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For immediate release
August 23, 2006

Sandy Summers
410-323-1100 or 443-253-3738

Nurses "Tax" Emmy Swag

Nursing advocates are asking celebrities from Hollywood hospital shows to donate their "swag" from Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards to schools and charities working to ease the global nursing crisis.

The Center for Nursing Advocacy says that shows like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "House," both nominated for Best Drama, have profited by presenting viewers worldwide with a vision of hospital care that grossly undervalues nursing.

"On these shows, physicians are often shown doing important work that nurses really do, while the few nurses are usually pathetic handmaidens," said Truth executive director Sandy Summers. "Research shows that entertainment television affects how the public views nursing. Because most people don't understand what nurses really do to save and improve lives, nursing doesn't get the funding or respect it needs, and the shortage gets worse. We think those responsible for these shows should help undo the damage."

The group's call follows recent reports that the Internal Revenue Service considers the gift bags to be taxable income. This year, Emmy bags have estimated values of $30,000 and even more. The Center is asking celebrities to donate the swag they receive at the Awards and related events to nursing schools, or nursing charities like the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, which supports nurse training in developing nations. Earlier this year, George Clooney donated his Oscar gift bag to the United Way to aid in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

"Certainly 'House' and 'Grey's' are the worst shows for nursing right now, really two of the worst ever," Summers said. "They're massively popular shows that make their physician heroes' contempt for nursing very clear." She noted that shows like NBC's "Scrubs," and in particular its "'ER," do occasionally include glimpses of nurses as skilled professionals. "But even they remain dominated by physician characters who do virtually everything that matters, including a lot that nurses really do, like defibrillation, skilled monitoring, and patient education," Summers said.

The Center's call applies to "Grey's Anatomy" (nominated for Best Drama, Best Supporting Actress, Best Guest Actor, Best Guest Actress, and Best Writing); "House" (Best Drama); "Scrubs" (Best Comedy); "ER" (Best Guest Actor); HBO's "The Sopranos," which aired problematic hospital episodes earlier this year (Best Drama, Best Direction, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Writing); and HBO's "Six Feet Under" (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Direction, Best Guest Actress, and Best Writing for the series finale, which includes a poor depiction of nursing).

The Center said the more realistic overall approach of the HBO shows had not produced better portrayals of nurses, who were still seen as peripheral physician subordinates. "On premium cable, the hospital staff tend be insensitive jerks," said Summers. "But physicians are still the smart, life-saving jerks."

A recent "Sopranos" episode featured droll scenes in which two of the show's principal Mafia characters visit Los Angeles to shop a script. While there they pressure Ben Kingsley to get them some swag, then mug Lauren Bacall to get her awards show gift bag. In light of that episode, Summers said that Emmy attendees from the show were probably looking for worthy places to donate their swag, and that nursing was a perfect fit.

See our backgrounder on these Hollywood shows

The Center for Nursing Advocacy, founded in 2001, is a Baltimore-based non-profit organization that seeks to increase public understanding of the central, front-line role nurses play in modern health care. The focus of the Center is to promote more accurate, balanced and frequent media portrayals of nurses and increase the media's use of nurses as expert sources.

For more information, please contact:

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

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