asks who will be the "sentinels" and "advocates" in hospitals now that family physicians have been excluded from the role. Meanwhile, Rosalind Feldman, RN, DNSc, published a good piece in The Washington Post on May 2 describing the inept, surly and dangerous care she received at the hands of her fellow nurses and others when she was hospitalized for a femur break. Unlike the TIME piece, Feldman's "Get Me Out Alive" provides a balanced account of the actual nature and risks of a hospital stay, with comments on nurses, physicians, physical therapists, nursing assistants, and the "independent sitters" whose use is driven by short-staffing. We commend Dr. Feldman and the Post. But the TIME cover story, following the vast but nurse-free "Medical Heroes" feature the magazine ran late last year, suggests that the leading U.S. news weekly remains in thrall to an extreme "heroic physician" narrative that is misleading millions of readers. Of course, TIME is hardly alone; major stories in today's New York Times and Baltimore Sun display a similar lack of regard for nurses' expertise and central role in health care. more...
March 17, 2006 -- Today The Baltimore Sun ran a long piece about travel nurses on the front page of its weekly Health & Science section. Dennis O'Brien's article was "Nurses to go: Traveling medical personnel command top dollar and, for some, follow-the-sun benefits as they relieve shortages in the nation's hospitals." On the whole the piece is a fairly standard travel nursing piece. It includes discussion of the short-term benefits to the traveling nurses and the hospitals at which they work, along with a little on the potential drawbacks to the travelers. Commendably, the piece quotes several nursing experts, and briefly suggests that nurses affect patient outcomes. But unlike other pieces that simply ignore the larger implications of the growth of travel nursing, this piece may leave readers with the sense that travel nurses are clinically superior to staff nurses, and that they are not necessarily more expensive. Based on this article, it would not be unreasonable to think that travel nursing should be promoted as a key way to address the critical nursing shortage. The piece does not convey that many feel that the growth in travel nursing during the current crisis may actually undermine nursing practice and threaten patient care. Finally, it's hard to love a headline that essentially compares nurses to fast food. more...
April 6, 2006 -- Today a short unsigned piece in the Iceland Review had the headline: "Nurses claim poor conditions at National Hospital threaten patient safety." The piece focuses on a recent meeting at which the nurses said that understaffing was causing them "unbearable" stress and endangering their patients. The item does not really get into the causes of or potential solutions to the poor conditions. But we commend the nurses and the Iceland Review for highlighting the problem. more...
April 6, 2006 -- Today the SUN St. Kitts / Nevis ran a short piece by Corliss Smithen about the toll from a "recent spate of gun-related crimes," especially the effects on the nurses at Joseph N. France General Hospital. The nurses there now reportedly "fear for their lives" because of a lack of security to prevent shooters whose victims do not die from coming to the hospital to "finish the job." The brief piece highlights an important issue in nursing practice. Nurses spend far more time with such patients than anyone else, so they would naturally be most at risk, yet nurses and their concerns are often ignored, so such security concerns may not be taken seriously. We commend those responsible for this piece. more...
March 31, 2006 -- Today the web site of Wis10 (the Columbia, SC, NBC affiliate) posted an item by Chantelle Janelle with the headline: "Health Alert: Electronic nurse." The piece describes a $70 machine used by Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx, NY) to help real nurses do home health monitoring by asking patients basic questions about their conditions. The item is an example of the sad tendency of some promoters of electronic health equipment, and the media that covers them, to call such machines "nurses." Of course, these machines do some very basic things that nurses or those assisting them might otherwise do. But they are no more "nurses" than surgical robots are surgeons. We have yet to hear of any robot that handles surgical tools or utters pre-programmed questions being called an "electronic physician." Calling such a machine a "nurse" shows disrespect for nurses' years of college-level training. And it reinforces the damaging view that nurses basically serve as mechanical conduits between patients and physicians. more...
May 23, 2006 -- We learned this week that nurses in Australia and New Zealand convinced J&J to "go back to the drawing board" to create new TV recruitment ads for their respective nations. The new New Zealand ads are still in development, but we understand that the new Australian ones better highlight nurses' life-saving skills, instead of relying on the type of handmaiden and angel imagery that dominates the company's U.S. ads. If we want the most powerful parts of J&J's U.S. campaign to highlight nurses' full expertise, we must tell J&J. Please join our campaign and ask J&J to work with nurses to create ads that tell the public what it really needs to know about nursing. 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.
In an earlier item about the J&J recruiting campaign, we noted that the company "had its academic consultants re-write one of their research papers specifically to counter the Center's arguments." This was based directly on a statement by a J&J representative, who told us in an email that the paper in question had been "re-written specifically for this project"--that is, to counter the Center's analysis. We explained this in posting J&J's response to our analysis of its ads, since J&J provided the revised paper for us to place with its response. Thus, in providing a link to the paper by Principal Investigators Peter Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, and Karen Donelan, ScD., we stated that the paper had been "re-written specifically for this project." We did not say and did not mean to suggest that the underlying research had been altered, only that the summary paper had been re-written, as J&J stated. We regret any confusion.
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 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
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD USA 21212-2937
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