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For immediate release

December 29, 2009


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

The 2009 Truth About Nursing Awards
Rank Best and Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing

Three New Nurse TV Shows Lead Best List

See The Truth About Nursing 2009 Awards

Baltimore, MD, December 29, 2009 -- The Truth About Nursing announces the seventh annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses. This year featured the unprecedented appearance of three new nurse-focused shows on U.S. television, after no such show had appeared in more than 15 years. The relatively strong portrayals of skilled nurses advocating for patients placed Showtime's Nurse Jackie, NBC's Mercy, and TNT's HawthoRNe at the top of the "best" list.

Nurse Jackie led the list, with nurse character Jackie Peyton as a tough clinical virtuoso who, despite ethical and personal issues, uses new and innovative ways to help patients lead better lives or find lasting peace. The Truth also found Mercy's Veronica Callahan to be an innovative clinical leader who, despite some personal problems, provided expert care.

"Only time will tell if the new nurse shows signal a long-term improvement in television's treatment of nursing," Truth About Nursing executive director Sandy Summers noted. "These shows are just starting out, their audiences are relatively limited, and otherwise television continues to reinforce the idea that only physicians matter."

In fact, the most popular hospital dramas--ABC's Grey's Anatomy, Fox's House, and ABC's Private Practice--led the nursing group's 2009 "worst" list. Grey's Anatomy continued to portray nursing as irrelevant to serious care. In one episode, one surgeon mocked another by urging her to "have fun playing nurse." And House continued to present nurses as silent handmaidens to the physicians who provide important care, including much that nurses really do.

"Some of the best depictions of nursing still appeared in the print press," said Summers. She pointed to Theresa Brown's powerful pieces, including posts on the New York Times' "Well" blog, describing her thoughts as a new oncology nurse. The Truth also cited a story by Zara Nicholson in South Africa's Cape Argus that explained why the horrific conditions in which that nation's nurses work help to explain reports of abuse by the nurses.

Not all of the troubling depictions appeared in the entertainment media. The Truth singled out the prominent charity Lung Cancer Alliance, which Summers said had used naughty, submissive "nurses" in a rap video featuring "Dr. Lung Love" that was made to raise awareness of lung cancer. The Truth gave the charity an award called the "I'm Saving the World, So It's OK If I Trample Nurses on the Way! Award." The nursing group also pointed to a news report about the "perils" of home births on NBC's Today Show that included unbalanced attacks on nurse midwives.

"The Truth About Nursing congratulates those responsible for items on the 'best,' 'honorable mention,' and 'most improved' 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 economic crisis."  

The Truth About Nursing

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.

See The Truth About Nursing 2009 Awards

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