News on Nursing in the Media
Nursing Times (U.K.)
District of Columbia Nurse
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's In the Media on Edith Shain
August 2, 2010 -- This week The New Yorker ran "Letting Go," a 12,000-word article about end-of-life care by surgeon and health writer Atul Gawande. This "Annals of Medicine" piece is physician-centric, quoting seven physicians and repeatedly implying that physicians are the only health providers whose views and actions really matter on this issue, and more broadly, that physicians direct health care. But the article also includes a surprisingly substantial look at the skilled work of Boston hospice nurse Sarah Creed, as Gawande accompanies her on patient visits and actually relies on some of her account of hospice care, providing a far more substantial look at the nursing role in palliative care than did a long December 2009 New York Times story about sedation of the dying. Gawande's New Yorker piece offers a fairly candid and progressive view of end-of-life care, arguing that people in the U.S. too often approach the final days of life with an expensive heroic treatment model that can needlessly increase suffering and even shorten life. He stresses that careful discussion of patients' end-of-life priorities, though very difficult, seems to be the key to improving this situation (though he notes that recent U.S. health reform efforts to provide funding for such discussions were doomed by claims that they were "death panels"). Gawande does not seem to be aware that nurses, who have a holistic practice model and who have long spent far more time with the dying than any other health professionals, have been pushing just this perspective on end-of-life care for decades. And he consults no nurse as a stand-alone expert on end-of-life care, as he does several physicians; we guess that would be asking too much. But by including Creed, the piece does give nursing serious, sustained attention that is unusual in an elite magazine like this. We commend Gawande and the New Yorker for that. more...
June 14, 2010 -- Tonight the actress Helen Mirren appeared on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman to promote her new film Love Ranch, which is about a brothel in Reno. In describing a real brothel that she visited to do research, Mirren said that the prostitutes there were very sweet and welcoming. Letterman noted that some people argue that prostitutes are the victims of something that has led them to do this work. Mirren agreed that many of them are "damaged" and "come from dysfunctional backgrounds," but she also observed that "a lot of girls who work in that industry actually come from the nursing industry, which kind of makes sense, because they're used to naked bodies, it's not intimidating to them, you know, the body and the bodily functions, if you like." Letterman responded that that must mean a "guy like" him could visit the brothel for a "check-up." We assume that there is some basis in Mirren's personal experience for her comments, but we're not aware of any data showing that a disproportionate number of prostitutes first became nurses. Suggesting as much reinforces the naughty nurse stereotype that has undermined nursing for decades, not least because of the activities of the "film industry." And it's not helpful to have a celebrity compare nursing care directly to acts of prostitution. We'll resist analyzing whether prostitution has more in common with nursing or acting, and just note that our understanding is that what prostitutes do tend to have in common is a history of serious abuse and few other skills. It seems unlikely, to say the least, that many "girls" with valuable nursing skills would become prostitutes. Of course, nurses do use those advanced skills to help prostitutes cope with the consequences of their dangerous work. We urge the famously candid Dame Helen to think more carefully before making statements that damage nursing. more... and please join our letter-writing campaign and see the film clip...
2010 -- Lifetime's The Pregnancy Pact portrays several high school girls who intentionally get pregnant, apparently seduced by fantasies of loving, carefree motherhoods. The movie was "inspired by a true story" and it's a competent made-for-TV issue melodrama, engaging enough if somewhat schematic and bland. Some might also see in the movie a "ripped from the headlines" exploitation of a serious and complex problem, particularly since the film references some events that really happened in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 2008, but it reportedly invents key story elements. The movie does make a fairly serious effort to explore some basic aspects of teen pregnancy, showing young females who see little future beyond child-rearing. It seems like almost everyone involved here--teens, parents, and community leaders--is lying to someone. The film presents the school nurse as a forceful advocate for better pregnancy prevention, a compassionate professional who takes on the school administration and a "family values" group to try to stem the school's teen pregnancy "epidemic." The nurse might have done some direct counseling of the pregnant students, as a real nurse would. And the character is limited. She never gets at the deeper issues involved in the pregnancies, and she resigns in protest roughly a quarter of the way through the movie, never to reappear. The main force for a more progressive approach to teen pregnancy in the film is actually a relentless young New York video blogger who bonds with the teens and does far more to get to the bottom of the epidemic. Still, the portrayal of the nurse as an articulate professional who is willing to make a big personal sacrifice to advance public health debunks the popular notion that school nurses are just about aspirin and band-aids. And that's especially helpful at a time when U.S. school districts face extraordinary pressure to cut costs. more...
August 4, 2010 -- Today The Truth About Nursing was notified that it qualifies as a charitable non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. That means donations to the Truth made since its inception at the end of 2008 are tax-deductible as allowed by law. See our 501(c)(3) status letter here. Thank you!
August 29, 2010 -- Today the prominent U.K. nursing publication The Nursing Times began publishing a series of online opinion pieces by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Jacobs Summers. The first article, "The image of nursing: A culture of respect,"' provides a general overview of the problems with the modern nursing image and what we can do about them. Future pieces will explain why the nursing image matters, explore specific stereotypes like the handmaiden and the naughty nurse, and discuss specific ways nurses and others can improve the image. see the article...
August 2010 -- This month District of Columbia Nurse, the magazine of the D.C. Board of Nursing, published an in-depth interview with Truth founder Sandy Summers, "The Truth About Nursing: Organization Founded to Monitor Media Portrayals of Nurses," at pp. 26-29. The interview touched on a number of important issues, including current popular portrayals of nursing and what nurses can do to help others understand the value of what they do better. see the article...
August 18, 2010 -- Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ran an online In the Media feature with the headline "Edith Shain, the nurse who stepped forward as the woman being kissed by a sailor in the famous V-J Day photograph that appeared decades ago in Life magazine, dies at 91." In discussing Shain and the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph, the RWJF piece relied in part on comment from Truth executive director Sandy Summers, who suggested that image was unlikely to harm nursing since it was part of a jubilant public celebration, rather than a suggestion that romance was part of the nurse's job. see the article...
Right now we are offering guest lectures by Sandy Summers by conference call, Webex, or other electronic means at no cost to any class that is discussing nursing's media image and using Saving Lives as one of its texts. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a dynamic and engaging guest presentation. Thank you!
September 2, 2010 -- Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now available in paperback, with a new foreword by bestselling nurse author Echo Heron! This edition is revised and expanded, discussing Nurse Jackie and the other new nurse shows in detail, and featuring updated information throughout. You can get an author-signed copy of the book when you become a member of the Truth or renew your membership for $30 (click here!). Please help support the Truth's effort to change how the world thinks about nursing today.
This affordably-priced paperback edition (about $12 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble) makes a great gift for colleagues, students, or even to help family and friends understand the value of what nurses do. All royalties for the award-winning book go directly to support non-profit nursing advocacy work. Thank you for your support!
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 a 501(c)(3) 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.
Thank you for supporting the Truth About Nursing's work!
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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