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For immediate release
January 6, 2011
Sandy Summers
+1-410-323-1100 or +1-443-253-3738

         The 2010 Truth About Nursing Awards
Rank Best and Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing

       Nurse Jackie and Other Nurse TV Shows Among Best

      Dr. Oz, Helen Mirren, and Mariah Carey on Worst List

2010 award winners

See the full 2010 Truth About Nursing Awards

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, January 6, 2011 -- The Truth About Nursing announces the eighth annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses. The year 2010 featured the continuation of Nurse Jackie and two other nurse-focused U.S television shows, but it also included countless damaging distortions from long-running hits like Grey's Anatomy and a new crop of "naughty nurse" imagery from sources ranging from Mariah Carey to Helen Mirren to Dr. Oz.

The relatively strong portrayals of skilled nurses advocating for patients placed Showtime's Nurse Jackie, NBC's Mercy, and TNT's HawthoRNe on the Truth's "best" list. But Mercy was canceled at the end of its first season, and other primetime network shows set to air in the regular 2010-11 broadcast season featured almost 40 physician characters and no nurses. Zero.

Among the "naughty nurse" depictions on the list were the sexy nurse attire that Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj wore in the video for Carey's "Up Out My Face," and Dame Helen Mirren's remark to David Letterman, in promoting her brothel film Love Ranch, that "a lot of girls who work in [prostitution] actually come from the nursing industry, which kind of makes sense, because they're used to naked bodies, it's not intimidating to them, you know, the body and the bodily functions, if you like."

Nurse Jackie again led the "best" list, with nurse character Jackie Peyton seen as a tough clinical virtuoso who, despite ethical and personal issues, used innovative ways to improve patient outcomes. The Truth also found Mercy's Veronica Callahan to be an innovative clinical leader who, despite some personal problems, provided expert care. However, the nursing group noted that even these shows at times inaccurately suggested that nurses report to physicians.

"Only time will tell if the new nurse shows signal a long-term improvement in television's treatment of nursing," said Truth About Nursing executive director Sandy Summers. "Mercy's cancellation was unfortunate, the audiences for Nurse Jackie and HawthoRNe are relatively limited, and the vast majority of television shows continue to push 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 2010 "worst" list. Grey's Anatomy continued to portray nurses as silent or surly handmaidens who are irrelevant to serious care, with the show's heroic surgeon characters often providing key care that nurses do in real life, such as skilled patient monitoring. And Private Practice killed off midwife Dell Parker, the broadcast networks' last significant nurse character, though not before having him exult at being admitted to medical school, reinforcing the "wannabe physician" stereotype real advanced practice nurses face.

"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 an oncology nurse. The Truth also cited reports showing the value of nursing care and even the importance of nursing errors, including an essay by nurse Sunnie Bell in the October issue of Reader's Digest about the potentially deadly consequences when nurses cannot advocate effectively for patients with physicians.

But not all of the troubling depictions appeared in the entertainment media. The Truth singled out a segment on The Dr. Oz Show in which celebrity physician Mehmet Oz danced with provocatively attired "nurses" to promote dancing as a weight loss tactic, a misstep that sparked press coverage and protests from around the world. The nursing group also pointed to news coverage by CNN and The New York Times of the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, most of which wrongly suggested that only the views and actions of physicians mattered in relief efforts.

"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 economic crisis."

The Truth About Nursing

The Truth About Nursing is an international 501(c)(3) 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 full 2010 Truth About Nursing Awards

Ten Best Portrayals

Honorable Mention

Ten Worst Portrayals

I'm Saving the World, So It's OK If I Trample Nurses on the Way! Award

See the Truth's about us pages.

For more information, please contact:

Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
office 1-410-323-1100
fax 1-410-510-1790
cell 1-443-253-3738

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