News on Nursing in the Media
September 2010 -- As the 2010-2011 U.S. television season starts, there appears to be no major nurse character on any regular prime time broadcast show for the first time in more than 40 years. In part that is because so many of the health-related shows from last year have left the air, including all of the shows that premiered in 2009, notably NBC's generally helpful nurse drama Mercy, but also CBS's physician-centric Three Rivers and Miami Medical, which did each have one recurring nurse character. Other departures had little effect on the portrayal of nursing, including the ends of the long-running Scrubs (ABC), which had shed its lone nurse character the prior season, and FX's nip-tuck, which never had a significant nurse character. The one returning show that did have a nurse character, ABC's Private Practice (premieres Sept. 23), killed him off at the end of last season, when nurse midwife Dell Parker died from a car crash, just after giddily announcing that he had been admitted to medical school. The dominant hospital shows, Fox's House (Sept. 20) and ABC's Grey Anatomy (Sept. 23), still have no nurse characters as they start their seventh seasons. There appear to be just two new shows with any real health care focus: ABC's Body of Proof (October), which stars Dana Delany as an elite surgeon-turned-medical examiner, and ABC's Off the Map (mid-season), a new product from Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes about five young physicians who work to save the poor at a remote clinic in South America. We see no nurse characters anywhere, though there are conflicting signals about whether one minor character on Off the Map is a nurse or physician. Leaving aside that mid-season character, of the five health-related prime time broadcast shows that are slated to start seasons this year, regular physician characters appear to outnumber nurse characters by roughly 37 to 0. Of course, nurses will not be completely absent from the small screen, since non-regular season cable shows Nurse Jackie (Showtime) and HawthoRNe (TNT) will return for third seasons in 2011. And there is even a nurse character on A&E's new summer police drama The Glades, which will return next year (though she is carrying on Dell's Hollywood dream by attending medical school). But given the dominance of the broadcast shows, which attract millions more viewers to many more episodes, the television landscape will remain dominated by programs that reinforce the false notion that physicians provide all important health care. more...
August 2010 -- In the last episodes of the third season of ABC's Private Practice, the show killed off its one nurse character, midwife Dell Parker. That was no great loss to nursing, but the plotline that played out in the May 6 and 13, 2010 episodes included attacks on the profession, most notably through Dell's elation at having just been admitted to medical school. That was a powerful reinforcement of the enduring Hollywood fantasy that the most able nurses achieve by going to medical school, when in fact they are perhaps 100 times more likely to attend graduate school in nursing. The wannabe-physician stereotype is one with which real advanced practice nurses and of the wannabe-physician stereotype with which real advanced practice nurses and men in nursing must still contend. In an amusing twist, the key May 6 episode was written by physician Fred Einesman, a former advisor to NBC's ER, which also pushed the wannabe-physician theme. Private Practice did, rarely, include minor plotlines in which Dell actually showed some aptitude for patient care and some limited autonomy. For instance, although the March 25, 2010 episode was mostly about how amazing the show's physician characters are, Dell did get to deliver a baby by himself in the field. And because he successfully executed a risky maneuver to free the baby, who was stuck in the birth canal, physician Cooper credited Dell with saving two lives! But Dell's exit reminded us of what the show really thought of midwifery and nursing. Don't take our word for it. In the May 24-June 6 issue of TV Guide, show creator Shonda Rhimes explained that Dell was "a midwife in a world of doctors. Babies can only be delivered in so many episodes. Dell got lots of coffee, answered lots of phones." She lauded actor Chris Lowell by noting that "an actor of his caliber should be doing Shakespeare, not handing people charts." In other words, nurses and midwives don't do much of interest, which is why Dell spent so much time doing receptionist work, and why he eventually had to go. But at least he has now gone on to that great medical school in the sky! more...and see video clips from the relevant shows.
April 8, 2010 -- Today the Los Angeles Times published an article by Baxter Holmes about UCLA nursing student Brittani McCullough, who is one of the nation's leading college gymnasts and competes on one of its leading teams. Surprisingly, the piece stresses the competitiveness and intensity of the UCLA nursing program, explaining how hard it is for McCullough to pursue her studies at the same time as she competes at the highest athletic level. Of course, there are also some references to the kindness and comfort elements of nursing. The piece does not give much detail about what makes the nursing program so hard, apart from it involving "science" courses and taking a lot of time. And near the end, the article reports that McCullough may some day want to be "a pediatrician or a neonatal intensive care unit nurse." Perhaps this is accurate, though nurses are about 100 times more likely to pursue graduate education in nursing than medicine, and the stereotype that able nurses achieve by pursuing medicine remains common. Still, the piece presents nursing as a career for ambitious people who want to play a key role in helping others in times of need. We thank Baxter Holmes and the Los Angeles Times. more...
Truth About Nursing and Saving Lives media appearances
August 2010 -- The Connecticut Nurses' Association's 2009 Media Award will go to Sandy Summers for the Truth's web site and the book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk, which she co-authored with Harry Jacobs Summers. The Connecticut Nurses' Association's executive director, Carole Bergeron, explained in her notification letter that the award is given to persons in the media who have "made a notable contribution to nursing issues and the advancement of nursing through various channels of communication that inform the public." The award will be presented at the Association's Annual Convention on October 21, 2010. The Association published a positive review of Saving Lives in the September 2009 issue of the Connecticut Nursing News, describing the book as "disturbing" but "essential." see the award letter...
September 15, 2010 -- Today Truth executive director Sandy Summers led a webinar for ADVANCE for Nurses on the image of nursing, including why that image is important and what we can do to improve it. see the 65 minute archive...
September 22, 2010 -- The prominent U.K. nursing publication The Nursing Times has published three additional pieces by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Jacobs Summers. On September 9, The Nursing Times posted the second in our series of online opinion pieces, "The image of nursing: Does nursing's media image matter?" Today, the site posted the third installment in the series, "The image of nursing: The unskilled nurse." And earlier this month, The Nursing Times published a shorter overview, "The Image of Nursing," in a student guide it includes with its print edition.
September 2010 -- Come hear Truth executive director Sandy Summers speak in Connecticut next month! Sandy will speak at the Southern Connecticut State University School of Nursing in New Haven on October 20, and at the Connecticut Nurses' Association's Annual Convention in Cromwell on October 21. Further details are here...
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 email@example.com to set up a dynamic and engaging guest presentation. Thank you!
September 25, 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 Nurses Day 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 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.
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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