News on Nursing in the Media
May 8, 2011 -- Today the New York Times published a good op-ed about physician bullying by oncology nurse Theresa Brown, a regular contributor to the paper's Well blog. Under the headline "Physician, Heel Thyself," Brown describes a recent incident in which a physician invited a patient to blame Brown for anything that went wrong. Another physician reportedly dismissed a nurse's complaint by saying: "I'm important." Brown explains that most nurses experience some form of abuse from physicians. And she notes that even though most physicians are "kind, well-intentioned professionals," the abusive ones have a major impact, causing nurses and other clinicians to pass the aggression on and disrupting vital communications, which can lead to deadly errors. Brown urges hospitals to adopt "no tolerance" policies for bullying, and she asks physicians themselves to create an environment in which such conduct is unacceptable. Brown's piece is a helpful call for more respect for nurses and she makes excellent points. Sadly, the piece understates the level of abuse some nurses face and its effect on nursing burnout. It also understates nursing autonomy and power.The op-ed's statement that "if doctors are generals, nurses are a combination of infantry and aides-de-camp" is incorrect. Hospital nurses do not report to physicians. Nor are nurses low-level assistants to physician commanders. Nurses have less power as a class, but they are professionals with their own unique scope of practice and their own legal and ethical duties.Some nurses are themselves generals; one was just nominated to be the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. Nurses have the power to create change. And nurses can and do confront physician abuse directly.The op-ed links the outsized influence of abusive physicians to their place "at the top of the food chain," but it does not question whether physicians should occupy that exalted position. In fact, just as the old food pyramid has been replaced by a plate, we suggest that the relations among health workers should be represented not by a brutal "food chain" image but by the more accurate and helpful model found in the tribe structure (right) promoted by nursing leader Kathleen Bartholomew. In any case, we commend Theresa Brown for raising the issue of physician abuse and the threats it poses to public health. more...
June 2011 -- Later this month, TNT's drama HawthoRNe returns for a third season. Last season, which aired in summer 2010, featured more heroics by super-nurse executive Christina Hawthorne and her skilled nursing team, who fight through inept fellow nurses, resistant physicians, and resource shortages to provide good care. After Hawthorne's old hospital in Richmond (Virginia) closed, she and her nurses ended up at a marginal nearby hospital. But Hawthorne remained a strong nurse leader, an advocate for patients and nurses, and an expert direct care nurse. The show was relatively good on nursing autonomy, at least in scenes involving Hawthorne; it showed a nursing chain of command, with the formidable Hawthorne presented basically as a peer of the chief of medicine, both reporting to the hospital CEO. Over the course of last season, Hawthorne got life-saving transplants for addicts and death-row inmates, and she often had time to step in and provide critical bedside care herself. Hawthorne's staff nurses are also patient advocates, and they excelled in psychosocial and technical care. The young pediatric nurse Kelly Epson was especially impressive, caring for patients ranging from a boy with serious burns to a teen with priapism whose adoptive mother was reluctant to reveal his biracial status. Some nurses were better than others, like the physician characters on other Hollywood shows. Hawthorne's "co-director of nursing" was mostly a bitter, can't-do bureaucrat, though she eventually revealed a better side. And some of Kelly's nurse colleagues in peds were lazy and unskilled, with no regard for patients; with them the show may have gone more negative than any current show about physicians. Sadly, the show has never been great on men in nursing or on the wannabe physician stereotype. Staff nurse Ray Stein is not a horrible nurse, but last season he was fairly weak and he still dreamed of medical school, though he failed the MCATs the first time, reinforcing the stereotype of male nurses as men who are not smart enough to be physicians. Still, HawthoRNe continued to tell millions of viewers helpful things about nursing skill and how nurses affect patient outcomes. We thank those responsible. see the full season 2 analysis here...
May 24, 2011 -- Los Angeles media outlets have run substantial pieces about UCLA's May 12 symposium on nursing portrayals in Hollywood, at which Truth executive director Sandy Summers was a keynote speaker. On May 16, the Los Angeles Business Journal published a strong op-ed by UCLA nursing dean Courtney H. Lyder, "Image Could Use a Booster Shot: Hollywood routinely misdiagnoses the crucial and varied roles that nurses play in health care." Dean Lyder describes the symposium and argues that the entertainment industry should devote as much attention to being accurate about nursing as it does to getting other details right. Today, UCLA Magazine posted a long article about the symposium, Andriana Trang's "The Truth About Nurses" The piece includes descriptions of the presentations by Summers and University of Pennsylvania communications scholar Joseph Turow, as well as comments from UCLA nursing professor and symposium organizer MarySue Heilemann. And the UCLA School of Nursing site posted a long, informative article, "Groundbreaking Symposium Examines Media Portrayals of Nurses," with quotes from Turow, Summers, and others who spoke at the conference.
June 9, 2011 -- The 2010 edition of Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk now sells for $10 as a paperback from Amazon or Barnes & Noble! Plus, the Apple iBook and B&N Nook editions are priced at less than $7! The 2010 edition of Saving Lives has a new foreword by bestselling nurse author Echo Heron. And it is revised and expanded, discussing Nurse Jackie and other new shows, and featuring updated information throughout. You can also get an author-signed paperback copy when you become a member of the Truth or renew your membership for $30 (click here!). Please help support the Truth's effort to change how the world thinks about nursing today. These affordably-priced editions make great gifts for colleagues, students, or even to help family and friends understand the value of what nurses do. All royalties for the multiple award-winning book go directly to support non-profit nursing advocacy work. Thank you!
Media images of health care--like the ones on ABC's popular Grey's Anatomy-- have an important effect on the nursing profession. Many nurses and nursing students feel frustrated when influential media products undervalue nurses. But how can we change what the media tells the public about nursing? Sandy Summers has led high-profile efforts to promote more accurate and robust depictions of nursing since 2001. She has shared her insights in dynamic presentations to groups across North America. She empowers nurses and teaches them how to shape their image into one that reflects the profession's true value. When nurses get the respect they deserve, they will attract more resources for nursing practice, education, and research, so we can resolve the nursing shortage. Sign Sandy up for your next conference, nurses' week celebration, or gala event! Click here for more details.
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The Truth About Nursing is an international 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.
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Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Founder and Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21212-2937
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