News on Nursing in the Media
September 23, 2009 -- The series premiere of NBC's drama Mercy presents a group of attractive young New Jersey hospital nurses as downtrodden working girls, failing to get the respect they deserve from physicians or patients. Lead character Veronica Callahan displays advanced psychosocial and life-saving skills, though the show attributes the latter to her tour of duty in Iraq, rather than nursing education and experience. Like the leads on Showtime's Nurse Jackie and TNT's HawthoRNe, Veronica is a fighter, telling physicians off and doing what she thinks best to protect patients. As on both other nurse shows, this lead nurse character "treats the patient," while the physicians merely "treat the disease" (here characters actually say that). Unfortunately, the show seems to think she reports to the physicians, a major flaw. As in the premiere of Jackie, Veronica warns a young physician that a patient may have a critical problem; he ignores it, the patient dies, and the nurse tears into him. As on HawthoRNe, Veronica's disregard for protocol repeatedly gets her in trouble with superiors, in her case the apparent chief of medicine. Like Jackie, Veronica is self-medicating, in her case with alcohol and "delicious Paxil" for what seems like PTSD from the war. As on Jackie, Veronica's nurse sidekicks include a smart but clueless novice who favors mockable patterned scrubs, as well as an apparently gay, wisecracking man. So two of the three significant male nurse characters on the new nurse shows seem to be gay, which is not representative of the profession as a whole. Veronica is separated from her pugnacious contractor husband, who persuades her not to divorce him, though she still has a strong thing for a hot physician she hooked up with in Iraq--and who has pursued her to the hospital. So as on Jackie, Veronica looks set for a love triangle involving her working class husband and a colleague with more education; unlike on Jackie, the colleague here seems a lot more promising than hubby. Her nurse friend Sonia connects with a nice, funny police officer, but she is desperate to escape what the show sees as the violence and unpaid bills of the working class; she wants a wealthy Manhattan lawyer. Mercy has some problems, but like the two summer nurse shows, it raises important nursing issues other hospital shows rarely have. And the premiere ("Can We Get That Drink Now?"), written by show creator Liz Heldens, drew 8.2 million viewers--millions more than the other two shows combined. Are these shows the product of an Obama-era interest in underdogs? Are recession-weary viewers responding to the shows' criticism of the flawed U.S. health system? Whatever it is, we urge nurses to watch Mercy (the premiere is at the NBC site and free on iTunes), and use the show to help people think about nursing. see the rest of our interim analysis...full analysis to follow soon...and please post your comments on the show on our discussion board. Thank you!
July 15, 2009 -- Today U.S. President Barack Obama gave a short speech at the White House surrounded by nursing leaders, in order to promote his health care reform policies. The event was notable not only in that it reflected Obama's continuing use of nurses (the "most trusted" workers) to promote his reform efforts, but also because the speech reflected an understanding of nursing that is unusual in a political figure at the highest level. The President's speech suggested that he understood some of the basic elements of nurses' clinical work, including patient advocacy and the teaching of new physicians, as well as the centrality of nursing care in underserved communities, in EDs and obstetrics. Even Obama's introductions of and remarks about the nurses who were present show the public that nurses can be health care leaders. Unfortunately, the speech did focus on nurses' caring, virtue, and hard work, rather than their life-saving skills, which are probably the most important aspects of nursing that the public must understand in order for us to resolve the nursing crisis. And it is not clear from the speech whether Obama believes not just that nurses are supporters and potential beneficiaries of reform, but also that a greater investment in nursing education and clinical practice is critical to the success of reform and the future of health care generally. On the whole, though, the speech sent very helpful messages about nursing, so we commend the President and others who played a role in the speech for advancing understanding of the profession. more...
July 13, 2009 -- Tonight's episode of Showtime's Nurse Jackie focuses on the care Jackie and the other ED nurses provide to a dying nurse who used to practice with them. The plotline offers an unusual portrayal of how the nurses manage their patient's end-of-life care, and equally rare, a serious and revealing look at the clinical interactions among very different types of nurses. The dying nurse--who makes Jackie look easygoing--asks Jackie to help her end her life, because she does not want to lie in hospice for her last couple weeks. As in past episodes, Jackie works around the system. She and the other nurses provide their old friend with the ending she wants, even though it is apparently a crime to do so in New York State. The nurses' actions raise complex and difficult issues related to our flawed end-of-life care policies, and Jackie's own consistent willingness to break rules in order to further her vision of what is right for patients. Although the plotline is more about psychosocial care and advocacy, there is also a scene in which Jackie, after minimal assessment, accurately estimates that a patient will die in 10 minutes, underlining her expertise in physical care. The episode, "Tiny Bubbles," was written by Rick Cleveland. more...
September 17, 2009 -- The Truth's exeuctive director Sandy Summers was heavily quoted in the article "Real-life nurses talk about how they're portrayed on TV" in the Star-News North Carolina.
The authors present ideas that are clearly valuable to registered nurses, particularly in areas of orientation and staff development. The conversation that they document could also be useful to increase insight and spur discussion among undergraduate and graduate nursing students. ... Overall, the book is very convincing to the reader.
October 4, 2009 -- The Truth About Nursing's executive director Sandy Summers will be speaking at various locations across the U.S. Come on out and see her, and be part of the conversation on changing how the public thinks about nursing. There is a seating limit, so please check with event hosts for space availability. See our list of events this fall:
October 4: South Dakota Nurses Association (Sioux Falls)
October 9: Children's Hospital Association of Texas (Corpus Christi)
October 22: American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators (Baltimore)
November 11: Vermont State Nurses Association (Stowe)
Click here to see our calendar for more details.
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.
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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:
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.
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Thank you for supporting the Truth About Nursing's work!
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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