News on Nursing in the Media
February 6, 2006 -- Recently the mainstream press has run very positive stories about the Nurse-Family Partnership. The Partnership is a cost-effective nationwide program in which nurses make extended pre-natal and post-natal home visits to improve the health and wellbeing of poor first-time mothers and their children. This week's issue of The New Yorker included the extensive, moving "Swamp Nurse," by respected poverty journalist Katherine Boo. The piece describes the awesome work of rural Louisiana nurse Luwana Marts, with contextual information about the Partnership and its effectiveness. On January 16, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a far shorter article by Marie McCullough taking a similar approach. It profiles impressive local Partnership nurse Sara Eldridge, with comparable background information. Both pieces are great showcases for the value of the nurse-centered program. And they offer powerful portraits of the individual nurses, who question, teach, and cajole their patients toward better lives, despite huge obstacles. Sadly, neither writer seems aware that the Partnership fits easily within the long tradition of holistic, home-based nursing care. So readers may assume that the idea that the "nurse-visitors" can improve maternal-child health originated with Partnership founder David Olds, a developmental psychologist. Readers may not even see what these nurses do as really being nursing. And the pieces fail to convey how much the nurses' success is due to their nursing education and skill, not just Olds' program design, or the nurses' personal attributes, trusted image, and on-the-job experience. Even so, the articles--especially Boo's perceptive New Yorker piece--ably present the Partnership nurses as skilled professionals excelling at an important job. We commend those responsible. more...
March 6, 2006 -- Tonight ABC airs the series premiere of a midseason reality show called "Miracle Workers." The network describes the show as "a life-changing new series about real people overcoming insurmountable odds with the help of an elite team of medical professionals." Tonight's episode features a "revolutionary new treatment" that may restore a blind man's sight, and a "procedure" that may enable a woman with a "degenerative bone and disc disease" to again lead an active life. If this sounds to you like a show that's going to equate great health care with the work of prominent surgeons, you won't be surprised to hear that the show's two "lead doctors" are pioneering heart surgeons. However, commendably, the other two members of the "Miracle Workers" team are actually nurses, one a clinical nurse specialist and pediatric nurse practitioner, and the other a veteran OR and recovery nurse. So will the show give a real sense of how important nursing is to the health of patients who undergo its "miraculous" procedures? The material on the ABC site details the two surgeons' impressive clinical and academic achievements, but essentially just lists the nurses' specialties and a little about their family backgrounds, so it's hard to be optimistic. But tune in and find out for yourself! more...
January 8, 2006 --Today the Detroit Free Press ran a long, generally good story by Patricia Anstett about Wayne State University (WSU) nurse practitioner Mary White. The piece focuses on the innovative methods White uses to teach the students "how to take care of themselves." These include health-oriented "Jeopardy!" contests and "condom bingo" in the dormitories. Despite some maternal and angel imagery, the article is a pretty good portrayal of the work of an effective public health nurse. more...
February 27, 2006 -- Yesterday canada.com posted a generally good Canadian Press piece by Sheryl Ubelacker about a new study finding that a "high proportion of nursing graduates are reporting severe burnout less than two years into their jobs--primarily because of crushing workloads." The piece uses information from nursing leaders, including nursing research, and the story of a young nurse who fled the bedside, to paint a grim picture of a nursing crisis driven largely by short-staffing. The piece might have briefly explained how much nursing burnout and short-staffing hurt patient outcomes. But its failure to do so is consistent with the overall media and social view that nurses may matter in their own sphere, but they do not play a key role in fundamental health issues generally. For instance, a Canadian Press piece by this same reporter today examined a physician-conducted study that indicated dying hospital patients valued their relationships with their physicians above all else. Based on this entirely physician-sourced story, it is not clear if nursing was even among the 28 issues about which the physician survey asked respondents, despite the far greater role nurses play in the end-of-life care of most patients. Even so, we thank Ms. Ubelacker and the Canadian Press for yesterday's important piece on nurse burnout--and for following up today with some evidence as to why nursing does not receive the clinical resources it needs to function effectively. more...
January 30, 2006 -- Today the Gulf Daily News ("The voice of Bahrain") posted a short piece by Soman Baby about a severe shortage of nurses in the accident and emergency department at a local hospital. The article, "SMC stretched by nurse shortage," makes some good points about how a lack of nurses affects patient care, and about factors that may influence nurse staffing. more...
January 29, 2006 -- Recently the New York press has run good articles about the critical shortage of Suffolk County public health nurses. Today Newsday ran a piece by Ridgely Ochs, "Debate on public health services," that explained some of the effects of this situation on needy patients and the overwhelmed nurses. It also included comments from local politicians and health care figures as to how the problem should be addressed. This followed a very good and more comprehensive January 22 story in The New York Times, Julia C. Mead's "On the East End, A Nursing Shortage Is Felt Most Deeply." The Times piece powerfully conveyed both the key role the public health nurses play in patient outcomes and the desperate state of the program, following what some describe as years of neglect by the County government. Both pieces suggest that the nurses get lots of verbal support, but that they have not received the resources and real respect they need to do their jobs, even though their work is cost-effective in the long run. We commend those responsible for these two helpful pieces. more...
March 2006 -- Global online careers leader Monster has posted a short but good article by John Rossheim headlined "How Nurses Can Fight Sexual Harassment." The piece explores some of the reasons for the prevalence of the harassment nurses face, including media stereotypes, and discusses some potential solutions. It relies on recent research, including Debbie Dougherty's University of Missouri study, and several quotes from Truth executive director Sandy Summers. The piece might have briefly discussed the negative effects harassment can have on patient care, in addition to the hospital liability and nurse retention issues it raises. But on the whole we commend Mr. Rossheim and Monster for a useful and candid piece. more...
January 23, 2006 -- Today the Providence Journal ran a glowing profile of nurse-midwife Mary Breckinridge by Stanley M. Aronson, MD, dean of medicine emeritus at Brown University. The piece, "Kentucky's intrepid nurses on horseback," gets off to a bit of a slow start, with detail about Breckinridge's ancestors' Scottish roots. But we soon hear about many of the key elements of Breckinridge's globally influential work in founding and leading the Frontier Nursing Service, which has provided skilled, life-saving care to poor mothers and children in rural areas since 1925. The final line of the piece notes that today, fourth-year Brown medical students "may spend up to three months in rural service supervised by these indomitable nurse-midwives." We thank Dr. Aronson and the Providence Journal for this valuable profile of a true nursing pioneer. For more on Mary Breckinridge and FNS, see the Center's 2003 online profile, which makes some remarkably similar points, and lists materials for further reading. more...��
For a special issue titled "Silence Kills," Creative Nonfiction seeks essays of no more than 5,000 words investigating the need to break dangerous silences within the healthcare community, which comprises professionals, patients and others. Potential topics might include errors, rule-breaking and institutional unwillingness to confront incompetence, but possible subjects are limitless. Essays must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with a significant element of research or information. The deadline for submissions is May 5, 2006; for more information and complete guidelines, please visit www.creativenonfiction.org.
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A few weeks ago, a CVS television ad was telling many millions of viewers that a pharmacist could educate a nurse in four hours. Now the ad has been pulled. Without the Center, that ad would very likely still be out there. But that is just one of the many troubling images of nursing that contribute to public misunderstanding worldwide. We can't build a strong profession until we build a strong image. Right now we have enough funding to go after a few of the negative images of nursing. But we need far more funding to do the work that really needs to be done, including working proactively to create better images.
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The Truth About Nursing
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