Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
Sandy Summers is Executive Director of The Truth About Nursing. Since 2001 she has led the effort to change how the world views nursing by challenging damaging media depictions of nurses.
Ms. Summers is the co-author of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk. Her media advocacy work began when she and fellow Johns Hopkins graduate students began the movement in April 2001. (More on our history page.)
She speaks frequently on nursing's image and empowering nurses to change how they are perceived.
Ms. Summers has Masters Degrees in Nursing and Public Health from Johns Hopkins University (2002). She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southern Connecticut State University in 1984.
Sandy Summers has worked in cooperation with major corporations in creating accurate images of nursing. In 2013 she worked with others to convince MTV to ameliorate the damage done by its television show Scrubbing In, that focused on the tawdry details of the personal lives of a group of travel nurses. That same year she convinced American Family Care, a chain of quick clinics, to stop advertising in a way that suggested that NPs are inferior to physicians. In 2012, she led the effort to remove two basketball naughty nurse images--a television commercial by Hooters, and a routine by the Dallas Mavericks dancers. In 2010-11, she led the effort to ask Dr. Oz to apologize for having naughty nurses featured in episodes two weeks in a row, which led to global press coverage and a public apology. In that same year her work with the Truth About Nursing led to the cessation of a development of a television program called Cali Nurse, which was to feature naughty nurses. In 2009 she led the effort to persuade the Lung Cancer Alliance to remove its "Dr. Lung Love" public service announcement that aimed to increase funding for lung cancer research through a video utilizing the naughty nurse stereotype. In 2007 she convinced Heineken to digitally alter the outfits on frivolous women in a Dos Equis commercial so that they no longer resembled nurses. That year she also convinced Cadbury-Schweppes to cease its Dentyne Ice commercial which featured 2 nurses hopping into the beds of two male patients. In 2006 she convinced Schick to cease its naughty nurse print commercials; and Coors to stop using nurses in its Coors Light Trauma Tour. That same year she convinced Constellation Brands to end its Water Made Naughty ads and tour, featuring naughty nurses selling vodka. In 2005, she persuaded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to change the name of its major annual minority health campaign from "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" to "Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day," in order to better reflect the key roles nurses play in addressing the very disparities the campaign targets.
Her work has won Media Awards from the American Academy of Nursing in 2004 and 2005. The 2005 AAN award was for the Skechers/Christina Aguilera campaign, in which more than 3000 supporters sent letters to the Skechers shoe company about a prominent naughty nurse ad. The company pulled the ad worldwide. The 2004 AAN award recognized her efforts to improve the portrayal of nursing on NBC's influential "ER," efforts that had an effect, as some episodes reflect attempts to address key issues they have been raising with the show's producers since 2001. In late 2004, television psychologist Dr. Phil suggested on the air that the health care system is full of "cute little nurses" who are out to "seduce and marry" physicians "because that's their ticket out of having to work as a nurse." After 1400 supporters flooded the show with emails in response to the campaign, Dr. Phil issued at least two on-air statements of support for nursing. And in 2005, after Summers led a campaign to "ER"'s sponsors, Schering-Plough asked "ER" Executive Producers to develop "stories that highlight accurate roles, responsibilities, skills and contributions of today's modern nursing profession." That same year, Summers led the effort to convince Gillette to pull a TAG Body Spray naughty nurse commercial. This was one in a string of successes in discouraging degrading nurse advertising and product placement by major corporations including Wal-Mart, Disney, CVS, Pennzoil, Tickle, Clairol, Physicians Formula and others.
Ms. Summers' work has been covered widely in the lay media on television programs, such as CNN and 20/20, as a guest on myriad radio shows, and in many hundreds of articles in the print media from the Associated Press to United Press International and from the New York Times to the Times of India. (See press coverage page.)
Prior to her graduate work, Ms. Summers practiced nursing in the emergency departments and intensive care units of some of America's major trauma centers, including San Francisco General Hospital, Charity Hospital at New Orleans, Washington Hospital Center (D.C.), Georgetown Hospital, and D.C. General Hospital. From 1994-97, Ms. Summers lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where among other jobs, she taught nursing teachers at the Central Nursing School, and undertook nursing research for the International Research Development Centre and Redd Barna (Norwegian Save the Children). She also lived and worked for a year each in New Zealand and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
Ms. Summers is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the international nursing honor society, and Delta Omega, the public health honor society.
Ms. Summers lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and two children. She spent her childhood in Vernon-Rockville, Connecticut.
Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All At Risk received the following awards:
The 2009 International Award for Nursing Excellence in Public Print Media from Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing, at the group's biennial convention in November 2009;
Sandy Summers was awarded an Outstanding Alumna award from Southern Connecticut State University in November 2006.
Books and chapters within books
Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers. Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk, updated second edition. Oxford University Press, New York. Paperback 2015. ISBN 978-0199337064.
Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers, "Nursing's public image: Toward a professional future," Chapter 1 of Nurses and Nursing: The Person and the Profession, (2017). Edited by Pádraig Ó Lúanaigh, Routledge, Taylor & Francis. Florence, Kentucky.
Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers. Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk, first edition. Kaplan Publishing, New York. Hardback, 2009. Paperback, updated first edition, May 2010.
Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers. (2014). Chapter 7: "Media and Decision-Making," pp. 113-140, Decision-Making in Nursing, in Sandra B. Lewenson and Marie Truglio-Londrigan, eds., Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. (1st edition published 2008, Chapter 7, Decision-Making in Nursing: Thoughtful Approaches for Practice, pp 105-129, Winner of an American Journal of Nursing book of the year award 2008.)
Sandy Summers and Richard Kimball. (2009, October). "Autonomy." 101 Global Leadership Lessons for Nurses: Shared Legacies from Leaders and their Mentors, ed. Nancy Rollins Gantz. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International.
Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers. (2006). Changing Poor Portrayals of Nurses in the Media: The Center for Nursing Advocacy. In D. J. Mason, J. K. Leavitt, & M. W. Chafee (Eds.). Policy and politics in nursing and health care, 5th ed. (pp. 184-194). St. Louis, MI: Saunders Elsevier.
Lay publications : op-eds
Kristine Gebbie & Sandy Summers (December 8, 2006). "Nurses' achievements merit international recognition." Op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun. pdf archive
Sandy Summers. (May 12, 2009). "Viewpoint: To solve nursing shortage, change attitudes about nurses" op-ed piece in The Baltimore Sun. pdf archive
Sandy and Harry Summers, BBC News op-ed: "Is the media image of nursing damaging the profession?", June 9, 2010. pdf archive
"Nursing Our Beer Back to Health," RATTLE, online essay accompanying Winter 2007 issue (No. 28), http://www.rattle.com/rattle28/nursingourbeers.htm.
Nursing publication articles
"Improving representation of nurses in the media" Editorial, Nursing Outlook, Journal of the American Academy of Nursing, 2019, Jan.-Feb., vol. 67 (1), pp. 1–2, co-authored with Marion Broome, editor-in-chief of Nursing Outlook and Dean of Duke University School of Nursing.
"Get creative about nursing". Our article on how to improve public understanding of nursing through more robust and accurate media portrayals of nursing appears in the April 2017 Vol. 12 No. 4 issue of American Nurse Today
"Let's take the lead in educating the public about nursing", American Nurse Today, March 2016 Vol. 11 No. 3. Sandy and Harry Summers.
Nursing Times published a series of pieces by Sandy and Harry Summers on the nursing image:
September 14, 2011 -- "Do not disturb: undervaluation in progress," Nursing Times.
Sandy Summers. (2009, January). Express Yourself! Nursing2009 guest editorial, vol. 39 (1), p. 6.
Frances Rieth Ward & Sandy Summers."Ethics Education, Television, and Invisible Nurses," The American Journal of Bioethics, Volume 8, Issue 12 December 2008, p. 15.
Claire Fagin, Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers. "The Nursing Shortage," Kango Jissen no Kagaku, (the Japanese Journal of Nursing Science), Nov. 2005, Vol. 30, No. 12, pp. 37-45, and Dec. 2005, Vol. 30, No. 13, pp. 48-57; republication as part of book Nursing Strategies to Protect People's Lives, LifeSupport Company (2008).
Sandy Summers & Harry Jacobs Summers. (2004). "Viewpoint: Media 'Nursing': Retiring the Handmaiden: What viewers see on ER affects our profession." American Journal of Nursing 104 (2), p. 13. pdf archive
Sandy Summers. (2004, April) "Nursing students should be seen and heard." Imprint, Journal of the National Student Nurses Association, pp 57-59 and 55.
Sandy Summers (1999). Culture crash: Trauma in 1994 Cambodia, Journal of Emergency Nursing, 25 (6), 26A-28A.
At UCLA's at the symposium "Media Images & Screen Representations of Nurses", May 2011
With Brooke Baldwin on CNN about Ebola, October 2014
Interview of Sandy and Harry Summers as guests on the Midday with Dan Rodricks, guest hosted by Nathan Sterner, on WYPR 88.1 FM, the Baltimore NPR affiliate, on October 27, 2014.
With Joy Cardin on WPR, Wisconsin Public Radio in 2009
Presentation at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, September 16, 2015
Presentation at Duquesne University, April 16, 2015
Please see the extensive list of Ms. Summers' press coverage at www.truthaboutnursing.org/press/coverage/.
Photo by Chris Hartlove.