Sung and Unsung
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News on Nursing in the Media


Sung and unsung: The news media on care of the Tucson shooting victims

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit gives new meaning to "sexual assault nurse"

Childbirth in Ghana: Ask the senior midwife

Truth About Nursing media appearances


Sung and unsung

Physicians for Gabrielle GiffordsJanuary 25, 2011 -- Much of the press coverage of the tragic January 8 shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona, has focused on the responses of the local health care system. Unfortunately, as is generally the case in reporting about such mass casualty events, only physicians have been consulted about the victims' status, and the coverage has given the impression that physicians provided all the hospital care that mattered. A typical example is a 3,500-word report by Denise Grady and Jennifer Medina that ran on the front page of The New York Times on January 15. The long piece describes the experiences of a paramedic and the husband of one victim, but otherwise it is devoted to the actions, opinions, and feelings of five University of Arizona Medical Center (UMC) physicians, sending the message that physicians alone were responsible for the skilled hospital care the victims got, even though expert nurses kept them alive from the moment they arrived. No nurse is identified or quoted. This is not just a matter of fairness and accuracy. When millions of people are told, in riveting terms, that physicians alone save lives, it confirms that only physicians are worthy of real respect and resources to do their work. We did see one minor counter-example:  a 565-word piece that ran today in the Arizona Daily Star and was aptly titled, "UMC nurses who staffed ICU called 'unsung heroes.'" Becky Pallack's story--the result of a press conference commendably held by UMC--does show that nurses were involved in caring for the victims and includes comment from two of them. Unfortunately, nothing we hear in the piece shows that nurses are autonomous professionals who were just as responsible for saving victims' lives as physicians were. Instead, there are statements about bonding and hugs. No doubt these reflect good psychosocial care, but sadly, they are also fully consistent with the unskilled angel stereotype. One UMC nurse says that "all we want as nurses" is to see patients thrive. But patients can't thrive if their nurses aren't respected. more...


The sexual assault nurse

It is not beyond the capacity of skilled U.S. television producers to give a fair portrayal of a SAFE nurse, even in a segment that lasts only a few minutes and that involves a heroic detective character. But doing so would require that a show take forensic nursing seriously enough to make that a priority, and not permit the profession to be sacrificed on the altar of anti-crime fury.

September 29, 2010 -- Tonight NBC's long-running drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit offered a portrayal of a sexual assault forensic nurse as part of an episode intended, commendably, to highlight the nationwide backlog in analyzing rape kits. But sadly, this was a highly damaging misportrayal of nursing, with the nameless nurse presented as an insensitive technician who carefully collects evidence but utters not one word to the distraught rape victim. The plotline is reminiscent of a November 2004 SVU episode in which a SAFE nurse did get a name and a few lines, but likewise came off as an awkward assistant to the lead female detective character Olivia Benson, who provides all emotional care to the victim. The new plotline does not so strongly imply that Benson is actually directing the exam, but here the nurse character is far more callous.She gets no name and no introduction, and Mariska Hargitayshe goes about her work saying nothing, even when she hurts the patient--no warning, no apology, no explanation. Of course, since the show never bothers to identify her to viewers as a nurse, maybe viewers will not see her as one. In real life, it's unlikely a police detective would be present at all for this exam, but it has always been very important to the show to present Benson as the 24/7 advocate and savior of rape victims, so it's no surprise that she again usurps much of the nurse's role. The show also remains eager to portray rape exams as awful ordeals in which the victim is re-traumatized by an insensitive evidence collector, arguably associating the SAFE nurse more with the rape itself than the prosecution. In the 2004 episode, a prosecutor actually described the exam as a "sexual humiliation" comparable to the rape itself. We assume SVU's longtime show runner Neal Baer--a physician who also wrote for ER--knows better than to portray nursing this way. But he and Jonathan Greene, who wrote this episode, seem to have other priorities. more...and see the film clip!


Ask the senior midwife

Sunyani Municipal hospitalDecember 31, 2010 -- Today the Ghana News site posted a short article about birth complications and pre-natal care that relied entirely on expert comment from senior nurse midwives. The unsigned Ghana News Service (GNA) piece focused on the threat that unsafe abortions pose to later pregnancies, as well as the importance of pre-natal care in protecting mothers and newborns. The report does attribute one odd statement to its main midwife source, a comment that her hospital had not seen any infant or maternal mortality in the past year "as doctors responded promptly to emergency cases"--as if nurses themselves did not play a central role in emergency care. On the whole, though, the piece is an unusual and commendable example of media reliance on nursing expertise. more...


Register Now for The Truth's Conference: Empowering Nurses and Improving Care

Bourbon St., New OrleansFebruary 7, 2011 -- Register now with an early bird registration discount of $395 (student discount 35%) before February 10th. The Truth About Nursing's first annual conference will be held in New Orleans the weekend of April 15-17, 2011, at the beautiful Marriott Renaissance Arts Hotel, located in the heart of this fabulous city! The conference theme is "Empowering Nurses and Improving Care Through Better Understanding of Nursing." Speakers will include Kathleen Bartholomew, Donna Cardillo, Sandy Summers, and a representative of Rutgers University's 2012 Project, who will tell us how to get more nurses into politics! Other topics include enhancing public understanding of nursing through the media, educating decision-makers and physician colleagues about nursing, effective strategies to improve working relationships, and practical steps toward achieving nursing empowerment. This work is critical in helping the nursing profession get the respect and resources that it deserves and that patients need. Registration will open soon, and 11.5 continuing education credits are anticipated. Exciting events include a welcome cocktail reception and a Riverboat Jazz Dinner Cruise on the Mississippi. Come enjoy the food and culture of the Crescent City as you explore how to move nursing forward! Get details here...


Saving Lives paperback coverSaving Lives on sale for less than $10!
Help others understand nursing!

February 7, 2011 -- The 2010 edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now sells for less than $10 as a paperback from Amazon or Barnes & Noble! Plus, the Apple iBook and B&N Nook editions are priced at less than $5! The 2010 edition of Saving Lives has a new foreword by bestselling nurse author Echo Heron. And it is revised and expanded, discussing Nurse Jackie and other new shows, and featuring updated information throughout. You can also get an author-signed paperback copy 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. These affordably-priced editions make great gifts for colleagues, students, or even to help family and friends understand the value of what nurses do. All royalties for the multiple award-winning book go directly to support non-profit nursing advocacy work. Thank you!


Truth About Nursing and Saving Lives media appearances 

Nursing Times publishes Truth leaders' piece on how nurses can improve their image

January 28, 2011 -- Today, the prominent U.K. nursing publication The Nursing Times published "The image of nursing: it's in your hands," the eleventh and final installment in the series of online pieces by Truth executive director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Jacobs Summers. publishes report on public understanding of nursing

November 18, 2010 -- Today published Suvarna Sheth's "Do you reflect a positive image of nursing?", a lengthy examination of problems with the nursing image and potential solutions that included comments from Cynthia Saver of CLS Development and Truth executive director Sandy Summers. see the article...


Get involved!

Get involved in helping us change how the world thinks about nursing. Check out our action page or start a chapter of the Truth in your home town. Or join us on Facebook!


Planning speakers? Let Sandy Summers empower your nurses!

Sandy SummersMedia 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.


Please support The Truth About Nursing

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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
office 1-410-323-1100
fax 1-410-510-1790

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