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Guest feature: Nurses can turn their ideas into life-saving health care inventions

Introduction - The Importance of Nursing Innovation, by Sandy Summers, Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing

Launching Your Idea, Balancing Pain and Gain, by Steve Schmutzer, Co-Founder, Firefly Medical Inc.

Change agents

Two business columns offer very different visions of nursing

The Samaritans

NBC stations highlight nurses saving lives outside clinical settings

Please donate nowA nursemaid scorned

ABC's Black Box presents the nurse as surgeon-worshipping rebound toy

The last word on the daily kindness

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell pays tribute to his nurses

Overcoming the "angel" perception of nursing

Our newest Oxford blog post about angel imagery on Nurses Day and all year

Planning your curriculum for the upcoming semester?

We can help with our faculty curriculum planning page

Speaking engagements

See Sandy Summers live in Baltimore, Atlantic City, Riyadh and Decorah!

Saving Lives paperback coverDisruptive innovation

Create street art with Truth posters!

Saving Lives

Order a copy of our updated second edition today!

Planning speakers?

Book Sandy Summers to strengthen your nurses!


InventNurses can turn their ideas into life-saving health care inventions

Introduction - The Importance of Nursing Innovation,
by Sandy Summers, Executive Director, The Truth About Nursing

"Launching Your Idea, Balancing Pain and Gain,"
by Steve Schmutzer, Co-Founder, Firefly Medical Inc.


Introduction - The Importance of Nursing Innovation

By Sandy Summers, executive director, The Truth About Nursing

Nurse and inventor Steve Schmutzer recently told me about his invention, the IVEA -- an IV pole / rolling walker / cart to hold the patient's equipment. I was just thrilled that a nurse had created this kind of equipment. Many nurses have great ideas about new technology or practices that would make health care better. But too much of the health care environment is designed by people other than those who actually take care of patients. So I asked Steve to tell us the steps he took in creating the IVEA. Neither I nor the Truth About Nursing have received anything of value for our comments about the IVEA or Steve; we are not endorsing the product. We are simply presenting Steve's story to help other nurses consider how they might move their ideas forward and improve patient care. We hope it helps you. And we're looking forward to your inventions! more...


IVEALaunching Your Idea, Balancing Pain and Gain

By Steve Schmutzer, Co-Founder, Firefly Medical Inc.

So, you've got a great idea for a business. You've thought of a product, something you feel people need but don't have. How do you know? What are you supposed to do? Can you develop it and get it to market? My hope is that this article helps answer those questions and others like them. Raising a successful startup is as much an art as it is a science, so it's not reasonable to seek out prescriptive approaches. If it were simply plug and play, everyone would jump in and be successful. Most entrepreneurs I know had to venture uncomfortably far from traditional bounds and conventional advice in order to achieve success. But if you're a nurse, I believe you have an advantage. more...


Change agents

Two business columns offer very different visions of nursing

Robert J. Szczerba and John GormleySeptember 26, 2014 -- Two pieces by business-oriented columnists that appeared within the last few days present a striking contrast in perspectives about what nurses offer the public. Three days ago Forbes contributor Robert J. Szczerba (left), whose focus is "the intersection of healthcare, technology, and business," published "Looking to Transform Healthcare? - Ask a Nurse." That piece argues that despite nurses' traditional "back seat" role in health care, in recent years it has become clear that nurses can and should assume a leadership role in improving care and reducing costs through innovation. Szczerba cites a national initiative by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to empower nurses as clinical leaders that has prevented pressure ulcers and falls and increased patient mobility, with dramatically better outcomes and lower costs. We thank Szczerba for conveying the merits of nurses' clinical leadership to an influential audience. On the other hand, today the StarPhoenix (Saskatchewan) ran an attack by John Gormley on a nursing union's efforts to persuade the public not to allow tasks traditionally done by registered nurses (RNs) to be performed by licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Gormley, a radio host and lawyer, argues that the "wealthy union" was simply trying to protect its turf. He takes care to note that the nurses he has met have been "highly skilled," but he also observes that "on a vertical axis, physicians, medical residents, nurse practitioners (and one day, physician assistants) are all above the skill sets of a registered nurse," and "for goodness' sake, they're not winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine. They're nurses." The Nobel bit is factually correct, but only because of the kind of uninformed contempt we see in Gormley's piece. In fact, nurses should win Nobel prizes, as we have long argued, and although their skill set overlaps with others, it is unique and second to none. In addition, without commenting on this particular dispute, assigning tasks that RNs should be doing to less qualified colleagues in order to cut costs has been a recent trend, even though higher proportions of RNs mean better patient outcomes and can save money in the end. These two columns both have a business focus, but they reflect very different levels of understanding of nursing. more...


The Samaritans

NBC stations highlight nurses saving lives outside clinical settings

Linda WeissAugust 15, 2014 -- Recent reports on local NBC television news sites illustrate the media's continuing interest in nurses who save lives outside of their usual clinical settings, as well as the media's enduring impulse to reinforce the angel stereotype, even in reports on life-saving skill. On January 10, 2014, the Los Angeles affiliate NBC4 (KNBC) ran a story about a local nurse who had, working with a nurse from Wyoming, reportedly provided successful emergency care to a pilot having a heart attack on a commercial flight from Iowa. Patrick Healy's piece "'Heroic Actions' by SoCal Nurse Save Pilot Mid-Flight," included praise for the nurse's "heroic actions," including a few specifics about her use of health equipment and her "advanced cardiac life support" certification. And it even managed not to call her an "angel." But we can't say that about the stories the Philadelphia affiliate NBC10 (WCAU) ran on August 14 and 15 about a hospice nurse who had reportedly stopped to save a badly injured motorcyclist by the roadside. Maggie Bowers's pieces "Angel on the Highway: Search for Lifesaving Nurse" and "Angels on Highway: Lifesaving Women Found" do include a few specifics about the nurse's work with another female health worker to apply a tourniquet to stop the "river of blood" flowing out of the man's leg. But the headlines of both items insist that the women were "angels." Pieces like these are probably helpful if they simply report on what a nurse has done to save someone in crisis, even though we generally detect a sense of wonder that the nurse was able to do so much without a physician to take over or give commands. Such reports do often consult only physicians for expert health comment, as the Philadelphia item here does. And when the pieces insist on reinforcing stereotypes or include self-defeating quotes from the nurses, such as the common refrain that the nurses' training just "kicked in," we are not sure if they are a net gain. In this case, the Philadelphia piece quotes the heroic nurse as follows: "I don't know why, but I just knew I had to stop the bleeding." Really? Wouldn't almost anyone know why this bleeding had to stop? We thank those at the Los Angeles NBC station for a helpful item, and as for the Philadelphia affiliate, well, thanks for trying. more...


A nursemaid scorned

ABC's Black Box presents the nurse as surgeon-worshipping rebound toy

Black Box castJuly 2014 -- ABC's neurology drama Black Box, which aired its first and only season from April to July 2014, was a fairly standard Hollywood hospital show. It focused on brilliant physicians, with occasional appearances by nurses as handmaidens, romantic playthings, and the Greek Chorus, observing and commenting on the physicians who really mattered. All of the major characters were physicians, starting with lead character Catherine Black, a superstar neurologist who was also secretly bipolar and a glamorous drug abuser. Minor nurse characters were more present than in some comparable shows, and at times they actually spoke and did things. In particular, a nurse named Tinker showed some independent health knowledge and a lack of reverence for physicians in her few brief clinical interactions. But on the whole, the nurses tended to be passive order-takers in clinical scenes, while masterful physicians called the shots, at times needing to educate low-skilled nurses about what was what, even as to the psychosocial issues involved in neurological care. And the most prominent nurse character, Carlotta, was essentially a surgeon-worshipping rebound play toy, in thrall to an awesome neurosurgeon who really loved the lead character Black. That plotline reinforced the idea (common on ABC's Grey's Anatomy) that nurses are adequate short-term romantic objects with whom physicians may dally while waiting to get back with their true peers, other physicians. Carlotta could tell the surgeon was just using her while he could not be with Black, but she still stayed with him--at least until she tattled on Black for illicitly obtaining Oxycodone, ultimately getting Black fired, and showing the resentment of a nursemaid scorned. The show was created by Amy Holden Jones, with Bryan Singer (of Fox's House) as one executive producer. more...


The last word on the daily kindness

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell pays tribute to his nurses

Lawrence O'DonnellJune 23, 2014 -- Tonight MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell included a heartfelt tribute to nurses, as part of a substantial segment about the host's own experiences following a serious vehicle accident. O'Donnell focused on the critical roles nurses played in his recovery after hip surgery. The tribute was moving and it certainly conveyed, in a general way, what O'Donnell called the "extraordinary daily kindness and heroism" of nurses caring for vulnerable patients, motivated by "the goodness of their hearts." It must be said that the tribute was fully consistent with the unskilled angel image of nursing. Indeed, O'Donnell noted that he had tried to tip one of his nurses; the nurse politely declined, citing hospital rules and his own ethics. Nothing in the segment suggested that nurses had expertise or knowledge, in contrast to O'Donnell's description of his surgeon as "brilliant." We appreciate that O'Donnell's tribute reflected a sincere effort to honor nurses and that it did suggest something of the emotional strength nursing requires. But it would have been much better to hear a more balanced statement telling viewers that nurses save lives with their university educations and advanced health skills--skills that include careful monitoring, education, and advocacy for patients after surgery. more...


Oxford University PressOur newest Oxford blog post about angel imagery on Nurses Day and all year

Overcoming the "angel" perception of nursing

July 10, 2015 - Most of us have vaguely positive sentiments about nurses, but at the same time, nursing is plagued by feminine stereotypes that continue to undermine the profession. These double-edged views are never more striking than in efforts to honor nurses, which often rely on emotional “angel” images rather than recognition of nurses’ health skills or tangible contributions to patient outcomes. see the posting...

Also see our Oxford post from October 22, 2014, How Much Are Nurses Worth?


curriculum planning difficultiesNursing professors, in need of curriculum ideas?

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...


See Sandy Summers live!

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland
September 16, 2015, 12:00 - 1:00 pm

Sandy will speak about her work to improve public understanding of nursing. For details contact: Erika Juengst

New Jersey State Nurses Convention - Bally's, Atlantic City, New Jersey
October 14, 2015

Sandy will speak on nursing's portrayal in the media and how we can improve it. For details contact: Barbara Chamberlain. See the flyer!

International Nursing Symposium - King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; November 10-12, 2015

Sandy will be the keynote speaker, giving four distinct presentations on nursing and the media. For details contact: Jubie Paner

Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; November 19, 2015

Sandy will speak in several settings about nursing and the media. For more information contact: Jayme Sue Nelson

More details about Sandy's speaking engagements here...


Disruptive Innovation

Create some street art with Truth posters! It's better than Banksy!

street art March 2015 -- The Truth has some new posters! They mix positive photo images of nurses with common stereotypes, along with short explanations, to help people reconsider their views of nurses. Consider deploying these posters in your clinical setting, on your college campus, around your city or town, or anywhere you think they might create cognitive dissonance. You might even take and post photos of the posters in these settings. For instance, consider placing the monkey poster near something with a biology or science theme, the battle-axe near some conflict-related location, and the naughty nurse near some appropriate venue, like a bar that advertises "penny shots for naughty nurses" (an actual promotion at a Pittsburgh bar in 2008, according to a correspondent).

Please download the posters free of charge by clicking on the links here or to the right. If you wish, send us photos showing where you've hung them at Thank you!!


Saving Lives paperback coverGet a copy of Saving Lives with every $30 donation!

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!


Sandy SummersPlanning speakers?

Support the Truth by inviting Sandy Summers to empower your nurses!

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.


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!


Please donate nowPlease support The Truth About Nursing

We need your help so we can pursue this mission together. We would be very grateful if you could make a donation--even if it is $5, $10 or $25. Any amount would be so helpful. Please click here to donate. Thank you!


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!

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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book cover, Saving lives

A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

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