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News on Nursing in the Media


Chief Nursing Officer

June 16, 2009 -- Tonight's series premiere of TNT's hospital drama HawthoRNe makes a serious effort to tell stories from a nursing perspective and to focus on nursing care, particularly the exploits of the dedicated, expert, and strong chief nursing officer Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith). Remarkably, the show has four diverse major nurse characters--including the black female lead and a man--with just one major physician character. This is an unheard-of TV ratio, though a good approximation of hospital reality. Indeed, the very fact that HawthoRNe shows that chief nursing officers exist is helpful. Nurses are not interchangeable widgets, and some here are clearly more skilled than others; to some extent they provide autonomous care. In several cases the pilot gives viewers a sense of the lack of respect nurses often receive from patients and physicians. And it suggests that nurses have the skill and perhaps even some obligation to resist physician "orders" in order to protect patients. One nurse questions but still gives an erroneous physician insulin prescription, then gets in trouble when the patient crashes. But sadly, the overall portrayal does not convey enough of nurses' real skill or autonomy, and elements of the episode reinforce harmful stereotypes. The nurse-physician conflicts do not really make clear that nurses are legally and ethically obligated to resist dangerous physician care plans. Many scenes suggest that the direct care nurses are, well, weak, and very much in need of rescuing by Hawthorne. As on other shows, the blistering contempt of some physician characters is not adequately refuted, except to some extent by Hawthorne herself. And surely nursing does not need an image of a frustrated nurse who really, really wants to be a physician but was unable to get into medical school, and so harbors a huge inferiority complex. Surely we don't need an image of a beautiful young nurse named Candy who thinks it's part of her job to grant sexual favors to Iraq War veterans as a "thank you" for their service, and who we see cheerfully provide manual sex to a soldier in the pilot. And at times, the show suggests that staff nurses tend to be frivolous physician helpers--physicians still do both defibrillations we see. HawthoRNe may not inspire a lot of critical respect, but its main character and basic structure could help nursing a great deal, so we hope future episodes will avoid stereotypes, and do more to convey what nurses do to save lives. The pilot was written by series creator John Masius. The first episode was seen by 3.8 million viewers. more...


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"Hospital attendant"

April 27, 2009 -- Today's New York Times Crossword puzzle sought the answer "nurse" with the clue "hospital attendant." But nurses are skilled, autonomous professionals who use their years of college-level education to save lives and improve patient outcomes. They are not "attendants," a word which is generally used to mean an assistant or service worker with relatively little formal education in the relevant field. The clue recalls the Times Crossword's even more inaccurate February 2007 nurse clue "ICU helper." Of course, some will note that it's "just a crossword puzzle." But all mass media has some effect on how people think and act. And the fact that the premiere crossword in the world repeatedly features such clues illustrates the range of media that contributes to the deadly undervaluation of nursing, and of course, also shows how difficult it is to correct such stereotyping. This puzzle was created by Joe Krozel, and the current Times puzzle editor, as in 2007, is Will Shortz. more... and please join our letter-writing campaign!


In case you missed our review of the first "Nurse Jackie" episode, click here to see it

Make me good, God. But not yet.

St. Augustine; Nurse Jackie

See The Truth About Nursing press coverage: we appeared in a Q&A interview in the June edition of the Connecticut Nursing News. We also appeared on Sirius XM Satellite "Doctor Radio" Thursday June 18 with Dr. Billy Goldberg to discuss the new nurse-focused TV shows.


See nurse Theresa Brown's "Cases" piece in the New York Times

Basic and Vital: A Struggle to Breathe, June 8, 2009

See more Theresa Brown stories on her NYT page


Would the professors at your school who teach about nursing roles and professional development be interested in our book Saving Lives?

We would like to reach out to professors who teach professional development to discuss how Saving Lives might enhance their class curricula and discussions about nursing's public image. If you put us in touch with those professors, or tell those professors about the book, we can spread the reach of Saving Lives. Please send contact information to info@tansandbox.org. Thank you!


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!


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.


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 Malgorzata.Drozniak@kaplan.com 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.  


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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book cover, Saving lives

A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

Save Lives. Be a Nurse. bumper sticker