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News on Nursing in the Media


We understand there were questionable references to nursing on the syndicated "Live With Regis and Kelly" show aired Monday, March 12. If anyone has this show recorded or knows where we can find a full clip of this material, please let us know as soon as possible. Please call us at 1-410-323-1100 or email at Thank you!


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The Nursemaid Who Wouldn't Disappear

February 25, 2007 - An item on the front page of the "Jobs" section in today's Washington Post reflected the media's continuing practice of using "nurse" as a shorthand for any female who provides paid care to children. Vickie Elmer's piece repeatedly refers to the Maryland infant caregiver it profiles as a "baby nurse," even though the provider has virtually no health care training. Obviously, as Post representatives pointed out to us, there is a historic association between infant caregiving and the word "nurse," as in "nursemaid." And many caregivers persist in marketing themselves as "baby nurses." We're familiar with the view that if lots of people have done something for a long time, it must be right. But to use "nurse" this way today sends a damaging message about professional nursing at a time of crisis. And it poses risks for those who may rely on the mistaken belief that such caregivers actually are trained nurses, as recent press accounts have made clear. We commend DC nurse Mary Brewster for letting the Post know that it can do better, and we encourage others to give the Post their views. more...


"Doctored reality"

March 13, 2007 -- Today The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA) ran a good piece by reporter Pat Carroll about the damaging misportrayal of nursing on Fox's "House" and other popular U.S. television shows. The article focuses on the common Hollywood depiction of a "pack of doctors engaging in patient care with no nurses in sight." The piece gets expert comment from several Pennsylvania nurses, and also relies on extensive input from the Center and its executive director Sandy Summers. See the article: "Doctored reality: Nurses chart complaints of marginalization on TV."



November 9, 2006 -- Tonight NBC's "ER" included two plotlines in which nurse Sam Taggart came off as a tough, adaptive critical thinker who was well-qualified to handle difficult patients, interns, and attendings. The episode is marred by significant missteps, which tend to reinforce the idea that nurses are physician subordinates who take their "orders." But in one of the episode's major plotlines, Taggart masterfully manages two personalities of a patient with dissociative identity disorder. She finally persuades the patient's extremely hostile, resistant persona that he should allow a pericardiocentesis, effectively saving the patient's life. The scene in which Taggart does this, however realistic it may be, is one of the best depictions of a nurse's expert psychosocial care that we have ever seen on U.S. network television. The episode, Virgil Williams's "Jigsaw," drew 14.5 million U.S. viewers and it will be seen by millions more around the world. more...


Abandon hope all ye who seek health care

October 20, 2006 - Today two South African newspapers ran stories describing mistreatment of patients by nurses. In "Nurses ill-treat and victimise HIV/Aids folk," published in The Herald, Nomahlubi Sonjica reports that some nurses at HIV/AIDS clinics shout at patients and disregard confidentiality. And in The Star's "Joburg Hospital: where nurses 'don't care,'" Shaun Smillie describes an abusive nurse who apparently rules an emergency department waiting room "through the use of threats and the muscle of two body guards." Both pieces make a limited effort to seek comment from responsible officials, and the Herald does include a comment that suggests nurses have difficult jobs. But both pieces could have done more to establish context for their reporting, especially the broad assertions in the headlines. Assuming the reports are accurate, why might nurses act this way? Could it relate to workplace conditions? Problems in training? What can be done? Though the reports do underline nurses' role as the first point of contact for many patients, they are clearly a troubling look at the care of the nurses they describe. more...


What every girl should know about nursing

October 15, 2006 - Today The New York Times published an op-ed by Gloria Feldt about women's health pioneer Margaret Sanger. The piece's hook is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum's ongoing restoration at 97 Orchard Street, which shows visitors the harsh lives of early 20th century immigrants, including their high maternal and infant mortality rates. Sanger, then a nurse serving this poor Lower East Side population, began publishing information about birth control--information that was banned as "obscenity." She also opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and went on to found the group that became Planned Parenthood. Feldt, a former president of that group, is hardly objective about Sanger; there is no mention of Sanger's troubling views on eugenics, for instance. But Feldt argues persuasively that the movement for "women's reproductive freedom" that Sanger sparked has been "crucial to American progress," and she portrays Sanger as a tenacious, visionary patient advocate who understood the powerful influence of the media on the health of her society. more...


Hell is other nurses

October 12, 2006 - Recent Dear Abby columns have addressed the problem of new nurse "Susan in St. Louis." In a letter published on August 30, Susan says she "hates her job" and is already "getting ready to change careers," mainly because of "other nurses and the environment." Abby's initial response and letters from other nurses that Abby publishes in a follow-up column today stress the many different options that those with nursing degrees have within nursing and health care generally. Unfortunately, there's nothing about why nurses might (as one nurse says) "eat their young," what might be done to improve the conditions that are driving nurses like Susan from the profession, or how important it is to world health that we find ways to keep them at the bedside saving lives. We thank Abby (Jeanne Phillips--right) and her correspondents for raising these issues in her column, which is widely distributed through the Universal Press Syndicate. 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.

So we urge you to make a donation to help us continue and expand our work. Just click here to learn about the great gifts you can receivefor joining or renewing your Center membership, including our cool t-shirts and the Archie McPhee nurse action figure! It's quick and easy! And because the Center is a 501(c)(3) charity, your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

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
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
office 1-410-323-1100
fax 1-410-510-1790

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