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News on Nursing in the Media


The good, the bad, and Zoey's stethoscope

June 22, 2009 -- Tonight's episode of Showtime's Nurse Jackie continues to present Jackie as a clinical leader with a vast skill set, and to show that nursing can be as compelling as medicine--if you actually let nurse characters do the nursing, as no other major show has done on a regular basis. Here, Jackie provides skilled care to a dying heart patient and a young woman who has become addicted to Vicodin. She also joins her best friend, physician Eleanor, in an amusing but deceptively important effort to teach nursing student Zoey not to be intimidated by physicians. One of the most impressive aspects of Nurse Jackie is that it goes out of its way to show not only that Jackie is clinically expert and a strong patient advocate, but also how patients and their families benefit from her advanced psychosocial skills. These are all the more amazing given her somewhat raw approach to colleagues and the addiction to painkillers that seems to haunt her. Small parts of the episode do reflect what may be the show's most significant ongoing problem, its iffy portrayal of nursing autonomy and authority. Jackie's interactions with physician Coop suggest she has little idea about what the hospital's upper management structure is--it seems to consist of the physicians. And the episode's depiction of Jackie's boss Gloria Akalitus tells viewers that nurse managers are not really nurses. On the whole, though, the episode offers another engaging look at what a strong, skilled nurse can do for patients. The episode, "Chicken Soup," was written by Mark Hudis. more...


The Meaning of Life

April 17, 2009 -- Today the Cape Cod Times ran a very good article by Cynthia McCormick about the challenges nurses face in discussing spiritual issues with patients. The report describes a recent incident in which a per diem nurse at Cape Cod Hospital upset a patient's family by discussing "repentance" with the dying patient in a way that allegedly distressed the patient. "Spiritual talk by nurses spurs soul-searching" explores the nature of that incident through quotes from the nurse and others involved, but it also sets the issues in context by consulting a local nurse expert: Kathleen Geagan Ryan, a hospice nurse and ordained interfaith minister. Ryan explains that nurses can provide spiritual counseling by listening and letting patients take the lead, and being sure not to do anything that could be interpreted as imposing their own beliefs, a sensitive thing given the unequal power between nurse and patient. We thank McCormick and the Cape Cod Times for a sensitive report about a difficult aspect of health practice--one that would seem to be even more complex than the report indicates--for nurses who often confront the challenge of helping patients face their own deaths. more...


"Helpers?" The New York Times on Saving Lives

July 1, 2009 -- Today Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" blog at the New York Times posted a very good piece by regular contributor Theresa Brown, RN, about the key issues raised by the book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk, written by the leaders of the Truth About Nursing. Brown framed her well-written discussion of the book by suggesting that even her beloved New York Times crossword had reinforced "outdated nursing stereotypes" by referring to nurses as "white-cap wearers" and "I.C.U. helpers." The Times deserves credit for publishing a piece framed by a critique of one of the paper's own prominent features. Brown explained that the book argues that the media's heavy reliance on nursing stereotypes, particularly in Hollywood television shows, can undermine nursing care by reducing the attention we pay to vital issues like short-staffing.

Saving Lives is an important book because it so clearly delineates how ubiquitous negative portrayals of nursing are in today’s media... [The authors] argue that these images of nursing degrade the profession by portraying nurses as either vixens, saints or harridans, not college-educated health care workers with life and death responsibilities. The problem with how nurses are portrayed in the media is that it has the potential to devalue the way we view nurses in the real world.

We thank Theresa Brown, Tara Parker-Pope, and the New York Times.

See the full article, "Why Nurse Stereotypes Are Bad for Health," and take a look at the numerous and varied comments that follow at the "Well" blog. Please weigh in on this interesting discussion! Some of the comments so far suggest a need for further education about nursing autonomy and the value of nursing (e.g., #44).


Other Truth About Nursing press coverage

Los Angeles Times -- Marc Siegel's bimonthly column The Unreal World featured quotes from our executive director Sandy Summers in his piece, "Few Nurses are 100% Jackie," published on June 29.

ADVANCE for Nurses -- Ainsley Maloney's article Nurse Jackie & HawthoRNe: How two new primetime TV shows are expected to portray the nursing profession to the public, features many quotes from Sandy Summers in its June 24 - July 8 edition.

Cape Cod Times -- On June 11 Cynthia McCormick discussed our book Saving Lives in an article "Nurses sidelined in TV medical dramas." It was reprinted in The New Bedford Standard Times on June 25.


Please support The Truth About Nursing

We know this is a difficult time for many of us, but starting a new organization from scratch takes a lot of resources. We need your help so we can pursue this mission together. We would be very grateful if you could make a donation--even if it is $5, $10 or $25. Any amount would be so helpful. Please click here to donate. Thank you!


Saving Lives -- Educating society about the value of nursing

Our new book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk uses striking examples and an irreverent style to explore nursing stereotypes from TV shows to the news media. We hope every nurse will read it and consider the role the media plays in nursing today--and how we can improve the profession's public image. But the book also explains nursing in compelling terms to the public and decision-makers. We want as many non-nurses as possible to read it. Here are some ideas to spread the word about nursing and the media:

  1. You can educate the public by posting flyers online, on community bulletin boards, or in other places. You can educate nurses about their profession's media image by posting copies of flyers on bulletin boards and breakrooms at their workplace or school. Click here to help us distribute the flyers.
  2. Consider using the book in your classroom to teach students about professional development. The book stimulates discussion on a variety of relevant issues, including the development of different views of the profession, the role of gender, and relations with physicians. And it is vital that the next generation learn how to interact with the media and present a more professional image. Saving Lives is a very affordable textbook. For 10 or more copies, please contact Malgorzata Drozniak at Kaplan Publishing at or 212-618-2469 for very good bulk discounts.
  3. Do you have friends or family members who would benefit from an engaging look at nursing today--one that draws on a range of popular culture items to make its points? Get them a copy of Saving Lives--they will learn the value of nursing by reading the book. You can get a copy from us and even request a certain inscription, or get a copy from your favorite bookseller or Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
  4. Help us send copies of Saving Lives to influential members of the media and key political decision-makers. If you donate $40 to The Truth About Nursing, we will send you a signed copy of Saving Lives and send an additional copy to a media creator or an influential decision-maker. You can let us choose the decision-maker from our list, or you can identify a decision-maker of your own. We'll send it for you. Click here to order!
  5. Please write customer reviews of Saving Lives at the Barnes & Noble or Amazon websites, or the website of your favorite bookseller. The more positive reactions Saving Lives receives, the better we will be able to spread its messages about the importance of nursing. Thank you!
  6. Consider giving this year's nursing graduates a copy of Saving Lives--we can even sign them for you. Contact us for details.
  7. Please distribute our press release to your local media. Ask them to interview us or write an article about the book.
  8. Please forward this news alert to anyone who might be interested and ask them to get involved with our mission to remake how society thinks about nursing.  


Let Sandy Summers empower your group at its next event!

Media images of health care--like the ones on ABC's popular "Grey's Anatomy"--have an important effect on the nursing profession. Many nurses and nursing students feel frustrated when influential media products undervalue nurses. But how can we change what the media tells the public about nursing? Sandy Summers has led high-profile efforts to promote more accurate and robust depictions of nursing since 2001. She has shared her insights in dynamic presentations to groups across North America. She empowers nurses and teaches them how to shape their image into one that reflects the profession's true value. When nurses get the respect they deserve, they will attract more resources for nursing practice, education, and research, so we can resolve the nursing shortage. Sign Sandy up for your next conference, nurses' week celebration, or gala event! Click here for more details.


Help people think about nursing!

We have created two provocative new flyers, and if you like them, please help us distribute them as widely as possible. The "Not What They Say I Am" flyer sends a message that many media depictions of nurses are not accurate and that nurses object to them, in part because they undermine nurses' claims to adequate resources. This is a key message of the Truth About Nursing, and one explored in detail in our new book Saving Lives. The ironic "Hooray for Hollywood" flyer sends the message that, in our view, there has been little for nurses to cheer about in recent Hollywood depictions of their work. Popular TV shows like "House" and "Grey's Anatomy" have repeatedly offered inaccurate and damaging images of nursing, and we hope the flyer will cause those who see it to reconsider those images. The small print on the flyers directs people to our book and The Truth's website to learn more. see the full posters and links for downloading and or request flyers be sent to you...



The Truth About Nursing is a Maryland non-profit corporation. We will soon apply to the IRS for 501(c)(3) charitable organization status. If we receive 501(c)(3) status, then donations we receive (minus the fair market value of the book or any other member gift) will be tax-deductible as allowed by law.

To make a donation of a different amount or to receive different member gifts, please see our regular donation page.

Thank you for supporting the Truth About Nursing's work!

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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