Changing how the world thinks about nursing

Join our Facebook group Twitter bird search box

For immediate release
December 16, 2003

Sandy Summers 410-323-1100
or 443-253-3738

Nurses find orangutan "nurse" on NBC's Passions less than precious

December 16, 2003 -- The Truth About Nursing has launched a campaign to protest the use of an orangutan to play a character called "Nurse Precious" on the NBC soap opera Passions. Since March 2003, the campy daytime drama has featured the monkey in the role of a private duty nurse of one of its characters--a bold step backward in the already slow evolution of the media's treatment of nurses.

The Truth About Nursing believes that degrading mass media images of nursing, like the one on Passions, reinforce powerful stereotypes that contribute to the critical nursing shortage that is now one of the world's most urgent health crises. Truth executive director Sandy Summers says: "The notion that nursing is a job that an orangutan could do is too close to what much of the media has long suggested, and too much of the public still believes. Recent research confirms that entertainment programming affects what people, especially youngsters, think about health care." Summers notes that real nurses are highly skilled, autonomous professionals with years of college-level education.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has also launched its own campaign to stop the use of the orangutan on Passions. While the Truth and PETA object to the use of the orangutan for different reasons," Summers says, "we share the goal of seeing Precious retired from the show. With the efforts of both groups, we hope to convince those responsible to end this harmful portrayal, which is offensive to so many different people."

Summers has a ready answer to the suggestion that no one will believe an orangutan could really do a nurse's job. She notes that one nurse recently wrote to the makers of Passions that a physician had once told her: "I could train monkeys off the street to do your jobs!" "That shows nurses are fighting inaccurate popular beliefs that are so deeply held, even many of their own colleagues share them," says Summers. In fact, she notes, nurses are critical thinkers who save or improve millions of lives every day, in part by detecting and intervening to stop deadly threats like infections and medication errors.

"The work of physicians would never be portrayed as so easy that a monkey could do it," Summers points out. In stark contrast to the treatment of nursing on Passions, the show's NBC web site describes another character, "Dr. Eve Russell," as the "beautiful and compassionate town doctor," and until recently noted that she "enjoys a successful career as a doctor." See NBC's web page devoted to Precious.

The Truth About Nursing, founded in 2001, is a Baltimore-based non-profit that seeks to increase public understanding of the central, front-line role nurses play in modern health care. The focus of the Truth is to promote more accurate, balanced and frequent media portrayals of nurses and increase the media's use of nurses as expert sources. The Truth's ultimate goal is to foster growth in the size and diversity of the nursing profession at a time of critical shortage, strengthen nursing practice, teaching and research, and improve the health care system.

For more information on the Passions campaign, contact:

Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21212-2937