News on Nursing in the Media
October 4, 2006 -- Today The New York Times ran a balanced piece by Steven Greenhouse about a National Labor Relations Board ruling taking a more restrictive view of which employees may join unions. "Board Redefines Rules for Union Exemption" explains that the case involved nurses at a Michigan hospital who assigned other nurses, aides, and technicians to particular patients and gave them specific responsibilities. The NLRB majority found that these nurses were "supervisors," ineligible to join unions, since they used "independent judgment" in overseeing other employees and could be held accountable for their work. The NLRB dissenters and labor unions argued that the decision could effectively exclude from union membership millions who had no genuine management authority. In addition to raising issues about where to draw the line between labor and management, the dispute reveals something about how nursing itself is regarded. It may not be easy to see these nurses as "management" in a traditional sense. But we also wonder how much of the strong reaction to the NLRB decision is driven by a sense that the general idea of nurses as "supervisors" is absurd. The dispute also seems to reflect a quandary bedside nursing advocates face. Nurses exercise independent judgment, and many, like those who act as charge nurses, have significant professional authority. This must be better understood if nursing is to get the resources it needs. Yet current law may create incentives to minimize or distort that professional role--as the NLRB dissenters seemed to do by arguing (in Greenhouse's words) that the board's ruling could exclude from unions "a doctor overseeing nurses or a lawyer overseeing a secretary." more...
January 2007 -- Late this month, a friend of the Center got a phone call from producers/writers from a popular U.S. network prime time TV hospital show. Our friend is a recognized expert in a particular health field, and the producers were calling for a script consult, which she gladly gave them. However, our friend reports that the producers were "SUPER surprised" to learn that she was a nurse, that she had a PhD, and that despite being a nurse, she was one of the leading researchers in this key health field. Our friend took the opportunity to provide a lot of information about nursing and how it might be more accurately integrated into this and other story lines. She even referred the producers to the Center's web site. Their reaction? The show's audience is "interested in doctors not nurses," and there are no plans to have any nurse character handle any of the health activities under discussion. This is the self-reinforcing loop: Hollywood tells its global audience that only physicians matter because that's what the audience expects, and the audience expects that in large part because that's what Hollywood constantly tells it. In fact, the real nursing role is highly dramatic, which is why TV physicians spend so much time doing it. We salute our friend for her advocacy. And we'll be looking for the episode in which her nursing expertise will surface--probably in the words and actions of a physician character. more...
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Because of the lack of overall understanding worldwide, nurses must sustain a collective effort to shape media portrayals of their work. We must educate society in order to obtain more social, political and financial support. As Florence Nightingale once said:
In our imperfect state of conscience and enlightenment, publicity and the collision resulting from publicity are the best guardians of the interest of the sick.
The Center's global media monitoring, analysis and advocacy is a huge challenge. It takes extensive research, writing, communication, and Internet efforts. We must pay for office equipment, supplies, transportation, Internet products, insurance, postage and telephone costs. Our office is donated by our staff. And our staff can undertake only a small part of the work that needs to be done to improve nursing's image.
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Thank you for all of your support over the past year. You are the reason we've had a real impact on public understanding of nursing worldwide. Together, we can strengthen nursing, and give patients the kind of health care they deserve in 2007 and beyond!
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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