News on Nursing in the Media
January 16, 2010 -- Today the Dayton Daily News (OH) ran a fair article by Dave Larsen about a new Carnegie Foundation study by prominent UCSF nursing scholar Patricia Benner and three colleagues calling for U.S. nurses to have at least a bachelor's degree because of the demands of modern nursing practice. Currently, an associate's degree is the minimum requirement. The Daily News piece is balanced, allowing both sides of the debate over the bachelor's idea to present their views, although it does not convey how long the debate has been going on, instead making it sound like the idea is novel. And although the piece spends a lot of time on the particulars of associate's and bachelor's training at local colleges and hospitals, it does not get deeply enough into how nurses will practice in a health care environment in which care technology is increasingly complex and their colleagues increasingly have graduate degrees. Among the unanswered questions: Does any research suggest that patient outcomes are better when nurses have more formal education? (A: Yes.) Is it fair to expect a nurse with an associate's degree to advocate effectively with a physician with eight years of university education? Should patients' lives depend on the nurse being able to overcome that imbalance? Does any other autonomous health profession require less than a master's degree? On the other hand, how would a move to a bachelor's requirement affect the long-standing nursing shortage? Indeed, the piece does not even mention what may be the most radical recommendation in the study: that all nurses obtain a master's degree within 10 years of starting practice. Still, we thank the Dayton Daily News for making a serious effort to cover the study; we're not aware that any major mainstream press outlet gave the study any attention at all. But imagine the media's reaction if a major foundation proposed adding 1-4 years to physician training! more...
April 2010 -- It's a naughty nurse smackdown! Recently the press has reported that Arizona's Heart Attack Grill has filed a lawsuit to shut down a new Florida restaurant called Heart Stoppers, which the Grill claims has swiped its intellectual property by featuring similar anti-health themes. Both restaurants include waitresses dressed as naughty nurses, reinforcing a tired stereotype of female sexuality that undermines real nurses' claims to adequate respect and resources. These culinary landmarks also seem to share the view that encouraging people to eat lots of fatty food and become obese makes the restaurant owners the revolutionary equivalent of the nation's Founders. Which ever way the court rules in this important case, we applaud Grill owner "Dr." Jon Basso for his tenacious efforts to close down other restaurants with similar themes, which we hope will at least limit the damage caused by the type of anti-nurse marketing that he has done since 2006. And let's not forget the Delray Beach "nursing director" who explained her Heart Stoppers visit this way to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "I heard they all dressed up as nurses and I wanted to check them out. At my hospital, they never let us wear fishnets." Fight the power! Please write to the owners of both the Heart Attack Grill and Heart Stoppers--one of whom, Iggy Lena, is a real-life paramedic--and tell them that there must be some way to make money without portraying nurses as bimbos. more... and please take action by sending one of our instant letters!
March 29, 2010 -- Tonight's episode of Showtime's Nurse Jackie included a cautionary tale about how easily a clinician as aggressively gifted as Jackie can slip into arrogance and corner-cutting. No one will likely suffer physical damage as a result of Jackie's error here (unwittingly giving a distressed family a few hours of false re-assurance about whether their child has cystic fibrosis) and the episode also includes examples of the veteran nurse's physiological and psychosocial skills. Jackie takes responsibility for the error, and it actually makes the overall portrayal of her expertise more balanced and realistic; it's not just brilliant physicians who can fall into the ego trap. Unfortunately, the episode also includes a brief reinforcement of the previous episode's suggestion that hospital physicians have some kind of direct authority over nurses. This week, nurse manager Gloria Akalitus tells Jackie that physician Cooper has lodged a "formal complaint" against her for "insubordination and general bitchiness." Jackie dismisses the complaint with a string of expletives, and Akalitus doesn't seem to care about it. But the episode does not clearly refute the idea that a physician might legitimately complain about a nurse's insubordination. Nor does it refute the implication that nurses really do, in some sense, report to physicians. They don't, and suggestions that they do feed the handmaiden stereotype that has plagued nursing for decades. However, the episode still shows viewers that nurses are skilled clinicians with some autonomy who play a leading role in patient care. The episode, "Twitter," was written by Mark Hudis. more...
March 26, 2010 -- Today Scrubs Magazine posted a short piece by Jennifer Fink about the nursing image, referencing especially Laura Stokowski's excellent recent Medscape article "A Letter to Hollywood: Nurses Are Not Handmaidens." The Scrubs piece rightly suggests that portrayals of nursing do have some effect on public attitudes toward nursing. And it lists the 10 best and worst portrayals described in Stokowski's article (Fink attributes the lists to Stokowski, but they're actually the recipients of the Truth's awards for the best and worst of the last decade). Fink does note that the Truth recently "made waves" with its campaign to persuade Mariah Carey to stop her use of naughty nurse imagery in the video "Up Out My Face." We thank Fink and Scrubs Magazine for this helpful post.
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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The Truth About Nursing is an international non-profit organization based in Baltimore that seeks to help the public understand the central role nurses play in health care. The Truth promotes more accurate media portrayals of nurses and greater use of nurses as expert sources. The group is led by Sandy Summers, co-author of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All At Risk.
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Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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