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News on Nursing in the Media

Error and Punishment

November 20, 2006 -- Recent items in The Capital Times (Madison, WI) deal with the criminal charge filed against veteran OB nurse Julie Thao. Thao allegedly made a medication error that caused the tragic death of a young mother, Jasmine Gant. Steven Elbow's November 2 piece "St. Mary's Nurse is Charged; Medication Error Led to Teen's Death" describes the criminal complaint, which alleges that Thao did not follow proper procedures. The piece gives no context, and no indication that the reporter sought comment from Thao, her attorney, or any expert in health care errors. The result is essentially a narrow presentation of the state's case against Thao. A story in the November 9 Capital Times by Anita Weier and Mike Miller does a better job. "Nurses rally in support of colleague; Many outside courthouse say charges too severe" describes a rally held during Thao's first court appearance. The piece includes extensive comment from Thao's supporters. But even it says nothing about the clinical context of the incident, such as the staffing level. Like a recent case in which a coroner's jury found a patient's death in an ED waiting room to be homicide, this Wisconsin case has attracted national attention. Pennsylvania's Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has released a supportive piece, "Since when is it a crime to be human?" The ISMP says it joins the Wisconsin Nurses Association and Wisconsin Hospital Association in opposing criminal prosecution of health workers for "unintentional errors." Today the American Nurses Association released a statement that questions application of the criminal law here, and lists some of the systemic problems that can contribute to such errors. No piece we have seen makes clear how the error alleged here differs from negligent care-related acts that, however tragic for those harmed, do not result in criminal charges. It seems to us that--as Suzanne Gordon argues in a powerful November 15 Capital Times op-ed opposing the prosecution of Thao--the potential negative effects of such charges on nursing practice are considerable. more...

Learn more about the defense fund for Wisconsin nurse Julie Thao.

Learn about the defense fund for New Orleans nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry.

The last line of defense

September 24, 2006 -- Today the Indianapolis Star ran a fairly good article about the tragic deaths of three NICU patients at a local hospital. Tammy Webber and Staci Hupp's "Infant deaths put focus on nurses" reports that three newborns died at Methodist Hospital after five different NICU nurses mistakenly gave patients adult doses of Heparin. That reportedly happened after a pharmacy technician mistakenly supplied the NICU medication cabinet with the far more concentrated adult vials. The piece discusses how the tragedy might have happened, inquiring into staffing levels, though not making much headway there. It explains the "five rights" system for avoiding such errors. And it quotes a local nurse who gives a balanced reaction to the events. It might have consulted a nursing policy expert along with the medical school and pharmacy professors it quotes on issues surrounding such errors. Still, we thank the reporters and the Star for their generally fair coverage, which underlines "nurses' critical role as the last line of defense in treating patients." more...

The wait

September 17, 2006 -- Today the ABC News site posted an item headlined "Illinois Woman's ER Wait Death Ruled Homicide; Long ER Waits Plague Nation's Hospitals." The item describes a woman who was, sadly, found dead in an emergency department waiting room in July two hours after a nurse told her to wait. The coroner found that the woman had presented with "classic symptoms of a heart attack." The coroner's jury ruled the death a homicide, which could lead to criminal prosecution. The piece rightly highlights the serious consequences that may occur if a triage nurse makes an error, and it also links the apparent problem here to ED overcrowding. But the piece appears to wrongly assume that physicians are ultimately responsible for all ED care. Thus, it consults no nurse experts. It relies instead on comments from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). These seem reasonable, but they blur the fact that ED triage is a nursing task. And a statement attributed to the president of ACEP advises dissatisfied patients to talk to the triage nurse, but if that "doesn't work," to "ask to speak to the emergency physician." This will reinforce the impression that ED nurses report to physicians, and that physicians are the real triage experts. In fact, patients in such a situation should generally ask to speak with the charge nurse, the clinical nurse specialist or the ED nurse manager. more...

Falling without style

October 9, 2006 -- One of the main characters in NBC's new primetime hit "Heroes" is New York City hospice nurse Peter Petrelli. Peter is one of the "ordinary" people who reveal special powers that will help them save the world from an impending crisis. Peter is starting to realize that he can absorb the powers of others; initially, his brother's ability to fly. Sadly, the September 25 series premiere presents hospice nursing as a dead-end job for dreamy, unduly self-sacrificing losers. The episode, "Genesis," was written by show creator Tim Kring and seen by more than 14 million U.S. viewers. It has a couple generic references to Peter's skill as a nurse. But the rest of the show emphasizes the outright contempt Peter's successful family has for hospice nursing, which they say consists of just sitting with the dying. And far from defending his profession, Peter seems to agree. He ultimately vows that he is going to stop living for other people, and now it's his turn to "be somebody." Then he launches himself off a building. So nurses can be heroes...if they can fly! So it is no surprise that in tonight's third episode, Peter--determined to focus full time on his power--quits nursing as if it was a minimum wage temp job, rather than a professional career that requires years of college-level education. more...

"He was reluctant to change. But I nagged him."

July 23, 2006 -- Today the Baltimore Sun ran David Kohn's "Slow demise for long preoperative fasts." The long piece reports that recent research shows the practice of barring patients from consuming anything after midnight the day before surgery confers no benefit--and may even cause harm. In this piece, the leading representatives of the modern view are two Texas nurses, Elizabeth Winslow, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Jeannette Crenshaw, MSN, RN. Their joint research supports more nuanced pre-op instructions. The piece fails to note Winslow's doctorate (despite identifying physicians as "Dr."), fails to identify Crenshaw as a nurse, and fails to mention nurse anesthetists, despite extensive discussion of anesthesiologists. But overall the story is an impressive example of a media piece that highlights nursing research and influential patient advocacy, with many quotes from the nursing scholars. We commend Mr. Kohn and the Sun. more...

"Scarce nurses called key to AIDS fight"

August 13, 2006 -- Today the The London Free Press (Canada) ran a piece by Sheryl Ubelacker about comments at Toronto's International AIDS Conference on nurses in AIDS care. The short, helpful article was based on speeches at the International Nurses Forum by Tony Clement, the Canadian Health Minister, and Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for AIDS in Africa. They stressed that nurses are essential to effective AIDS treatment around the world. But nursing shortages are threatening that treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. There, the disease has disabled other health providers, and nurses must assume even more duties. One ironic note: Clement said that the world needed nurses' "dialogue and debate" on AIDS, and the piece stated that nurses' "voices too often go unheard." Yet the piece itself did not include a word from any nurse. more...

Showing us the money

August 6, 2006 -- Today the Quad-Cities Online site posted a short but very good story by Dawn Neuses about occupational health nurse Pam Rudsell, who works for the City of Moline (Illinois). "City of Moline saves thousands with on-site 'Nurse Pam'" focuses on the money Rudsell saves the city. She provides a wide range of wellness care, including screenings, vaccinations, and preventative education, as well as handling most workers compensation visits. The piece demonstrates the inherent value of a public health nurse practicing in a workplace setting. It is marred slightly by the assumption that care beyond Rudsell's expertise necessarily requires a physician, rather than Rudsell's nurse practitioner colleagues. But the piece shows readers why public health nurses deserve their support. This is a critical message at a time when many are struggling for funding. We encourage all nurses to use this kind of cost-benefit analysis to show how their work saves lives and money. more...

Quick! To the Breathmobile!

August 16, 2006 -- Today WYPR, the Baltimore National Public Radio affiliate, had a very good report by Taunya English about the Breathmobile. The Breathmobile is a nurse-staffed "asthma and allergy clinic on wheels" that visits the city's elementary schools. The piece relies on audio quotes from two nurses. It explains how valuable the program is in keeping asthmatic kids in school and out of the ED. The report might have briefly explored the relation of the Breathmobile to school nurses. To what extent could school nurses help these kids manage their asthma if they weren't so short-staffed? But the piece does bring out important specifics about the clinic nurses' holistic care. We commend Ms. English and WYPR. more...

Host the American Journal of Nursing's Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work photography exhibition!

November 2006 -- This traveling exhibit features the winning photographs from a contest created to highlight the importance of nursing and promote nursing as a career. See our 2005 review of this exhibit. Help highlight the value of nursing in your community. The AJN's goal is to exhibit the photographs widely, so it is charging only for shipping, handling, and administrative overhead. (Estimates for US locations: $700 to $1,700.) The duration for hosting the exhibit is from 3-6 weeks. Reservations for hosting are on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information or to apply now!

Join our new Chapters!

November 24, 2006 -- The Center has started chapters in major media markets. Initially, we have started chapters in Los Angeles; Austin; Hamilton, Ontario; and Vancouver. If you are interested in joining any of these chapters, please click on the chapter links above for more information. And please let us know if you would like us to choose your media market for our next chapter.


What will Center for Nursing Advocacy Chapters do? We envision meetings every month or two. At the meetings, members will brainstorm and work together to improve media coverage of nursing around the world--but most especially within their home media markets. For instance, members might talk about local nursing achievements, events, problems, or issues that they might seek to have the local media cover. Or they might discuss giving organized feedback to a media entity for a recent nurse-related product it has created. See more on our chapter mission and activities page.

Heart Attack Grill press coverage

November 24, 2006 -- Our campaign to convince the Heart Attack Grill in Tempe, Arizona, to discontinue its use of "naughty nurse" waitress uniforms has received wide press coverage. It was covered on the ABC News television show 20/20 on November 17 (article or film clip), in the Baltimore Sun and on the Chip Franklin show on WBAL radio (Baltimore) on Nov. 16, and on CNN Headline News on Nov. 9. Versions of the Baltimore Sun story have also run in many major newspapers across the US, including the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald and Dallas-Fort Worth's Star-Telegram. The CNN piece was a rebroadcast of the story done on ABC News 15 (Phoenix), which ran on October 27. See the CNN/ABC Phoenix clip in Quicktime hi-band or low-band and Windows media hi-band or low-band. Also see the East Valley Tribune (Arizona) article on this issue by Nicole Beyer entitled "Pretend nurses in skimpy outfits raise ire." And see the October 30 NBC 12 News (Phoenix) piece "Scantily-clad waitresses in Tempe raise concerns" by Syleste Rodriguez, or in footage: Quicktime high or low; Windows Media high or low.

Please join all our campaigns!

Please join all our letter-writing campaigns, especially our American Medical Association campaign, which encourages the AMA to stop impugning the care delivered by advanced practice registered nurses, and our Johnson & Johnson campaign, which addresses the company's focus on emotional "angel" imagery in its influential television ads. Thank you!

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 SummersSandy 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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We Can Change the Media!

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