News on Nursing in the Media
March 22, 2010 -- Tonight Showtime aired the second season premiere of Nurse Jackie, the "dark comedy" about an expert New York City emergency department nurse who's not afraid to bust a few heads, and pop a few pills, to get the job done. The episode includes more examples of Jackie's clinical virtuosity. She advocates strongly to get a plastic surgery consult for a deaf woman who has had several fingers shot off, despite resistance from junior physician Cooper, who does not seem to get how important fingers are to a person who uses sign language. Then Jackie uses her incredible range of interpersonal skills to get the woman's insurance company to cover the expensive surgery, against all odds. The episode's portrayal of nursing autonomy is mixed. It shows the nasty nurse manager Gloria Akalitus exercising authority over the nursing staff. And Jackie, apparently acting as charge nurse, protects diabetic nurse Thor from Cooper's abuse, then privately counsels Thor to manage his symptoms better. Another scene has Cooper lodging a complaint against Jackie with Akalitus, arguing that he is "at the top of the food chain" and Jackie is "at the bottom." Cooper (who has a thing for Jackie) actually cries in the meeting, and Akalitus does not take the complaint seriously. But viewers may still assume that nurses generally must do what physicians say, it's just that Cooper is unusually callow, while Akalitus and Jackie are unusually feisty. Jackie still handles some things badly, and her seemingly pathological risk-taking continues. Now that the married nurse's former boyfriend and drug supplier, pharmacist Eddie, has been replaced by an automatic pill dispenser, she steals drugs from the machine (Eddie ODs in an effort to get Jackie to return his calls). The show seems more interested in addictive behavior than in nursing. But it still seems set for another compelling season of portraying nurses as skilled professionals who play the central role in patient care. This episode, "Comfort Food," was written by series creators Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem. more...
March 24, 2010 -- Living in Emergency, which will be in U.S. theaters on April 17, tells the stories of four developed world physicians who have worked on Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) aid missions in Congo and Liberia. The documentary feature offers a somewhat confused but still fairly engaging look at MSF's work in these war-torn nations. Of course, the film is an advertisement for MSF, but it is admirably frank about tensions between foreign and local staff, the stress of confronting widespread suffering in dangerous areas, and the despair that critical resource shortages can cause. The film even offers some insights on foreign aid work. But it mostly ignores MSF's local staff, and completely ignores its nurses and logistics officers, all of whom play key roles in the Nobel Prize-winning group's work. Although nurses are the most numerous MSF health professionals, this film is almost entirely about physicians, who do virtually all of the talking and acting. Viewers learn what the physicians do, what they think, and how they feel. Other MSF staff may flit across the screen, unidentified, but they are portrayed as peripheral to the stories that matter: those of the casually heroic physicians who provide all meaningful care to these populations in great need. In the end, the distorted film's treatment of emergency aid mirrors that of MSF's name: it's a physician thing. more...
December 27, 2009 -- Several press pieces this month highlight deceptively simple nursing innovations with great potential to improve health. Two focus on helping people avoid deadly overindulgence. Today, the Deadline Press & Picture Agency (Edinburgh, Scotland) ran an article by Rory Reynolds about "former nurse" John Sharp, now a local council member, who has invented a glass design that shows drinkers how many units they are drinking, in an effort to reduce what the piece calls Scotland's "binge-drinking culture." (Of course, Sharp is no more a "former" nurse than a physician who no longer practiced would be a "former" physician.) On December 15, the Miami Herald ran a substantial Q&A between Teresa Mears and Christine Bromley, who practiced for years as a home health nurse before starting One Helping Helps Many, a company that sells nine-inch dinner plates to help people maintain portion control and thus reduce overeating. And on December 9, the Cleveland Banner (Tennessee) published an item by Linda Womack about Misi Rollins Austin, a clinical nurse manager for a local school district who created the song and video "Aim for Your Sleeve," sung to the tune of the Addams Family theme, to help kids remember how to reduce the risk of infection when they cough or sneeze. Each of these ideas helps people think more clearly about basic daily decisions, and they may seem simple. Indeed, they would likely be mocked mercilessly on the most popular Hollywood shows like House and Grey's Anatomy, which glorify high-tech interventions and convey little sense of broader public health issues. But these nurses' innovations could make the difference between life and death for many. We thank those responsible for these press items. more...
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
-- Victor Hugo
January 1, 2010 -- Today BBC News posted a very good article by Jane Elliott reporting that the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King's College, London, has appointed its first "composer in residence," using funds from the PRS Foundation. During his one-year residency, composer John Browne plans to write pieces for the upcoming celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Nightingale's death and a song book for nurses to use on children's wards, among other works. The article relies on Ian Noonan, a lecturer in mental health at the School, who explains that Nightingale herself cited the importance of music in helping patients recover. Noonan's comments are generally helpful, although a couple do suggest that excellent nursing is about some intangible artistic sense and not really about science. This traditional view is understandable--nurses have long embraced the "art of caring" idea as a way to stand out alongside the physicians who get so much more respect for their expertise--but it encourages the public to continue to regard nursing as a kind of paid mothering service rather than the modern scientific profession it is. In any case, Diana Greenman, chief executive of the charity Music in Hospitals, explains that music can help "relieve pain, depression, anxiety and loneliness." Indeed, as the piece reports, music "has been shown to be beneficial in many areas of health, from stroke recovery to lung condition management." We thank Ms. Elliott and the BBC for their report on this innovative area of patient care, in which nurses have often taken the lead. more...
March 22, 2010 -- Physician Marc Siegel's latest "Unreal World" feature in The Los Angeles Times includes commentary by Truth executive director Sandy Summers about the depiction of nursing in a recent episode of NBC's Mercy. The piece is "The Unreal World: How appropriate was girl’s treatment on ‘Mercy’?: Diagnosis of a liver condition rings true, even if her care doesn’t."
March 15, 2010 -- Today Modern Healthcare, the influential magazine for health care executives, published "Outliers: Mariah, the nurses are not amused," an article about the Truth's campaign asking Mariah Carey to reconsider the naughty nurse imagery in her new video for "Up Out My Face." The piece featured quotes from our review, and commentary about our other music reviews. (Subscription required.)
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
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