Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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Planning your curriculum? We have ideas.

curriculum planning difficultiesMany nursing professors rely on the extensive and varied materials on the Truth's website to help their students engage with critical issues nurses will face in the future, from their public image to key aspects of nursing education, practice, and advocacy. Since 2001, we have explored and analyzed how the global media and society in general has seen the nursing profession. Join your colleagues and use this material to help plan your curriculum! Please consider the ideas below:

Reading

Read Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk, especially chapters 10 and 11 which gives ideas about how to improve public understanding of nursing. All royalties go directly to support our 501(c)(3) organization.

See our FAQs on nursing in the media, especially:

Read "Raising the Profile of Nursing Issues in the Media and other Public Fora" by Claire Fagin.

Create Videos and Post to Social Media

Ask your students to create videos examining each of the major stereotypes as nursing professor Jayme Nelson at Luther College in Iowa asked her students to do.

The Nurse Expert Project

  • Have students reach out to local leading lights in nursing in various specialties and build a small database of nurse experts who would be willing--and even interested--providing health expertise to the media.
  • Ask your students to develop relationships with local newspaper, television and radio reporters and connect them with the above-mentioned group of local nursing leaders.
  • When something notable happens in the news (e.g. someone famous has a heart attack, brain cancer or seeks to die with dignity) have students reach out to the local experts they put on the list of nurse experts and help or encourage the experts to craft a short email to the local reporters offering an expert quote the reporters can use in their stories.
  • Writing

  • Have your students write letters to the editor to put forth a policy proposal, comment on current events as they affect health or correct a misunderstanding already published in the media.
  • Have your students write op-eds on a health topic being discussed in today's local media.
  • Have your students write biographies on our nursing pioneers.
  • Teaching

  • Teach medical students and physicians about nursing. They need to learn what nurses do to save and improve lives, and how and why they should work collaboratively with nurses. Make it your school's goal to establish at least one class about nursing with your closest neighboring medical school. Physicians are some of the worst purveyors of negative media images of nursing. We must educate them about the scientific expertise of nurses. Please tell us when you've set up classes for medical students so that we can build a database of successful efforts. See a sketch of a nurse shadowing program at Dartmouth.
  • More Reading

  • "Pick up that RN flag and wave it," as NurseWeek editor Pam Meredith once said in an editorial. Don't hide your RN from the media or the public. If they give you an option to choose only one identifier, choose the RN. Then the public will see you as a bright, educated nurse working to improve health care. If you only choose the PhD, credit for your work will go to some other profession, but it surely will not go to nursing. So please highlight your nurse status first and your degrees second, because nursing is the most important part of what we need you to present to the public, to highlight the valuable things nurses are doing to improve health care.
  • Outreach

  • Consider the final stage of your research to be publication in the lay press. Call and meet with members of your local media to facilitate press coverage of your research results.
  • Professors--please seek out appointments in schools of medicine to teach physicians and medical students in the area of your expertise.
  • Sign up for an online presentation

  • If you teach at a school of nursing and assign the purchase of Saving Lives by each student for required reading for your class, Sandy Summers would be happy do an online presentation / seminar / engagement with your students for only a $200 donation to the Truth About Nursing. Please conact Sandy at ssummers@truthaboutnursing.org to discuss. Thank you!
  • Ideas for student leadership projects

    Consider having strudents trying to find some place to explain the value of nursing where people have shown they don’t understand the value, and teaching those people would somehow improve the world.

  • Find a story to pitch to local media, something a local professor or nurse has been up to, or somebody making local change, or their work, maybe nursing professors who go overseas and the problems they find, the international community, research that local nurses are doing, try to get a local story about it.
  • Host a roundtable for members of the local media. Give them story ideas from some leading lights in nursing. Also use the event to educate them about the general nature of nursing— that clinical care includes 24/7 surveillance and intervention and decision-making, patient education, advocacy, research.
  • Create posters or develop an online campaign to convey what they think people in their community should understand better about nursing—hopefully avoiding hand-holding, pillow-fluffing and brow-mopping imagery and instead focusing on detection of dangerous symptoms, decision-making, autonomy, advocacy, prevention of errors... We have examples here that anyone is welcome to print and hang anywhere.
  • Write letters to the editor and op-eds about problems with the undervaluation of nursing. We have written a few as models for your consideration:
  • Flying scalpels and the future of health care
  • Nobel Prize in Nursing
  • Ebola? Bring it on.
  • To solve nursing shortage, change attitudes about nurses
  • BBC: Is the media damaging nursing?
  • Nursing our beer back to health
  • Nursing professor Mona Shattell writes a lot of op-eds you can see here. Dr. Shattell's op-eds are generally focused on health problems, as compared to ours, which are generally focused on nursing. Both types of op-eds are needed. Focusing on health problems is good because discussing health generally in the public sphere sets nurses up as health experts, whether they are discussing nursing or not.
  • Put together an educational video aimed at decision-makers and legislators who are in the process of diluting nursing or denursifying health care about how RNs differ from unlicensed assistive personnel, explain all we do that they haven’t been educated to do, discuss the errors and missed care that happens when techs take over nursing work (miss deterioration of the patient, they do not know what symptoms to look for when giving meds or what meds interact badly with others, or how to educate the patient to take these meds at home—what to eat with them or not eat, or avoid grapefruit etc…) Educate decision-makers how nurses know things, see things, hear things, do things and make critical decisions about how to proceed in the face of crisis that makes a life or death difference. Give it local flavor so legislators are reminded of the local community. Our animated video is here as one example.
  • Collect short stories from practicing nurses about instances in which they saved a life and get them published in the newspaper, or magazines. Discussion of nursing skills should avoid that their nursing just “kicks in” as if hand of God reached down to take action through the nurse (really common way nursing stories are portrayed)—the nurses should be portrayed as doing this on his/her own! Here’s an example of a great nursing story.
  • Launch a project at a local hospital to put paintings or pictures on the walls of nursing leaders at the hospital akin to what they have for physicians, detailing their skills, credentials, history and the changes they have advocated for—explaining the reason for their eminence. Aim to place at least as many nurses on the walls of the hospital as there are physicians.
  • Transforming practice at a local health facility through innovative nursing practices. Below are some examples of what other nurses have done:
  • Getting music into every area of hospitals or health facilities
  • Sleeve coughing
  • The aging nurse project
  • Homeless clinic
  • Stopping killer bedsores
  • PP depression awareness
  • Discussing dangers of spring break on TV
  • NPO policies
  • Noise reduction
  • Develop something or help a local nurse turn his/her innovation into something tangible and useful in real world delivery of health care. Ideas how to do that here. Below are some examples of what other nurses have done: