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The 2008 Truth About Nursing Awards

The Truth About Nursing Awards rank the best and worst media portrayals of nursing that we've seen in 2008.

The Best

Honorable Mention

The Worst

Ten Best Portrayals

  1. Theresa Brown, The New York Times, "Perhaps Death Is Proud; More Reason to Savor Life," September 8. In this "Cases" item about one oncology patient's death, a new nurse offered a compelling look at how her practice has influenced her view of life.
  2. Lee Hill Kavanaugh, The Kansas City Star, "Nurse's Booklet on ICU Helps Kids Cope," July 6. The booklet What's All This Stuff?, created by nurse Holly O'Brien, helps families understand all the intimidating procedures and machines in the ICUs of one Kansas hospital.
  3. ER, "Haunted," episode written by Karen Maser; executive producers Christopher Chulack, Michael Crichton, John Wells, David Zabel, Janine Sherman Barrois, Joe Sachs; NBC; October 30. In this episode of the veteran TV show, skilled ED nurse Sam Taggart counters the dismissive attitudes of some physicians toward nursing, particularly the nurse anesthetist program she recently started.
  4. Carmen Henesy, "The San Francisco Budget Cuts" (poem), and Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, "The rhyming nurse at S.F. General," blog entry posted December 8. Knight's item described a clever, heartfelt poem by nurse Henesy protesting proposed budget cuts that would eliminate the jobs of 3 of the 4 forensic nurses who practice at the city's clinic for sexually-abused children.
  5. American Association of Nurse Practitioners, "Petition to End the Use of Physician-Biased Language in DTC Advertising," April 9. The AANP launched a campaign to persuade drug and other health care companies to end their frequent use of consumer advertising language like "ask your doctor," which undermines the expert care given by the more than 125,000 U.S. nurse practitioners. 
  6. Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein, HealthStyles, WBAI, New York. For more than 20 years, nurses Mason and Glickstein have produced and hosted this extraordinary radio show, which provides cutting-edge health information few others do and regularly presents nurses as the health experts they really are.
  7. Laurie Tarkan, The New York Times, "Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive -- and a Doctor," December 1. In addition to the amusing level of surprise evident in the headline, this article offers a good look at abusive physician conduct, which continues to play a significant role in poor patient care and nurse burnout.
  8. Janine Rankin, Manawatu Standard (New Zealand), "No-lifting policy sees nursing injuries drop," September 8. This report describes Palmerston North Hospital's "No Lift" policy, which relies on lifting equipment to help nurses move patients without the serious injuries that have often been part of nursing practice.
  9. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Nurses to refuse 'non-nursing' tasks as impasse escalates," September 30. This item reported on a Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union job action to protest hospitals' expectation that nurses do non-nursing tasks like "emptying garbage pails" and "defrost[ing] the fridge."
  10. IRIN, "Zimbabwe: 'I am not a nurse anymore, I am a mortuary attendant,'" December 12. A young government hospital nurse appears to be at his wit's end--and looking to join colleagues abroad--because of his nation's severe lack of health resources, which has made avoidable deaths common.

Honorable Mention

  1. NOW, "Nurses Needed;" producer Bill Gentile, senior correspondent Maria Inahosa, host David Brancaccio; PBS; October 24. This half hour television report on the U.S. nursing shortage described the critical role nurses play in patient outcomes and gave a sense of some key issues, including the faculty shortage.

  2. Julia Le, Missassauga News (Canada), "Nurse wins prize to create diabetic exercise program," November 1. Nurse educator Heather Nesbeth won a cash award from Bayer Inc. to create an innovative exercise program for people who have diabetes and experience mental illness.

Ten Worst Portrayals

  1. Grey's Anatomy, created by Shonda Rhimes, ABC. This popular hospital drama generally ignores nursing, except that its heroic physician characters perform many critical tasks that nurses do in real life.  

  2. Private Practice, created by Shonda Rhimes, ABC. Nurse Dell means well and is supposedly studying midwifery, but he works as a clinic receptionist and office manager for the physicians who dominate the show.  

  3. Benjamin Natelson, The Washington Post, "Lost in a System Where Doctors Don't Want to Listen," August 3. According to this physician, nurse practitioners and other "physician extenders" can handle "easy-to-diagnose" conditions like "a splinter" but need physicians for conditions that are not "immediately evident."  
  4. House, created by David Shore, Fox. Despite a couple tiny suggestions that nurses have skill, the show continued to have its physician characters perform important nursing tasks, and to effectively endorse its brilliant lead character's contempt for nurses.
  5. Hopkins, executive producer Terence Wrong, ABC, June-August. This seven-part documentary-reality series spent a few good minutes on pediatric transport nurses, but the vast majority of it--like the producer's Hopkins 24/7 eight years earlier--suggested that heroic physicians provide all important hospital care.
  6. Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld, Fox News Channel, April 1 episode. Gutfeld and his late-night guests turned a misreported story about a Spanish clinic requiring its nurses to wear miniskirts into an ironic (but still awesome) tribute to the naughty nurse stereotype.
  7. Neilson Dairy, Ultimate Recovery Team advertising campaign, August. This Canadian dairy marketed its flavored milk products with an awesome multi-media campaign using models dressed as naughty nurses, until the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario persuaded the company to reconsider.
  8. Desperate Housewives, "Sunday," episode written by Alexandra Cunningham and Lori Kirkland Baker; executive producers Marc Cherry and George Perkins; ABC; April 13. This episode included a notably disdainful portrayal of a hospital nurse who revealed confidential patient information in exchange for a free lunch.
  9. Angela Moore Jewelry, "Nurse Nancy" necklace and bracelet. This company sold jewelry featuring hopelessly angel-oriented nursing imagery, in order to "celebrate the ladies who give lollipops and band-aids a whole new meaning."
  10. Deal or No Deal, executive producer Scott St. John, NBC, October 22. This episode of the popular Howie Mandel game show featured the usual decorative female models, but this time dressed as naughty nurses, apparently to titillate a male nurse contestant, or something. Awesome!

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