Heroes, Whores and Handmaidens: 3rd Annual Golden Lamp Awards Rank Best and Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing in 2005
This is the expanded version. Also see summary version or press release.
Special "Worst Portrayal" Awards
The 2005 Golden Lamp Awards cover material released one year before December 1, 2005. In the list below, television episodes are identified by original U.S. air dates.
2005 Golden Lamp Awards--Best Media Depictions of Nursing
- Suzanne Gordon, Journalist and Nursing Advocate. Book: Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost-Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nursing and Patient Care, April 2005. Newspaper op-ed pieces: "Nurse understaffing harms patients," Boston Globe, May 12, 2005; "Micromanaging healthcare," Boston Globe, Aug. 31, 2005; "America's shortage of nurses gets no help from Hollywood," San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 28, 2005. Suzanne Gordon's comprehensive book is a searing indictment of the denursification of developed world health care and the associated nursing shortage. Her frequent op-ed pieces in major metropolitan newspapers tell the public what nurses can really do to save lives and improve patient outcomes, and they present compelling arguments for policy changes to help nurses do it.
- "Critical Care: The Making of an ICU Nurse," Scott Allen (reporting), Michele McDonald (photographs), Boston Globe, October 23-26, 2005. Award shared with Georgia Peirce of Massachusetts General Hospital, who persuaded the Globe to do this chronicle of the eight-month training of a new intensive care nurse by a relentless 20-year veteran. The piece shows the primacy of nursing care for ICU patients, and reveals the extent to which resident physicians rely on nurses' expertise. The four-part series also gives readers an unusually vivid sense of the complexity and importance of highly skilled nursing in a major hospital, with some indication of the stress the nursing crisis has put on critical health systems.
- "Number of Philippine Nurses Emigrating Skyrockets," Michael Sullivan, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Feb. 3, 2005. This comprehensive piece explains the devastating effects of the nursing shortage on the health systems of developing nations whose nurses are leaving to fill positions in more developed nations, where they can earn salaries many times higher. The balanced report makes clear that there are no easy answers; the Philippines relies on foreign remittances, yet it is now losing 15,000 nurses each year. The piece includes clips from a hospital nursing executive, government officials, and an emigrating nurse, who explains her decision with a reference to "the future of my kids."
- All nurses
worldwide who advocate through the media for better health. They include:
a dozen Peruvian public sector
union nurses, who went on an extended hunger strike
in a church as part of a successful national strike for better wages (Latina Prensa, Sept. 14, 2005;
Monsters and Critics, Sept. 19, 2005);
the Royal College of Nursing (U.K.), which
spoke out forcefully on global health and poverty
(Daily Mail, June 24, 2005), childhood obesity
(The Times, July 17, 2005), and a public
smoking ban (Daily Mail, Sept. 4, 2005);
Nurses Association, which used media tools to defeat efforts to weaken the
state's nurse staffing law
(Associated Press/CNN, Feb. 22, 2005;
The Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2005);
the New Zealand Nurses Organization, which placed
cardboard cut-out nurses called "Mia"
("missing in action") on units it considered to be short staffed as part of a large public
campaign on staffing reform (Stuff, Sept. 22, 2005);
the Massachusetts Nurses
Association, which turned a local TV affiliate's
report on medication errors into an infomercial
for safe staffing legislation (CBS4 Boston, Mar. 14, 2005);
the Australian Nurses
Federation, which used public pressure to
end major retailer Bras 'n Things' advertising
for "naughty nurse" lingerie (Herald Sun, Jan. 5, 2005);
Reame, who hosted
"Pregnancy and Newborn Plus," a new
iVillage video series for pregnant women and new mothers (June 2005);
nurses who wrote op-ed
Mary Nash ("Staffing for safer
hospitals," The Kansas City
Star, Apr. 15, 2005),
("Nursing shortage hits health, economy,"
Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), May 13, 2005), and
("America's Nurse," The New York Times,
May 20, 2005);
nurses who wrote letters to the editor, including:
(The Vancouver Sun, Apr. 28, 2005),
Julie McMahon Falk
(Outside, May 2005), and
Button (Wawatay News, May 19, 2005);
Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein, whose long-running radio show
HealthStyles addressed key health issues each
week, often featuring nurse experts, on New York station WBAI.
- "Aging and Infirmity Are Twinned No Longer," Jane Brody, The New York Times, Jan. 25, 2005. This Personal Health column relies heavily on a recent American Journal of Nursing report by the University of South Carolina College of Nursing's Elaine J. Amella, RN, PhD, to address key issues people face as they age. The column stresses that many of the physical and mental problems commonly associated with aging are in fact preventable and/or treatable, and it is full of practical information for our rapidly aging population. The piece is an excellent example of journalistic reliance on nursing expertise.
- "What assets do we value most?", Corinne LaBossiere, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Sept. 26, 2005. This "comment" is a simple but powerful testament to the value of nursing. LaBossiere's piece compares the expert palliative care that her dying mother's nurse provided without fanfare, on the one hand, to the images on the TV in her mother's room, which showed "Stacked" celebrity Pamela Anderson getting lots of male attention simply for existing. The piece includes an unusually perceptive account of the subtle things the nurse does to ease her mother's pain.
- "New Orleans Hospitals Trying to Make Do," Adam Nossiter, Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2005. This nurse-centric piece described how New Orleans hospitals were coping with the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, especially the flooding and power outages that threatened the operations of the hospitals themselves. The report includes quotes from three local nursing leaders working to care for patients in horrendous conditions, including two nurse managers at the legendary Charity Hospital. Without saying it is doing so, the story suggests the central role nurses generally play in keeping patients alive.
- "Nursing Shortage: It's Also in Press and Other Media," Sheila Gibbons, Women's eNews, March 30, 2005. This commentary examined the low media visibility of nurses' work, apart from stories on the nursing shortage. The piece explains why the media's treatment of nurses matters, and suggests that more attention to nurses' real contributions is a key part of resolving the nursing crisis. Without that, Gibbons warns, "health consumers soon may end up mournfully singing the lyrics of the old Joni Mitchell song: 'You don't know what you've got till it's gone.'"
- Two episodes of "ER," "The Man With No Name," written by David Zabel, Oct. 6, 2005, and "Blame It on the Rain," written by R. Scott Gemmill, Oct. 13, 2005; Executive Producers John Wells, Michael Crichton, MD, Christopher Chulack, and David Zabel, NBC. These episodes introduce hardcore ED nurse manager Eve Peyton (Kristen Johnston), perhaps the most clinically expert nurse character to ever appear on a major prime time U.S. show. The doctorally-prepared Peyton takes the ED nursing staff firmly in hand, doling out clinical advice, stepping in when she feels needed, and if necessary telling senior physicians how they're screwing up. The episodes stress Peyton's professionalism and autonomy, though they suggest that she reports to the chief of medicine, and her management style is not ideal. Peyton's tenure would be fairly brief and troubled, and the show remained heavily physician-centric. But these episodes may have been the best U.S. network prime time dramatic treatment of nursing in many years.
- "No school nurses left behind," Laurie Udesky, Salon, Sept. 29, 2005, and "School nurse praised for quick thinking," Norman Miller, MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA), Sept. 2, 2005. These very different pieces both made clear that school nurses save lives. Udesky's lengthy article explores the denursification of U.S. public schools, which has come at a time when an increasing number of children attend with serious, chronic health issues like asthma. The story includes harrowing anecdotes about the "often tragic results" as non-nurses try to care for sick children. Miller's short story describes how local school nurse Mary Lou
Rivernider saved a student's life after he had a severe reaction to a bee sting. The piece tells us several things Rivernider actually did, and includes powerful quotes that underline how critical it is that nurses be available at school all the time.
2005 Golden Lamp Awards: Honorable Mention
- "Nurses Care for the Niger's Malnourished," Nafi Diouf, Associated Press / The Guardian (U.K.), July 29, 2005. This powerful story describes efforts by Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations to cope with the devastating famine in Niger. The Doctors Without Borders mobile health team profiled in the piece is led by a nurse, and about half its members are nurses. The piece highlights the critical work of nurses in providing life-saving care in poor nations.
- "A doctor's 'conviction' violates the law," Don Lowery, Savannah Morning News, July 30, 2005. This is the tale of a local physician serving an eight month prison sentence, apparently in part for signing blank controlled substance prescription refills for nurse practitioner (NP) colleagues to use, which is unlawful in Georgia. The physician reportedly wrote the prescriptions so that he and NP colleagues at a rural clinic could handle their huge patient load. Most of the lengthy piece is a fair discussion of the debate between those who favor greater NP autonomy because of its public health benefits, and physicians who claim that the NPs must be under physician control because they lack sufficient training.
- "Plainfield site credits midwives as part of low caesarian rate," Stefanie Matteson, Courier News (New Jersey), Mar. 28, 2005. This piece describes a midwifery program credited with helping the Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center achieve the state's second lowest rate of Caesarian sections, despite serving a low-income urban patient population that is more prone to high-risk pregnancies. The article highlights the midwives' care model, presents key data and includes good quotes.
- "Code White: Nurse Needed," Linda H. Lamb, The State (Columbia, SC), Feb. 27-Mar. 1, 2005. This massive special report addresses the causes of and potential solutions to the nursing shortage. It examines problems with nursing's public image, issues related to men in nursing, and the training of new nurses, though it does not mention the managed care-driven hospital budget cuts of the 1990's, which led to the short-staffing that has driven many U.S. nurses from the bedside.
- "Crisis as SA steadily loses qualified nursing: Fewer showing interest in the profession," The Star (South Africa), Bruce Ventner, Jan. 14, 2005. This effective, data-driven article describes South Africa's "critical" nursing shortage. The piece reports that the nation is losing its best trained nurses because of migration and poor working conditions, even as the growing population and increases in communicable diseases will mean a greater demand for skilled care.
- "Flying solo, nurse is enough," Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times, May 3, 2005. This column told the story of local ED nurse Joanne Endres who, as the only health professional on a plane flight from Minneapolis, apparently saved the life of a man having a heart attack. The piece stresses that the public does not understand what nurses do, and it makes a commendable effort to highlight and remedy nursing invisibility.
- "Faces of Caring: Nurses at Work" various artists, presented by the American Journal of Nursing, New York University, May 2005. This exhibition made a valiant effort to convey a sense of nursing through still photographs. Some of the photos were excellent, and even images that did not give much sense of nursing skill still showed the human connection that is a key part of the work, reminding us of the joy and pain that nurses can share with patients. The top 12 photos were to appear (one by one) on the cover of AJN for the year following the exhibition.
- "Jenny's cure for the men reluctant to find help," Nigel Gould, The Belfast Telegraph, May 25, 2005. This piece profiled uro-oncology nurse Jenny Kelly, who heads up Belfast City Hospital's Men Against Cancer Clinic. There, she saves lives by "helping men overcome their embarrassment about going for a check-up." This is a good portrait of a nursing leader who improves access to care by changing the way it is a delivered--a classic nursing intervention.
- "Angels and heroes: A tale that needed to be told: Exhibit explores history of Canadian nurses," Shannon Proudfoot, The Ottawa Citizen, June 18, 2005. This article described "A Caring Profession: Centuries of Nursing in Canada," the "first national exhibit on nursing," at the Canadian Museum of Civilization through September 2006. The exhibit explores the history, contributions and diversity of Canadian nurses, from the French Augustine nuns who arrived in the 17th Century to modern nurses, who now face a "quiet crisis" at the bedside.
Best Attempts to Remedy Negative Media Portrayals of Nursing 2005
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health, and Assistant Secretary Garth Graham, MD, MPH, and John I. West, Public Affairs Specialist, for changing the name of HHS's annual "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" campaign to "Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day," in response to a Truth About Nursing campaign, July 2005. Nurses had argued that, since advanced practice nurses provide high quality primary care to the very minority populations the campaign targets, a name change to reflect that would enhance the campaign's effect and address the image problem that is a key factor in the nursing shortage. The Truth salutes the winners of this Award for their responsiveness and concern for public health. The first "Checkup Day" took place on September 20, and the vast majority of participants seemed to embrace the change, with the notable exception of Tom Joyner's syndicated ABC radio show, which specifically refused to do so.
- "Jeopardy!", Producers Harry Friedman, Lisa Finneran, Rocky Schmidt, Gary Johnson and Billy Wisse, for the June 23, 2005 episode. This episode featured this clue: "The Golden Lamp Awards are bestowed for the best portrayals of these health professionals in the media." This was an effort to make amends for a prior clue implying that nurse practitioners do no more than treat minor ailments. We might have preferred a clue that conveyed more of the substance of nursing, but the way this clue played out was priceless. Upon its reading, one of the contestants--a medical student--quickly, almost gleefully, answered: "What are doctors?!" Host Alex Trebek informed her that the answer was "What are nurses?", and that the name of the Awards refers to the "Lady with the Lamp" (Florence Nightingale).
- The Gillette Company, Eric Kraus, VP of Corporate Communications, for agreeing to pull a "naughty nurse" television ad for TAG Body Spray, in response to a Truth campaign, Oct. 2005. The Fortune 500 company's ad had featured a provocatively dressed "nurse" who developed "highly contagious lusty-nurse fever" and climbed into bed with a male patient wearing the product, reinforcing the nurse-as-sex-maniac image that continues to contribute to the devaluation of nursing.
- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Helen Reichenberger, Advertising Manager, for agreeing to work with the Truth to modify a print advertisement for its scrubs that suggested that nurses are intellectually inferior to surgeons, Apr. 2005. The ad featured a nurse dressed in scrubs standing behind a patient's leg cast. Writing on the cast read: "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to recognize a good deal on scrubs." Wal-Mart agreed to change the ad after one phone call from the Truth, and even worked with us to create a new ad.
- NBC News, the "Today" show, Executive Producer Jim Bell, and Producer Eric Ortner, for agreeing to work with nursing organizations to improve coverage of nursing issues after airing a damaging segment disparaging nurse practitioner (NP) care at "quick clinics," Nov. 2005. The show's troubling Nov. 14 segment on NP-staffed quick clinics at U.S. supermarkets and drug stores degraded the "cheap" NP care available there, ignored NPs' vital role in more comprehensive primary care, and suggested that autonomous NP care presents safety risks, relying on a baseless quote from American Medical Association (AMA) president Dr. Edward Hill. The ensuing Truth campaign generated over 3,500 letters to NBC and the AMA.
- Good Housekeeping and Health Editor Toni Hope, for agreeing to work with the Truth About Nursing and nurses in general to improve future nursing portrayals, following a "health tips" feature that showed disrespect for nursing in several ways, Nov. 2005. An extensive item in the magazine's November issue featured 75 health tips, but not one came from a nurse. In addition, one tip from "Dr. X" advised emergency patients to lie to the triage nurse in order to be seen faster. Another, from Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic, advised patients to get better hospital care by "supplying the staff with treats." Ms. Hope has indicated that the magazine plans to print a nurse's letter to the editor addressing these issues in its February 2006 issue.
- Diversified Designs, Inc. and President Greg Likins, for agreeing to pull a print ad for CompuCaddy computer stands that showed an unhinged nurse--"Helen Wheels," a stereotypical battleaxe nurse--who was furious because the prior shift had left the computer battery uncharged, July 2005. Nurses pointed out that the ads exploited the "battleaxe" stereotype. Diversified Designs apologized, and promised that a follow-up ad featuring a happy "Helen Wheels" with a fully charged product would also be pulled.
- Boston Medical Group (BMG), which runs clinics specializing in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED), for ending radio ads assuring potential patients that they would not need to discuss their ED with nurses, March 2005. In the ads, an ED "patient" said he did not want to talk with a "bunch of nurses" about his ED, and an announcer then assured listeners that at BMG, he would not. The ad encouraged listeners to regard nurses as a gaggle of incompetent or insensitive females. BMG promised to pull the ad after receiving several letters from nurses.
- Gene Weingarten, humorist for The Washington Post, for efforts to make amends following a "Below the Beltway" column in which he used the "naughty nurse" stereotype, May 2005. In a piece inspired by the Terry Schiavo controversy, Weingarten joked that, following any removal of his feeding tube, he wanted to be "lovingly asphyxiated by a buxom honey-blonde nurse in a short skirt and one of those cute little caps." After a Truth campaign and discussions, Weingarten extended apologies to nurses in his weekly online chats, and placed a full copy of the Truth's initial letter to him in one of the chat areas on the Post site.
- Tickle, the "interpersonal media company" owned by Monster, for grudgingly agreeing to remove from its web site "Who's Your Inner Nurse?", an employment suitability test that included damaging stereotypes, February 2005. Some of the test's possible answers were presumably "jokes," like "meeting hot doctors" as an option for "the best thing about nursing." Others reinforced stereotypes through positive choices, such as the one inviting respondents to report that patients found them gentle, cheerful, dependable, or selfless (as opposed to skilled, innovative, or hard-working). And some questions simply invited people to think of nursing as trivial, such as the one that gave test takers the chance to specify that they wouldn't "make [their] rounds without" their "[s]tickers and lollipops."
Worst Portrayals of Nursing in the Media 2005
- Six episodes of "Grey's Anatomy": "A Hard Day's Night," written by Shonda Rhimes, Mar. 27, 2005; "The First Cut Is the Deepest," written by Shonda Rhimes, Apr. 3, 2005; "Winning a Battle, Losing the War," written by Shonda Rhimes, Apr. 10, 2005; "If Tomorrow Never Comes," written by Krista Vernoff, May 1, 2005; "Bring the Pain," written by Shonda Rhimes, Oct. 23, 2005; "Something to Talk About," written by Stacy McKee, Nov. 6, 2005; Executive Producers Shonda Rhimes, Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers, Jim Parriott, ABC. "What did you just say? Did you just call me a nurse?" ""I didn't get stuck with someone this clueless, and that was, like, a nurse." "You're the pig who called Meredith a nurse...I hate you on principle." "You should reprimand him...make him change bedpans." "Three saucy, bad, naughty nurses. And they were taking a shower. ... And then this doctor walks in and he sees these three naughty bad nurses with these great big..." What more can we say? "Grey's Anatomy" does not just ignore nursing, depict nurses as fawning or bitter losers with no significant role in hospital care, or have its nine physician characters spend half their time doing key care tasks that nurses really do. Shonda Rhimes's show also makes a point of attacking the profession, relentlessly. The very embodiment of superficial, "dress for success" feminism, this huge prime time hit has perhaps shown more express contempt for nursing than any other show in U.S. television history.
- Five episodes of "House": "Three Stories," written by David Shore, May 17, 2005; "The Honeymoon," written by Lawrence Kaplow & John Mankiewicz, May 24, 2005; "Daddy's Boy," written by Thomas L. Moran, Nov. 8, 2005; "Spin," written by Sara Hess, Nov. 15, 2005; "The Mistake," written by Peter Blake, Nov. 29, 2005; Executive Producers David Shore, Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs, and Bryan Singer, Fox."House" is addicted to physician nursing. The hit show's six brilliant physician characters constantly do key care tasks that nurses do in real life. The rare nurse characters tend to be silent, barely visible clerks, like wallpaper that assumes human form to move or hold objects. Although the show has mostly pretended that nurses do not exist, recent episodes indicate that its physician heroes consider nurses to be unskilled clean-up staff, "nurse-maids" who are good for handling stool and patients who have fallen down.
- Two episodes of "Inconceivable": "Pilot," Sept. 23, 2005, and "Secrets and Thighs," Sept. 30, 2005, both written by Oliver Goldstick and Marco Pennette; Executive Producers Oliver Goldstick, Marco Pennette, Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins, Joe Davola, NBC. This short-lived fertility clinic drama presented one of the worst images of nursing to hit prime time in years. While smart physicians did the moving and shaking, the shallow major nurse character seduced the lead male physician, clung as he pulled away, then betrayed him in a way that was both insidious and pathetic. Other nurses discussed lunch and vacation plans, and commented that a man who had chosen one of the clinic's naughty nurse porn movies to help him produce a sperm sample would take awhile, as he had chosen one with "a plot." (Maybe he should have just watched "Inconceivable.") If viewers had no reason to regard nurses as unskilled twits or sexually degraded, drug-abusing vixens before watching this show, they sure do now.
- Three episodes of "ER": "Middleman," written by Lisa Zwerling,
MD, Feb. 3, 2005; "Alone in a Crowd," written by Dee Johnson, Feb. 17, 2005; "Ruby Redux," written by Lydia Woodward and Lisa Zwerling, MD, Apr. 28; Executive Producers John Wells, Michael Crichton, MD, Christopher Chulack, Dee Johnson, NBC. Several episodes of this veteran hospital drama illustrated why the show--despite some serious efforts to show respect for nursing--has probably been the world's most influential purveyor of the handmaiden image of nursing. The keys to "ER"'s enormous influence are its popularity, its overall dramatic quality, and its apparent realism. These episodes featured a compelling (though inaccurate) endorsement of physician dominance in hospital care; an association of nursing with invasive or unpleasant procedures, while physicians directed all the obviously key treatment; and a scene in which nurse Abby Lockhart, now practicing as a physician, addresses a patient's dismissive reference to her as a nurse by saying indignantly: "I am not a nurse. I'm a doctor."
- Two episodes of "Scrubs": "My Ocardial Infarction," written by Mark Stegemann, Jan. 18, 2005,
and "My Quarantine," written by Tad Quill, Feb. 8, 2005; Executive Producer Bill Lawrence, NBC. Despite a few past plotlines that had surprisingly thoughtful takes on nursing issues, on the whole this sitcom continues to reflect the prevailing Hollywood vision of nurses as peripheral health workers with limited skills who report to physicians. These two episodes have scenes in which nurses are wide-eyed subordinates whose job during codes is to call out a vital sign or two, then wait for heroic, all-knowing physicians to issue commands and save the day; an attending facetiously associates nursing with "special sponge baths" and "happy endings;" and a surgical resident affirms that "any idiot can be a nurse." The nurse to whom this surgeon is married disagrees, but we never see why, suggesting that he's rude, but maybe he's basically right.
- Two prominent Hollywood movies: "Million Dollar Baby," screenplay by Paul Haggis based upon stories by F.X. Toole, directed by Clint Eastwood; and "Meet the Fockers," screenplay by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, story by Jim Herzfeld and Mark Hyman, directed by Jay Roach. Eastwood's film portrays a boxing veteran who trains a female contender. She is paralyzed in the ring, and she suffers so much that the veteran grants her wish that he end her life. To underline the need for that, the film presents an awful portrayal of rehabilitation nursing:
no emotional support, no advocacy, no discussion of rehab., no psych. consults, and no discussion of end-of-life issues. "Fockers" was the degraded sequel to "Meet the Parents." Whereas the original undermined the "male nurse" stereotypes of father-in-law-from-hell Jack Byrnes, the sequel shows Jack why it's nice to be a nurse, even if it is a job for the mediocre and unambitious. The film regards nursing as a good vehicle to show that the heart matters as much as, or more than, the mind.
- Two episodes of "Six Feet Under": "Ecotone," written by Nancy Oliver, July 31, 2005, and "Everyone's Waiting," written by Alan Ball, Aug. 16, 2005; Executive Producers Alan Ball, Robert Greenblatt, David Janollari, Alan Poul, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Rick Cleveland, HBO. These late episodes of HBO's acclaimed series about the funeral-directing Fisher family presented nurses as handmaidens, silent or petty, assisting the physicians who provide all important care. Perhaps nursing's perceived marginal importance helps explain why one major character gleefully abandons her nursing career to work in her husband's funeral home with no more than a backward glance. These episodes suggest that when it comes to an understanding of nursing, dramatic sophistication doesn't count for much.
- Naughty nurses on parade: 50 models dressed as "naughty nurses" at stock market launch by Corporation Dermoestetica (Spain), July 2005; photo by Gregg Segal, "Get Well Soon," Outside (U.S.), Mar. 2005; and Gianna, cover photo, Ralph (Australia), Aug. 2005. The "naughty nurse" remains a staple of mainstream product promotion worldwide. The Spanish cosmetic surgery firm Corporacion Dermoestetica reportedly adorned its July market launch--at the stock exchange--with "50 mini-skirted models" dressed as nurses. The March issue of Outside magazine included an item describing "feel-better tools" designed to relieve pain after physical activity. The visual centerpiece was a large photo of a naughty nurse sitting on the arm of a massage chair in which a recovering guy had crashed following his exertions, reinforcing the notion that nurses are brainless fantasy babes. And the cover of the August issue of the magazine Ralph featured Gianna, a former contestant on Australia's "Big Brother" program, in a "naughty nurse" outfit that is essentially bikini underwear. Gianna apparently made a different naughty nurse outfit a major feature of her time on the popular reality show.
- Doctoring Disaster and War: "Doctors Emerging As Heroes of Katrina," Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press, Sept. 9, 2005; "For Many Tsunami Survivors, Battered Bodies, Few Choices," Jane Perlez, The New York Times, Jan. 6, 2005; "Span of War," Joseph Shapiro, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Mar. 8-10, 2005. When the going gets tough, the nurses often go missing from elite press coverage. Many press organs ran Marchione's AP piece about the plight of New Orleans hospitals after Hurricane Katrina. It depicted physicians as having done virtually everything of note for the patients at local hospitals during the worst hours of the aftermath, including many references to what "doctors" did, and multiple quotes and/or description of no less than eight named physicians and a medical student--but not one nurse. Perlez's front-page Times story reported that many survivors of the recent Asian tsunami faced unnecessary amputation or even death because of a lack of emergency care in Aceh, Indonesia. The lengthy piece's almost universal descriptions of care as being provided solely by physicians, and its reliance solely on expert comment by physicians, clearly suggested that nurses and other health care workers were doing nothing of significance in the stricken province. And Shapiro's 26-minute NPR report on the care and rehabilitation of U.S. Marines wounded in Iraq is a striking example of what we might call the "nurses' station" school of health care journalism. Listeners heard plenty about how "doctors" had been caring for the Marines, but no nursing was described, no nurses were mentioned, and the only utterance of the word "nurse" occurred when one patient walks past "the nurses' station" at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
- Global health "heroes": "Saving One Life at a Time," Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Sciences Editor, TIME, Nov. 7, 2005; "Developing Countries See Health Care 'Brain Drain,'" Brenda Wilson, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Nov. 3, 2005. Major press pieces commonly ignore nurses' contributions to global health. TIME's massive report, which discussed preventable and treatable diseases that claim millions of lives each year, fostered the impression that physicians provide virtually all important developing world health care. Half of the total report is devoted to profiles of 18 "heroes" in the fight against these diseases. Of the 15 health care professionals profiled, 12 are physicians. Not one is recognized for her nursing. Wilson's piece, part of an NPR global health series, examined the trend of developing world physicians migrating to wealthier nations. The piece presents nurses as peripheral health workers who have only basic physician skills, rather than members of a distinct profession, and suggests that nurses as qualified to care only for patients with less serious illnesses. This is consistent with the physician-centrism in the other reports Wilson filed in the series, which focused on the work of Doctors Without Borders and the Flying Doctors in Africa. In these pieces, only diagnosis and treatment by heroic roving physicians matters.
- The nurse in pop music: "XXL" (music and video), Keith Anderson, written by Keith Anderson and Bob DiPiero, video directed by Trey Fanjoy, from album "Three Chord Country and American Rock & Roll," May 2005; and "The Nurse," White Stripes, written by Jack White, from album "Get Behind Me Satan," June 2005. Jack White and Keith Anderson have more in common than you might think: both write songs and play guitar, and neither is afraid to use a little nurse stereotyping. "XXL" is country/rock poster boy Anderson's ode to the Big and Tall, and their ability to get all the hot babes. The first verse describes the singer's birth, where it "[t]ook two nurses to hold me and one nurse to slap me." The video, which Anderson has been quoted as saying "nails exactly" his vision for the song, features the famously well-endowed Tommy Lee as the leering "doctor." Tommy is on intimate terms with three "naughty nurses," who spend the video spilling out of their tiny dresses as they pose and pout in the delivery room. And one track on Detroit garage rock duo The White Stripes's 2005 album is "The Nurse." The song uses an unholy mix of nursing imagery, complete with maid and mother references, to make a seemingly banal complaint about betrayal that isn't worthy of White as a songwriter--to say nothing of the skilled nurses who might be called upon to save his life if he gets into another serious bar fight.
Special "Worst Portrayal" Awards 2005
"Let Them Eat Cake" Awards 2005
- Dr. Edward Hill and the Board of Directors of the American Medical Association, for their continuing refusal even to respond to more than 3,700 letters--over 1500 of them original--protesting Dr. Hill's comments on a Nov. 14, 2005 segment of NBC's "Today" Show about nurse practitioner (NP)-staffed "quick clinics." Dr. Hill expressed "concern" that we not confuse the "convenience" and "affordability" of the clinics with "quality," and made clear that his concern focused on "supervision of these non-physician providers." Significant research shows that NP care is at least as good as that provided by physicians, and NPs need no physician supervision. Even though NBC News has had significant interactions with nurses about their concerns and vowed to work with nursing organizations on its coverage in the future, the AMA has yet to respond at all.
- Virgin Mobile Canada and Internet video maker JibJab, for their specific refusals to take any action to lessen or make amends for the damage caused by their use of "naughty nurse" imagery to promote their products. In March, Virgin Mobile Canada launched a major ad campaign featuring naughty "nurse" models equipped to "maximize your pleasure" by relieving consumers of "The Catch," a mock venereal disease associated with rival mobile service providers. The campaign kicked off with a Toronto event in which Virgin mogul Richard Branson made a superhero entrance, rescued three naughty nurse models, and joined them for a snowball fight. Since at least early 2005, Internet video kings JibJab have marketing an array of merchandise under the label "National Healthcare" featuring an image of President Bill Clinton as a hospital patient with his arms around two provocatively dressed "naughty nurses" as he grabs their breasts. The cutting-edge message of the products is that Clinton likes to have sex with women who are not his wife. All of the above imagery perpetuates the "naughty nurse" stereotype that has long held nursing back, at a time of critical shortage, with the same young audience the profession needs to resolve the crisis that is threatening lives worldwide.
"Just Joking" Award 2005
- A group of medical students at the University of Alberta, for the "Nurses' Song" they write and sang at their irreverent May 2005 "MedShow." Lyrics called nurses "whores" and "bitches" whose "incompetence" and persistence in "telling doctors what they ought to try" threatened to "make our patients die." But at least nurses were qualified to "fill up my coffeepot" and "give good head." The song's refrain urged nurses to "show me those boobs." University officials expressed regret about the show, canceled future Medshows, and promised to focus on interdisciplinary education. The University's Medical Students Association issued a commendable apology. But the University and many students also argued that given the self-mocking context and the extreme nature of the stereotypes involved, the students felt the song would be understood as a "parody." However, because the context was ambiguous and the lyrics are a mix of toxic views that many physicians and members of the public actually do hold, it seems more plausible that the song was intended as a comic "roast," as other medical students argued. Even if intended as a parody, the song's reckless presentation of views that are driving the global nursing shortage in a "comic" context suggests a dangerous lack of understanding. The Truth has grown weary of the seemingly endless images of hate for nursing from countless sources, all excused because the creators were "just joking." After enough "jokes" in the same stereotypical vein over the course of decades, we believe the message takes hold whether any particular speaker is "joking" or not. It amounts to this: bitch! joking! whore! joking! bitch! joking! whore! joking! bitch! joking! whore! joking!
"Every Helpful Person or Thing Is a Nurse" Awards 2005
- "For Surgery, an Automated Helping Hand," Marc Santora, The New York Times, Jan. 18, 2005; "Hard-wired nurse helps docs," Robert Schapiro, New York Daily News, June 17, 2005. Each of these articles degraded nursing by reinforcing the public view that any female (even a female robot) who is perceived to act in an assistive, care-giving way can be called a "nurse," no matter how little health care skill the "nurse" may have. The Times piece described the work of Dr. Michael Treat, who is developing a robot called Penelope that Treat claimed could some day replace scrub nurses in operating rooms because it can hand surgeons things. In fact, scrub nurses use critical thinking to monitor surgical practice, sterile technique, and the patient's condition, intervene in an emergency, and advocate for the patient. We made Dr. Treat aware of our concerns, and we believe he made an effort to keep them in mind going forward. But that did not prevent Schapiro's June Daily News piece from reporting that Penelope had "operat[ed] as a surgical nurse" in a recent operation. This piece did at least say that the robot was "not meant to replace" scrub nurses, but it still suggested that Penelope was pretty much doing their job by handing surgeons instruments.
- "She wouldn't wake up...I shook her hard," Pete Donohoe, New York Daily News, Aug. 22, 2005. An August 28 Daily News piece by Pete Donohoe and Caitlyn Kelly discussed the problem of minimally-trained infant caregivers who call themselves "baby nurses." But a piece the prior week by Donohoe himself added to the problem. Both pieces stemmed from the case of an infant caregiver who had reportedly confessed to seriously hurting babies in her care. Donohoe's August 22 piece called this woman a "hulking 'monster' nurse" and repeatedly described her as a "nurse," even though it also noted well into the story that she was "not a licensed nurse but apparently had certificates in basic infant care and CPR."
See more information on the Golden Lamp Awards in our press release.