News on Nursing in the Media
May 2012 -- As we reach Nurses Week in the United States and the fourth season of Showtime's Nurse Jackie gets underway, it's worth reviewing last year's third season, in which the show's tough, expert central character bluntly dismissed the annual appreciation week as "patronizing." The third season continued the show's run as the best dramatic U.S. television portrait of nurses in decades, perhaps ever. Sure, most of the season was not about clinical work, the show faltered badly on nursing autonomy (repeatedly suggesting that nurses report to physicians), and Jackie's ongoing drug problem remains a bit hard to reconcile with her clinical prowess. But when there were clinical scenes, Jackie remained essentially a clinical peer of the physicians, and in general, the nurse characters actually performed their own work, including triage and patient education. Jackie provided expert holistic care to emergency patients including a distraught cab driver with a pneumothorax, a gunshot victim who cared more about her dog than her wounds, and a nice man who was falling apart because of chronic hypertension. The show featured credible interactions among nurses and physicians, in clinical and social contexts, showing that nurses are sentient three-dimensional beings. The season also included nurse Kelly, a skilled, flawed younger nurse who resembled Jackie in some ways and was the strong male nurse that the show was missing in the second season. And we got periodic looks at the contempt that many people have for nursing, as well as wry commentary on the nursing image, from a patient's mockery of nurse Zoey's patterned scrubs to a more nuanced critique of Nurses Week, which went well beyond Jackie's "patronizing" comment. Yet the show repeatedly suggested that nurses "assist" physicians and that physicians control nurses' patient assignments, with emergency physician Eleanor O'Hara removing nurses from one case and putting them on another. Charge nurses or nurse managers do that in real life. Here, the closest thing to a nurse manager is Gloria Akalitus, a composite administrator who is a nurse but whose ill-defined authority seems to extend to the pharmacy and even medicine, to some extent. Despite its problems, though, Nurse Jackie shows us a world in which nurses are life-saving professionals, in stark contrast to the "yes, doctor!" model that prevails on U.S. television. more...and see the film clips!
January 3, 2012 -- Recent press items have highlighted the devastating effects of nurse under-staffing on patients and nurses alike. Today, Laura Landro's "Informed Patient" column in The Wall Street Journal discussed compassion fatigue among nurses, especially those who regularly care for terminally ill patients. Landro's Health Blog provided additional information about the problem, which may contribute to burnout and high turnover, which in turn add to compassion fatigue. That cycle can lead to worse patient care. The Wall Street Journal pieces include expert comment from several nurses, and the items convey that nurses play an important role in care, though they might have focused more on the danger that impaired nurses pose to patients because of the critical nature of nursing. And on December 31, 2011, the Daily Mail (UK) ran a piece by Sam Greenhill about a woman who, though not a nurse, had "nursed" her 89-year-old grandmother back to health at a hospital, after the physicians and other health professionals had apparently written the patient off. The woman reportedly fed, washed, and advocated for her grandmother while the hospital's actual nurses were too overworked to do so. We're generally critical of media accounts that suggest lay people have acted as "nurses" by providing unskilled care, since that suggests nursing requires no special education or skills. But here it sounds like the lay person did a better job than the real nurses. Of course, despite the happy ending, the piece also presents a distressing picture of what happens when nurses are so overworked that they cannot do the most basic part of their jobs--saving lives. We thank those responsible for these pieces. more...
October 2011 -- For an extended period this month, the popular theme park Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, entertained visiting families with dancers dressed in naughty nurse Halloween outfits. Although this image is damaging in any context because it undermines real nurses' claims to respect and resources, it's especially unfortunate when directed at kids, who may have more trouble separating the common image from reality than adults do. Truth supporter Shawna Mudd, DNP, reports to us:
In the spirit of Halloween, the park had many events with a Halloween theme. How shocking was it that we went to lunch (yes in the middle of the day) to a Frankenstein themed show. Out came a number of women in "ghoulish" type costumes. It wasn't long before the costumes were flung off to reveal scantily clad women in the infamous "naughty nurse" costumes with visible bras and underwear, gyrating to the onlookers (and yes, there were many children in the audience). This continued through the entire show. My group felt as though we were at a strip club, not a family theme park. Later that evening, the same "nurses" were out in the park selling shots from their "syringes." more... and please join our letter-writing campaign!
June 6, 2012 -- Check out the Truth's movie "Nursing: Isn't That Sweet?!" It's all about what happens when nurse Wendy encounters her old high school classmate Jim at a restaurant, many years later--after the two have taken their lives in very different directions! Can Wendy and Jim make a new connection? Or will things get a little ugly? Made using xtranormal software just in time for Halloween, the short video explores some chilling stereotypes that still infect public understanding of nursing. And for a different take on nursing stereotypes, check out the Truth's classic 2005 report "Nursing: Who Knew?" about a groundbreaking study in which leading researchers discover nurses' real contributions for the first time! See the video!
Many nursing professors rely on the extensive and varied materials on the Truth's website to help their students engage with critical issues nurses will face in the future, from their public image to key aspects of nursing education, practice, and advocacy. Since 2001, we have explored and analyzed how the global media and society in general has seen the nursing profession. Join your colleagues and use this material to help plan your curriculum! See the full list...
June 6, 2012 -- The electronic version of the paperback edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now sells for $7 from Kindle! The B&N Nook and Apple iBook are also available for $10. The hardback and paperback editions of Saving Lives are currently sold out as we are in a transition to a new publisher. All royalties for the multiple award-winning book go directly to support our nursing advocacy work. Thank you!
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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