News on Nursing in the Media
January 27, 2013 -- The demise of Lady Sybil in the episode of Downtown Abbey broadcast on PBS tonight in the United States marked the sad end of one of the popular U.K. show's two nurse characters. It's true that the show's third season has really featured no nursing from the independent, idealistic young Sybil or from her senior nursing colleague Isobel Crawley, the crusading (and at times grating) mother of Downton heir Matthew. But in the first two seasons, which followed the Downton household through the First World War, creator Julian Fellowes and the other producers did offer a few notable glimpses of British nursing of the era. These ranged from portrayals of Isobel as a formidable health system organizer with clinical knowledge that in some ways rivaled that of the local physician, on the one hand, to some unfortunate suggestions that nursing amounted to unskilled tending that could be done by any of the Downton females. The show has at least managed to present nursing as an early outside-the-home career option for strong, idealistic women who sought to contribute more broadly to their war-torn societies--and as a harbinger of a more egalitarian world in which women would enjoy more control over their own destinies. It's too bad that, in popular media depictions about our own era, when women can become physicians, we are far less likely to see strong, able female characters choose nursing. more...
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August 29, 2012 -- Today an article by Sarah Deeth in the Peterborough Examiner (Ontario) reported that nurses at the local Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre had launched the "Don't Be That Guy" campaign to raise awareness among men about what constitutes rape, primarily to convey the message that having sex with a woman who is too drunk to consent is rape. The campaign targets not only potential rapists but also bystanders who may be in a position to step in to prevent assaults. The campaign's posters have unusually direct tag lines, among them "Just because you help her home . . . doesn't mean you can help yourself"; "Just because she isn't saying no . . . doesn't mean she's saying yes"; and the priceless "Just because she's drunk, doesn't mean she wants to f**k." The piece briefly explains the campaign, relying on strong quotes by Centre "sexual assault examination nurses" Karen Giles and Mary Waters. The Peterborough area seems to include a large number of university students, and Waters points to recent research about the special risks to first-year female university students and the belief among many young men that sex with a woman who is too drunk to consent is not rape. The campaign coincides with the start of classes at the universities, and the nurses plan to speak to students about sexual assault and drugs. The report might have done a better job explaining what the nurses do for patients clinically; it merely notes that they have recently "helped" several sexual assault victims. But on the whole, the piece is a great example of nurses taking the lead in aggressive public health advocacy and education on behalf of their patients. At the same time, it presents the nurses as autonomous experts in an important health context. We thank Sarah Deeth and the Peterborough Examiner. more...
August 5, 2012 -- Recent press items report that new research has revealed critical aspects of nurse understaffing in the United States and the United Kingdom. On July 31, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a generally good piece by Don Sapatkin (with Meeri Kim) about a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania that used 2006 data from 161 Pennsylvania hospitals to analyze the link between worse staffing and higher rates of infection. The study focused on the burnout associated with poor staffing, which researchers found played a critical role in higher infection rates, taking lives and costing money. The Inquirer article quotes two of the nurses responsible for the study, as well as nurses from the American Nurses Association and elsewhere as outside experts. Although its account of the study findings is not totally clear, the report does give a sense of why having enough skilled, engaged nurses plays such an important role in patient outcomes, particular because of good input from a Pittsburgh union leader. And on July 31, the Telegraph (U.K.) published a good article by Laura Donnelly about a new study of staffing at 46 National Health Service (NHS) hospitals by nursing researchers at Kings College London. That study found that nurses had an average of eight patients during the day and 11 at night (in some places 15 patients at night). Not surprisingly, most of the nurses did not have enough time to do their work. The Telegraph piece is more about the government's responsibility for the poor staffing amid an ongoing public inquiry into the 2009 Stafford Hospital scandal, and the piece does not quote the researchers, though it does include key findings and quote two nursing leaders. The article stresses that understaffing is closely linked to the growing use of less-qualified support staff. The piece could have done more to explain what nurses do to save lives (like detecting infections) that other staff cannot; instead, we hear mostly about custodial care and "compassion." But both the Telegraph and the Inquirer convey the importance of nurse staffing and show that nurses can be academic and health policy leaders. more...
Truth executive director Sandy Summers will deliver the keynote speech at the 27th Annual Wisconsin Nurses Association Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Forum Pharmacology & Clinical Update, to be held at the Monona Terrace and Convention Center in Madison. Sandy will speak on the morning of Friday, May 3, 2013. See you there!
Our book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk is available again! If you donate now, we will send you a copy. Saving Lives continues to influence nurses, the media, and members of the public around the world. You can also get the paperback from Amazon. Saving Lives is also available in digital form through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iTunes. Saving Lives has won an American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award and an award from the international nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau. Many nursing professors use the book as a text to discuss nursing in society. You can get a free copy--hard copy or digital--with every $30 donation to the Truth About Nursing!
Tell colleagues and patients the truth! Our "I Am Your Registered Nurse" poster presents nurses as autonomous professionals on whom patients can rely. The poster explains that nurses are modern science professionals who protect and advocate for patients and empowers nurses to meet those challenges. Designed for the bedside, the poster comforts patients by educating them about the care environment and assuring them that nurses are there to fend for them.
Or consider the Truth's "Can Short Dresses Cause Short Staffing?" poster. This one takes humorous aim at the naughty nurse image that continues to haunt advertisements and other media, especially those aimed at males. The poster connects the naughty nurse image with the broader undervaluation that leads to gross underfunding of nursing education, research, and practice, ultimately threatening patients.
For every dollar that you donate, we'll send you up to 4 posters to hang at your school or workplace. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us how many you'd like and where to send them. 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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