News on Nursing in the Media
Disney's blockbuster Big Hero 6 features a truly heroic robot "nurse"
Boys & Girls Club billboards spark debate in Cleveland
The BBC's Call the Midwife offers more great care from 1950s nurse midwives
Last government shutdown threatened care of D.C. forensic nurses
Our Oxford blog post on nursing in recent media on Ebola and other issues
Saving Lives: Authors Sandy and Harry Summers appeared on Baltimore's WYPR radio and at Baltimore's Central Library to discuss the new edition of their book. Audio now available!
"Ebola? Bring it on": Baltimore Sun publishes Truth executive director's provocative op-ed on how to address the crisis
November 2014 -- Disney's blockbuster Big Hero 6 features a truly heroic robot "nurse." Based on a Marvel comic book series and set in the future metropolis of "San Fransokyo," the film focuses on orphaned teen Hiro (yes, pronounced "hero"). Hiro is a brilliant kid who has great potential but seems to be squandering it, until his older brother Tadashi persuades him to seek admission to the local university, where Tadashi and his fellow geeks design ultracool technology to create a better tomorrow. To impress the school, Hiro creates microbots that reconfigure themselves into any shape instantly based on orders from his neuro-transmitter. Unfortunately, right after a triumphant launch event, a terrible fire kills Tadashi and destroys the microbots. Hiro is bereft, but he is not alone. Tadashi has left behind his creation Baymax, an inflatable, cuddly, male-gendered android. Baymax is a "nurse," although he mostly calls himself a "personal health care companion." When it appears that the microbots were not destroyed after all, Baymax joins Hiro and Tadashi's university friends to unravel the mystery. They are an awkward but eager bunch, sort of the Guardians of Silicon Valley, and they are soon engaged in marvelous battles, comic moments, and touching personal discoveries. In the real world, calling robots "nurses" has been a problem because it equates college-educated health professionals with machines that do a few simple tasks, like lifting patients or handing objects to a surgeon. By contrast, Baymax is cognitively advanced, with diverse skills, a vast knowledge of health care, and a persistent holistic focus. He not only provides effective care to Hiro but also uses his problem-solving ability to save the geek team again and again. Granted, Baymax is so benevolent, self-sacrificing, and huggable that he could promote the angel stereotype. In fact, though, his skills, knowledge, and combat exploits--once Hiro upgrades his martial arts capacities--counter any hint of passive virtue. This is a clever, attractive film, although it is yet another male-focused one, and in the Pixar / Marvel era, most of its plot and characters seem familiar. But the idea of a "nurse" robot as action hero does not. more...
November 2014 -- Since at least September, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland have been running a billboard ad campaign featuring photos of a young African-American nursing student. In one version, she wears blue scrubs and the tag line is: "Inmate? Nurse? Your donation makes the difference." Another version of the ad offers a split photo. In the right half, the woman wears the same blue scrubs, but on the left, she wears an orange prison smock. The tag line: "Inmate, or nurse? You decide." The idea is that viewers can, by supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs, help at-risk youth avoid trouble and ultimately find worthwhile careers. We know that because the Clubs' website makes clear that the ads feature Kinyatta, a real Cleveland youth who overcame a difficult background--with lots of support from the Clubs since early childhood--to become her high school salutatorian and enroll in the nursing program at Hiram College. Thus, it appears that the Clubs intend to present nursing as a career worthy of academically advanced students and a good indicator of a life transformed by effective social programs. However, some nurses have objected, arguing that the ads suggest nursing is one step up from prison, or perhaps that young people at immediate risk of prison--who presumably don't have a lot of good career options--could just become nurses as a last resort, since that work, in the minds of many, doesn't require much education or skill. And unfortunately, the view that nurses lack serious skills does remain widely held. Nursing has been suggested as a good career choice for those on public assistance, former prostitutes, and others deemed to have few options. So there is a risk that some who see the billboards will have the "last resort" interpretation, despite the Clubs' good intentions and the real backstory, which of course does not appear on the billboards. It appears that the Clubs removed at least some of the nurse billboards after pressure from outraged nurses, although we have been told that some of the billboards have recently reappeared. In any case, we and others have urged the Clubs to consider adding billboards with some other non-inmate success stories. Or, if they wish to keep the prison-or-health-care scrubs overlap, they might craft ads with other health professions, like physicians and pharmacists, that do not suffer from an unskilled stereotype. That would clarify that the ads' goal was not to suggest that nursing is one step removed from prison, but instead that it is a world away. more...
December 29, 2013 -- The second season of the BBC drama Call the Midwife, capped off by the Christmas special that aired tonight in the United States, featured more portrayals of skilled, autonomous nurse midwives caring for a poor community in late 1950's London. The 8-episode regular season was broadcast in the U.S. on PBS between March and May 2013. It included several notable examples of the nurses' work, which ranged from skilled birthing to managing community-wide issues, with a good deal of spirited patient advocacy. In one April episode, the midwives cared effectively for a pregnant woman whose twin sister favored traditional remedies and was very hostile to the midwives' modern health practice for most of the episode. In that same episode, nurse Jenny Lee was temporarily assigned to an understaffed local hospital, where a bullying surgeon showed disdain for her operating room skills. Yet Jenny caught a nearly fatal error by that same surgeon, who had failed to run a test that would have enabled proper diagnosis of a patient. And Jenny later informed her receptive nurse manager that the surgeon might have neurological issues, which seemed to be confirmed after the surgeon apparently removed himself from practice. In an early May episode, Sister Bernadette joined physician colleague Patrick Turner in advocating persuasively before a local health authority for X-ray equipment for much-needed community tuberculosis screenings. And in the May season finale, nurse Chummy astutely diagnosed preeclampsia in a woman who was not even her patient, allowing a healthy birth. The show's nurse characters occasionally display undue deference to physicians, but we have no reason to doubt the accuracy of those scenes given the time period involved. In fact, the show probably has the best overall portrayal of nursing autonomy of any major health-related series shown in the United States in recent years. So far, Call the Midwife has avoided suggestions that the nurses report to physicians. Instead, the junior nurses report to senior ones, and for the most part, they provide skilled care on their own in the community. The show was created by Heidi Thomas, who wrote some of this season's episodes, and based on a memoir by Jennifer Worth. more...
October 11, 2013 -- Today the Huffington Post reported that the partial federal government shutdown was threatening to stop forensic nurse examiners from helping sexual assault victims in the District of Columbia. The blog post explained that the relevant programs rely on federal funding, and it focused on the worrisome funding outlook. But it also explained that the nurses do rape kits that are critical to the criminal justice system. And it suggested that they act as advocates for victims, helping them through the various aspects of the process. The piece might have done more to educate the public about what the forensic nurses do, particularly their skilled physical and psychosocial care and their forensic testimony in court. But the post did at least signal the importance of having the nurses on call 24-7 to come to hospitals and care for victims. We thank the Huffington Post and political bloggers Amanda Terkel and Jason Cherkis. more...
October 22, 2014 -- If you ask many people about nurses, they will tell you how caring and kind nurses are. The word “angel” might even appear. Nursing consistently tops the annual Gallup poll comparing the ethics and honesty of different professions. But it’s worth exploring the extent to which society really values nursing. In recent decades, a global nursing shortage has often meant too few nurses to fill open positions, woefully inadequate nurse staffing levels, and not enough funds for nursing education. Many nurses have migrated across the globe, easing shortages in developed nations but exacerbating them in the developed world, where health systems are already under great stress. In a world where funds for health care are limited, nursing does not seem to be getting the love we profess to have for it. more...
Baltimore's Central Library featured Sandy and Harry Summers discussing their book Saving Lives as part of the library's "Writers LIVE!" series on October 27, 2014. The Central Library is the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system. click here to listen to the podcast...
Sandy and Harry were guests on the Midday with Dan Rodricks, guest hosted by Nathan Sterner, on WYPR 88.1 FM, the Baltimore NPR affiliate, on October 27. Click here to listen to the archived audio.
November 18, 2014 - Today the Baltimore Sun ran Truth executive director Sandy Summers' op-ed arguing that the United States and other developed nations should offer to bring as many Ebola patients as possible to those nations for treatment as the best way to stem the global outbreak. In particular, Summers argued that because skilled nurses play a central role in Ebola care, the higher ratio of nurses to patients in the developed world was a critical advantage. The op-ed has been reprinted at online news portals of the Midwest Radio Network, including the Chicago Chronicle, the Texas Guardian, the Florida Statesman, the Baton Rouge Post, the Dallas Sun, the Los Angeles Herald, the Raleigh Times, and the Boston Star. see the op-ed in the Baltimore Sun...
Donate $30 to the Truth now, and we will send you a copy of our leaders' newly released book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk. The first edition of Saving Lives won an American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award and an award from the international nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau. The book was written for nurses, the media, and members of the public around the world. Many nursing professors use it as a text to discuss nursing in society. The authors donate all royalties to the Truth About Nursing. Order today--paperback or digital--and we will send a copy out to 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 internationally. 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! All honoraria go directly to support the Truth's operations. When you invite Sandy to speak, you make the Truth's work possible since honoraria are our biggest source of funding. Thank you! Click here for more details.
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 email@example.com to tell us how many you'd like and where to send them. Thank you!
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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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