News on Nursing in the Media
October 24, 2013 - MTV's new reality show Scrubbing In, which premiered tonight, focuses on nine young travel nurses in California, but it isn't really about nursing. Sure, the show created a firestorm in the nursing community before it even aired because of advance indications that the nurses might come off as twits 'n' sluts. The first episode does suggest that the nurses were not selected to appear because of their nursing experience or ability to convey an accurate and comprehensive picture of the profession. Instead, they seem to have been chosen for their strong personalities, physical appearance, and eagerness to embrace reality show culture. The vast majority of the episode is the nurses' personal interactions, with a focus on partying, romance, and sex (e.g., "I have big fake boobs!" "Did you guys bring your vibrators?"). Well, that's a different vision of Nursing's Future for show sponsor Johnson & Johnson, whose Neutrogena products were advertised during the episode, isn't it? The episode's limited depictions of nursing are pretty awful. At one point, two nurses do a passable job caring for a patient who looks like she is faking a seizure for the camera, but the scene does not exactly inspire confidence in their skills or knowledge. Another time, a nurse who is apparently on duty is shown practicing starting IV's in a way that suggests she has little idea what she's doing. Another nurse spends significant time trying to help her and is later chastised (rightly) by his supervisor for abandoning his unit. Two nurses show up in California without California nursing licenses (apparently those DUIs were creating a delay!). A nurse sits on her bed wearing dirty scrubs, heedless of the potential for bringing deadly organisms into her personal surroundings, as another nurse points out to her--and to viewers. There is virtually no mention here of nursing education, practice specialties, research, or policy leadership. Nurses, like anyone else, should be allowed to discuss and engage in social activity in any lawful way; nurses are not angels and holding them to regressive personal moral standards actually undermines the profession. But associating nursing with frank sexuality does risk reinforcing the naughty nurse image that the average reality show participant does not face. And watching several of the nurses giggle about looking for "hot doctors" calls to mind the related stereotype that nurses are physician golddiggers. On the whole, the show fails to convey that the vast majority of nurses are serious professionals who save and improve lives with their advanced skills. And because the show's focus and structure is personal drama and self-reflection among reality-show twenty-somethings, many viewers may conclude that nurses in general are not especially serious about their work--and that they don't need to be. The show is likely to reinforce ideas that have long undermined nurses' claims to adequate resources for education and clinical practice and that now threaten the health of millions worldwide. We urge MTV to cancel the show, and we hope that at a minimum, the producers will try to give some sense of real nursing skill. read more...and please join our letter-writing campaign!
May 6, 2013 -- To mark International Nurses Day, the widely-read PARADE magazine today posted on its website 10 portraits drawn from Carolyn Jones's The American Nurse, a coffee table book of portraits published in 2012. On the whole, the portraits and related interview text give a sense of the important, wide-ranging work of nursing. A few even briefly suggest how nurses use their skills to help patients, including an excellent portrait of a New Orleans family nurse practitioner who cares for mothers and babies, and good one in which an Appalachian hospice nurse describes his dream of opening a clinic and addressing the obesity epidemic. The images are diverse; they include two African-Americans, three men, and two advanced practice nurses, as well as nurses who work in a school, a prison, and an aircraft. All interview text includes the professional credentials of the nurses, including graduate degrees. And there is no suggestion that nurses exist to serve physicians. On the other hand, a lot of the text and portraits are infected with emotional "angel" imagery, vague about nursing, or not about nursing at all. Likewise, the introductory statement from Jones--that nurses are a "special breed" combining "innate compassion and learned behavior"--doesn't exactly tell the public anything new or helpful. We also do not learn here that nurses do anything on the cutting edge, or that they are engaged in research or innovation. And although some of the photos are powerful, as past photo collections featuring nurses have shown it's hard for still images to convey the most important thing most people need to learn about nurses--that they are life-saving professionals with advanced skills. We realize that the imagery and text that appears here primarily reflects decisions by Jones, not the nurses. In any case, we thank those responsible for the imagery and text that does advance public understanding of nursing. more...
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! All honoraria go directly to support the Truth's operations. When you invite Sandy to speak, you make the Truth's work possible since honoraria are our biggest source of funding. Thank you! Click here for more details.
Our book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk is available again! If you donate now, we will send you a copy. Saving Lives continues to influence nurses, the media, and members of the public around the world. You can also get the paperback from Amazon. Saving Lives is also available in digital form through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iTunes. Saving Lives has won an American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award and an award from the international nursing honor society, Sigma Theta Tau. Many nursing professors use the book as a text to discuss nursing in society. You can get a free copy--hard copy or digital--with every $30 donation to the Truth About Nursing!
Tell colleagues and patients the truth! Our "I Am Your Registered Nurse" poster presents nurses as autonomous professionals on whom patients can rely. The poster explains that nurses are modern science professionals who protect and advocate for patients and empowers nurses to meet those challenges. Designed for the bedside, the poster comforts patients by educating them about the care environment and assuring them that nurses are there to fend for them.
Or consider the Truth's "Can Short Dresses Cause Short Staffing?" poster. This one takes humorous aim at the naughty nurse image that continues to haunt advertisements and other media, especially those aimed at males. The poster connects the naughty nurse image with the broader undervaluation that leads to gross underfunding of nursing education, research, and practice, ultimately threatening patients.
For every dollar that you donate, we'll send you up to 4 posters to hang at your school or workplace. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us how many you'd like and where to send them. Thank you!
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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.
Thank you for supporting the Truth About Nursing's work!
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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