Elmo, so good on vaccines; not so good on nursing
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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Elmo, Nurse JaneHeadlines:


Elmo, so good on vaccines, not so good on nursing

You can smile with your eyes

Ebola and nursing in the news media

Leading by listening

Nurses excel in public health efforts

Comic relief

NY Med returns with more heroic surgeons, plus nurses with zany patients

Press coverage

ADVANCE for Nurses posts Truth leaders' piece on improving the Magnet Program

Speaking engagements

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

Disruptive 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!



Elmo, so good on vaccines, not so good on nursing

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Elmo, Nurse JaneApril 17, 2015 -- Today, Sesame Street character Elmo and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy teamed up in two public service announcements to promote vaccinations. The 30-second version emphasizes that vaccinations are safe and that they keep us healthy--an urgent message in the wake of the recent measles outbreak. Unfortunately, the three-minute version includes a 30-second interaction with "Nurse Jane," who appears to give Elmo a vaccination. Jane is dressed professionally, with a white coat and stethoscope. But there are many problems. While the spot makes a gentle joke of Murthy's many titles and credentials (we hope the Sesame Street audience is impressed by his "MBA"), the nurse is introduced only as "Nurse Jane"--no surname, no credential, no position. Murthy provides good information about vaccines and germs. But Nurse Jane shows no knowledge of anything except how to give the shot and then apply a little bandage with cute red and white hearts. She utters a total of 17 words. When Elmo asks if the shot Jane is giving will hurt, it is Murthy who answers and deftly distracts Elmo by encouraging him to sing, so Elmo does not even notice the shot--a classic nursing move. Sylvia Trent-AdamsAnd while Murthy is authoritative, friendly, and funny, the Jane character seems amiable but a bit dim, like a low-skilled handmaiden who performs simple tasks while the physician does the patient education and public health policy. In fact, nurses are autonomous, college-educated health experts (with surnames!) whose scope of practice is notable for its focus on public health and patient education. One example is the U.S. Public Health Service's own Chief Nurse Officer, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, RN, PhD. The PSA was produced by the Daily Dot, written by Evan Weiss and Matt Silverman, and directed by Silverman. We have urged the PSA creators and the Department of Health & Human Services to pull the three-minute spot before it further damages nursing--and public health--and then to eliminate the degrading nursing element. Unfortunately, that has not happened. But we remain in discussions with them about working together in the future to create public health media with more positive depictions of nursing. more...and see the video...


Smiling eyesYou can smile with your eyes

Ebola and nursing in the news media

December 2014 -- The Ebola crisis has drawn nurses into the public eye like few recent world events. And in 2014 it sparked a surprising amount of attention from the global news media for nurses as health experts and central players in Ebola care, as well as an upsurge in nurses themselves speaking out in the media. Examples range from a Washington Post op-ed by Emory University Hospital chief nurse Susan Mitchell Grant explaining why her hospital accepted the first U.S. Ebola patients, to first-person accounts in the Guardian by nurses discussing the challenges of caring for Ebola patients in West Africa, to the work of Kaci Hickox, the Maine nurse who has advocated strongly against stigmatizing health workers following her own unnecessary quarantine. On the other hand, many press items have followed the familiar media model, suggesting that physicians are the ones who really matter in Ebola care, consulting only physicians for expert comment, and using "doctors" to encompass the whole health care team. Notable examples include extensive reports about the crisis in West Africa in the New York Times. Many of those pieces do not completely ignore nurses, but do suggest that it is the work and insights of physicians that are really worth hearing about. Some of the most striking physician-centric Ebola images were the photos of Texas nurse Nina Pham's joyful release from a National Institutes of Health hospital in Maryland after she had become infected caring for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. Pham seemed to be surrounded by a large group of physicians, with no nurses in sight. At the end of the year, Time chose "the Ebola fighter" as its "Person of the Year." Although the magazine's long feature focused to a predictably great extent on physicians, it also credited nurses and others, including Liberian school nurse Iris Martor, who spearheaded an effort to identify and contain the disease in her community. And CNN reported on the work of 22-year-old Liberian nursing student Fatu Kekula (right), who single-handedly saved most of her family from Ebola, in part through her own "trash bag method" of infection control. On the whole, while the major media has a long way to go, many 2014 reports did highlight the critical role nurses play in Ebola care. We encourage nurses to make that happen more! See below for our subheadlines on the 15 pieces we analyzed or go straight to the full piece...

Head nurses and top doctors 

The Washington Post runs strong op-ed on treating Ebola patients by Emory chief nurse Susan Mitchell Grant

The field marshal and the burial boys

The New York Times on deputy nurse matron Josephine Finda Sellu, defying the odds in Sierra Leone

Life and death on the frontline

The Guardian (UK) publishes harrowing accounts of three international nurses treating Ebola in West Africa

Nurses want to know

NPR consults nursing leader Diana Mason on Ebola

A litany of damning assertions

The Los Angeles Times on Ebola treatment problems at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas

On the road

Karen Huster's New York Times op-ed on the role of transportation problems in Ebola

Turning the policymaking tables

Theresa Brown's CNN piece on Ebola and increasing awareness of the importance of nursing

Science and compassion will overcome fear

Kaci Hickox on stigmatizing health workers in the Dallas Morning News and the Guardian

Agonizing and abandonment

In this long New York Times report, Ebola care in Liberia seems to be mostly about the expatriate physicians

Welcome to afternoon

In another long New York Times report, Ebola care in Liberia seems to be mostly about the expatriate physicians

Nurse staffing is critical, say esteemed physicians

New York Times highlights "supportive care" for Ebola, but sees no need to consult those who provide it

White coat syndrome

Media messages big and small about which Ebola care givers really matter

The Ebola fighters

Time's "Person of the Year" feature is mostly about physicians, but it does make a point of crediting nurses, including Liberia's Iris Martor

She'll be a great giant of Liberia

CNN on Fatu Kekula and the trash bag method


Leading by listening

Nurses excel in public health efforts

Martha RyanDecember 2014 -- Nurses' roles in handling the global Ebola outbreak drew media attention in the second half of 2014, but during this same period, press reports also showed nurses taking autonomous leadership roles in other efforts to improve public health. On June 24, National Public Radio ran a piece by Sarah Jane Tribble describing the work of Ohio county health department nurse Jacqueline Fletcher to vaccinate patients in response to a measles outbreak in the state's largely unvaccinated Amish community. On December 19, The Huffington Post ran Nico Pitney's profile and interview of Martha Ryan, the San Francisco nurse who founded and directs the Homeless Prenatal Program, which has helped hundreds of women rebuild their lives. On December 29, the Des Moines Register had a short item about efforts to reduce drunk driving during the New Year's Eve period that focused on Sioux City nurse Carla Granstrom, who distributes cocktail napkins discouraging the deadly practice as part of a long-running program based at her hospital. And on December 30, the Sydney Morning Herald posted an item by Stephanie Gardiner about child and family health nurse Sue Colville, who discusses her work to help families manage post-natal depression and the stress of modern parenthood. These reports show nurses practicing in very different settings. But all the reports enhance public understanding that nurses play key roles in developing and implementing health initiatives, sensitively addressing community needs that others may overlook. We thank those responsible. more...


Comic relief

NY Med returns with more heroic surgeons, plus nurses with zany patients

nurseAugust 2014 -- This summer ABC aired the second season of Terence Wrong's documentary series NY Med, which focuses mainly on surgeons and other physicians at several New York City area hospitals. As in the first season in 2012, these eight new episodes mostly follow heroic surgeons and their patients over the course of extended treatment processes. Once again, TV personality and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz lends his star quality to several episodes. The series also features some emergency department (ED) physicians in New York and Newark, showing them to be expert and commanding. Last and least, as in 2012, the series includes occasional segments with three veteran ED nurses. They do, rarely, get chances to display health knowledge and skill, although their interludes are really more about the zany patients they encounter. This time, two of the nurses get a bit more attention when they temporarily become patients themselves, because of a heart condition and a car accident. The third nurse gets fired early on as a result of a social media fail, only to re-appear undaunted later at a different hospital. In contrast to Showtime's Nurse Jackie, a drama that depicts a fictional New York ED, Terence Wrong rarely focuses on nurses and physicians collaborating or interacting about the same patient. It is as if the brief nurse segments are light comic relief that he would not want to clutter the serious, in-depth surgical stories; those tend to ignore any nursing role in the care of profiled patients. If Mr. Wrong makes more shows like this in the future--and he has been at it since Hopkins 24/7 in 2000--we urge him to convey more of the life-saving roles that nurses play in critical care. Thank you. more...


Press coverage

ADVANCE: Truth leaders on improving the Magnet program

June 9, 2015 - Today ADVANCE for Nurses posted a substantial opinion piece by Truth director Sandy Summers and senior advisor Harry Summers about ways to improve the Magnet program, whose goal is to certify hospitals at which nursing is strong. The piece is "The Magnet Program: This nursing process should be a floor, not a ceiling." The authors argue that while Magnet has provided real benefits, it could do more by "improving transparency as to program standards, ensuring adequate nurse-to-patient ratios, creating nurse-led hospitals, moving aggressively to promote safe care models, and promoting the Magnet program itself to the public." We thank ADVANCE for posting our op-ed. See the op-ed here.


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

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 letters@tansandbox.org 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.


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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.

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