"I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues"
These are the words of the Lorax, poet environmentalist, but this is often how we feel. We sent an alert Friday, urging nurses and supporters to ask Cadbury Schweppes to withdraw its naughty nurse Dentyne commercial. Thank you to all those who spoke up. But although we have 8,000 of the most empowered nurses in the world on our list, 99 out of 100 of you did not speak. That must change if nurses are going to get the resources they need to resolve the current crisis.
When nurses stand silent and allow themselves to be painted as naughty nurses and other stereotypes, how can we expect to recruit self-respecting men and women into the profession or get funding for nursing clinical practice, education or research?
Cadbury Schweppes has denigrated nursing's image twice in the past two years. I have made many calls to at least ten of the most powerful executives at the company over the past two weeks and have spoken with them or left lengthy explanatory messages for them, and they remain unpersuaded. Not only are they not going to pull their commercial, but if we don't do better, it's hard to see how they are going to end the use of the naughty nurse image to sell their products in the future.
Cadbury Schweppes doesn't feel it necessary to remove their ad because their "market research" has given them "data" that says nothing about the harmful effects of the stereotypes that they are embedding into the human psyche. This is because there were either no nurses or no self-respecting nurses among the cadre of market testers. This is because the naughty nurse stereotype is one everyone pretty much nods along with by now. We have seen it so much that it has become part of our global culture. The company has specifically asked us for evidence as to the effects this commercial is having on the public, nurses, patients and the nursing shortage. Let's give it to them!
So here's what we need from you: we need letters, and we need you to involve everyone you know with a stake in nursing (that's everyone on the planet, not just nurses). If you are a faculty member, please send our campaign to your fellow faculty and students throughout your school. If you are a student, please send it to all your fellow students. If you direct a nursing organization or union, please ask all your members to send letters. If you work in a hospital, please ask all staff members to write letters. If you have friends or a spouse, mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or children, please ask them to write letters.
Remember the Skechers Christina Aguilera ad? We got that pulled because we sent them 3,000 letters. We got that pulled because you spoke. Please, do not wait for your fellow nurses to speak. Things will change only when you speak. We have seen your speech change the media before.
Please advocate for your profession like you advocate for your patients. In the end, getting rid of this commercial is about improving care for our patients. Our patients don't have enough nurses delivering high-quality care to them and there is an even bigger dearth of nurses in the community to prevent illness and injury. When nursing is weak, patients die. And since nurses' primary job is to be patient advocates, we must build a stronger nursing profession for them--in part by improving our image.
Ironically, we have had a lot of support on this campaign from non-nurses. We've had the Director of Materials Management at a hospital vow to eliminate the Cadbury Schweppes products that the hospital sells or provides. We have had a chaplain, an English professor, a physician's assistant, a medical librarian, a preschool teacher and a psychology professor all speaking on behalf of nursing. But we need many more nurses and nursing students to speak.
We need nurses to take an active role in their own survival. Member Rebecca Zimmerman, RN, BBA, MHA, from Evansville, Indiana writes to us this morning about the "Resilience Concept" which
empowers the individual to be a 'survivor' and not a 'victim'. In other words, a resilient individual acts in a positive manner to improve a situation. A resilient individual does not wait 'for the organization or another person to save him/her'. Nurses need to become more active in advocacy and lobbying for health care improvements and improvements in the work environment. Unfortunately, so many nurses do not understand this concept and thus remain passive. This passive behavior can change through education and organizations such as yours.
We agree with Rebecca. Please be resilient and work toward professional survival. I have every belief that if we get 3,000 letters on this campaign, we can persuade Cadbury Schweppes to change course. We need you--please speak now. Thank you.
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Center for Nursing Advocacy
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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