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For immediate release

February 18 , 2009



Sandy Summers
The Truth About Nursing
410-323-1099 or 443-253-3738

The 2008 Truth About Nursing Awards
Rank Best and Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing

Underscore Issue of Public Misperceptions about Nursing

See The Truth About Nursing 2008 Awards

Baltimore, MD, February 18, 2009 -- The Truth About Nursing announces its annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses. Recipients of the Truth About Nursing Awards include NBC's ER, which aired one of the best portrayals in its final year on the air, as well as ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Fox's House, which were singled out for especially poor performance. The Awards highlight media portrayals from around the world that the nursing advocacy group believes deserve attention, for better or worse, during the deadly nursing shortage.

"Some of the best depictions of nursing appeared in the print press," said the Truth's executive director Sandy Summers, who cited nurse Theresa Brown's September 8 New York Times article, "Perhaps Death Is Proud; More Reason to Savor Life." This powerful piece described the oncology nurse's work and how it has shaped her view of life and death.

Summers also praised Lee Hill Kavanaugh's "Nurse's Booklet on ICU Helps Kids Cope," which appeared in The Kansas City Star on July 6. Kansas intensive care nurse Holly O'Brien created What's All This Stuff? in 2006 to help one 12-year-old understand the procedures and machines that were part of the hospital's care for her dying mother. Now copies of the booklet help families in the hospital's intensive care units.

Many of the worst nursing depictions were on television. ABC's Grey's Anatomy portrayed nursing as irrelevant to serious hospital care. In one 2008 episode, many nurses boycotted a plastic surgeon's surgeries after he had loved and left too many of them. ABC's Private Practice included a nurse who seemed to know little about health care. He was the receptionist and office manager at a clinic dominated by physicians. And Fox's House continued to present nurses as silent handmaidens to the physicians who provide important care, including much that nurses really do.

But not all of the troubling depictions appeared in the entertainment media. In an August 3 Washington Post article, "Lost in a System Where Doctors Don't Want to Listen," physician Benjamin Natelson argues that "physician extenders" like nurse practitioners can detect "easy-to-diagnose" problems like "a splinter," but need physicians to handle diagnoses that are not "immediately evident." In fact, however, nurse practitioners are expert at diagnosis, and extensive research shows that their care is at least as good as that provided by physicians.  

"The Truth About Nursing congratulates those responsible for items on the "best" and "honorable mention" lists," said Summers. "Some of the best accounts of nursing were created by nurses themselves, or by journalists who consulted nursing experts. This shows that nurses must speak out about the value of their profession, particularly in view of the ongoing nursing shortage and the current financial crisis."  

The Truth About Nursing

The Truth About Nursing is a Baltimore-based non-profit organization 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. Summers formerly directed the Center for Nursing Advocacy.

See The Truth About Nursing 2008 Awards

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