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Reviews and Advance Praise for Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk

Awards earned by Saving Lives


Advance Praise


      "Saving Lives has a serious point, that the devaluation of nursing--both by overlooking nurses' contributions to positive outcomes for patients, and more subtly by emphasizing their devotion, compassion and self-sacrifice over their lifesaving skills--discourages students from the field and contributes to a critical nursing shortage."

-- Newsweek, Jerry Adler, Senior Editor, in his March 9, 2009 article "The Nurse Will See You Now." See Jerry Adler's larger quote from Newsweek

     A review by Glycosmedia editor-in-chief Jim Young praised the book's "forensic erudition," noting that it "is a thought-provoking dissection of the depiction of nurses and nursing in the entertainment industry and media. ... The detailed explanations of what nurses can and must do themselves to more realistically inform their own image will ensure that the book assumes a unique place in the chronology of the evolution of nursing practice in the 21st century." (see full review in pdf)

--Glycosmedia, Jim Young, editor-in-chief, January 2015  

     "In the new book Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk, co-authors Sandy Summers and Harry Jacobs Summers explore the dated and false images of nursing that still persist in the media, ranging from popular television shows to the crossword puzzle. ... Saving Lives is an important book because it so clearly delineates how ubiquitous negative portrayals of nursing are in today’s media... They argue that these images of nursing degrade the profession by portraying nurses as either vixens, saints or harridans, not college-educated health care workers with life and death responsibilities. The problem with how nurses are portrayed in the media is that it has the potential to devalue the way we view nurses in the real world."

-- The New York Times, Theresa Brown, from "Why Nurse Stereotypes Are Bad for Health," in Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" column, July 1, 2009.  

     "Written with the general public in mind, but with a lot of valuable information for nurses, Saving Lives outlines all the damaging images of nursing in the media including in popular TV dramas and comedies. The naughty nurse, the battle-axe nurse, they’re all described in this must-read book. Then the Summers duo discuss why and how these images minimize the highly scientific, fast-paced, demanding profession of nursing and what that means to patients. ... Chapter 11 is the meat of the book. It is chock full of great tips for nurses, media, authors, general public, e.g., patients, bloggers and Internet aficionados on how to promote a better, more accurate image of nursing. Every nurse should read Saving Lives and then pass it on to their family and friends to read as well." 

-- ADVANCE for Nurses, Gail Guterl, editor, May 20, 2009 in her review.

     "Every nurse should recognise the damage that negative portrayals of nursing in the press, films, television and even books can do to our image. ... This well-researched text explores the negative effects of adverse publicity and how it inhibits our professional growth. ... The book deserves wide reading. Hopefully some firebrand may even be driven to duplicate this study in the UK."

-- Nursing Standard (UK), Dame Betty Kershaw, April 29, 2009 in her review.

     "The pervasive problem in [news and entertainment] media ... is that they almost never accurately portray the important, science-based work that registered nurses do and instead reinforce damaging stereotypes of RNs, argue Sandy and Harry Summers in their persuasive book, Saving Lives."

-- Registered Nurse, Lucia Hwang, editor, July/August 2009 in her review.

     "[The authors] contend vehemently, in this telling book, that the portrayal of nurses by the media is exceedingly harmful; not alone to the nursing profession -- but more crucially to patient care. In the first two parts of this eye-opening media watch book . . . the authors argue articulately that media images of nursing undermine the profession by portraying nurses as background fillers as opposed to university-educated, highly skilled and autonomous health care workers with life and death responsibilities. . . . Most laudable in this book is that the authors do not merely criticise the media’s poor portrayal of nurses but in the concluding part they offer a blueprint on how to improve nurses’ image. . . . If this book has any weaknesses, it would be that it did not carry a caveat indicating it is difficult for any intending or registered nurse to put down."

-- Journal of Clinical Nursing, Jacinta Kelly, RN, MSc, College Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, September 2010 in her review.

     [Saving Lives] does not only highlight all the challenges and issues within the media portrayal, but also gives detailed ways of addressing these issues. The nurses themselves must play a leading role in improving the image of the profession. This includes changing everyday habits and to start living a professional image in our daily dealings with patients and the public. ... A book that every professional nurse must read and can be used in the classroom for discussion groups when teaching ethics and professional practice. A real means of educating the value of nursing in society.

-- Forum for Professional Nurse Leaders, South Africa, Annelie Meiring, Chairperson, Spring 2009 in her review

     "In 300 closely-written pages, the Summers make a number of very strong cases for how the media's ignoring or trivialising of nursing feeds the ignorance that has helped create the lifethreatening global nursing shortage."

-- New Zealand Nursing Review, Fionna Cassie, July 2009 in her review



      "Saving Lives provides a stunning exposé of the media's inaccurate portrayals of nurses and their work, and documents the impact this has on public health. It should be mandatory reading for journalists, script writers, producers, physicians, policymakers, the public, and anyone who perpetuates nursing invisibility and the often blasphemous representations of nurses' everyday heroism. There's no longer any excuse for media creators to fail to speak truth about the exquisite skill and essential contributions of nurses to safe, humanistic, intelligent health care."

     -- Diana J. Mason, RN, PhD, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Nursing, and co-host, HealthStyles, WBAI Radio

     "Saving Lives explains in painstaking detail how our society's chronic trivialization of
nursing as a profession diminishes the quality of health care for all patients, creating
ripple effects with sometimes dire consequences. This book should incite a demand for
a cultural shift in which nurses are valued as the indispensable and highly-trained health
care professionals they are."

      -- Claire M. Fagin, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor Emerita, Dean Emerita, and Interim President Emerita, the University of Pennsylvania

     "Invoking stereotypes about nurses is easy, sloppy, and all too common . Summers and Summers challenge us to imagine a world where nursing is fully recognized, funded, and supported. Saving Lives is a media activism roadmap crucial for reaching this destination."

-- MarySue V. Heilemann, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, UCLA School of Nursing

     "Saving Lives is a fascinating in-depth look at how Hollywood and other media undermine nursing by feeding the public damning myths and derogatory views of nurses decade after decade. The book instills an awareness that will forever change the way the reader views nurses in the media. Reader take warning: you may be left with a strong desire to do something to change the system. Luckily, the authors tell you how."

     -- Echo Heron, RN, author of Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse; Tending Lives: Nurses on the Medical Front; and the Adele Monsarrat medical mystery series

     "Why is watching Grey's Anatomy bad for you? Why is House a public health problem? Read this book and find out. Sandy and Harry Summers provide an insightful and often witty guide to the media's 'nursing problem.' They help us understand the consequences of the media's love affair with physicians and its failure to appreciate the critical work of nurses. This book is an important contribution to the study of nursing and health care."

     -- Suzanne Gordon, author of Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care, co-author of From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public

     "In this irreverent tour of the popular health media, Sandy and Harry Summers lift the cloak of invisibility from the health care professionals who are the front line of healing."

      -- Andrew Holtz, MPH, former CNN Medical Correspondent and author of The Medical Science of House, M.D.

     "Nurses are health scientists who save our lives every day, in countless ways. But most people, unless they've been hospitalized for an extended period, don't know that fact -- thanks to media portrayals of nurses as nothing more than bedpan jockeys, backrub dispensers, and passive handmaidens of brilliant physicians, in whose shadows nurses wilt. This important, long-overdue book vividly illustrates the dynamism and rigor of the nursing profession -- and explains in sobering detail how flawed media images of nursing affect the health of us all."

     -- Ronnie Polaneczky, Columnist, Philadelphia Daily News

     "I did not just 'read' Saving Lives; I could not put it down. With compelling prose and examples, the book reveals how the media has failed at portraying the profession of nursing. If you are a nurse you should be infuriated. If you are in the media you should be ashamed. Fortunately, the authors have included a 'tool box' that provides many ways to seek change."

     -- Richard Kahn, Independent Filmmaker and Producer, Lifeline: The Nursing Diaries; In Our Midst: The Long-Term Impact of Neonatal Intensive Care; and Frontline: Street Cop.

     "Saving Lives is a powerful indictment of how the media portrays nursing today. With astute yet playful analyses of products ranging from Hollywood sitcoms to elite news pieces, this book shows why the media has contributed to poor understanding, which has in turn fueled the global nursing shortage. But the authors also offer a compelling vision for the future, showing how everyone can help nurses lead the way to a new world of health and well-being. The change starts here."

     -- Nancy King Reame, RN, PhD, FAAN, Professor of Nursing, Columbia University, former contributor, iVillage, and co-author, Our Bodies, Ourselves

book cover, Saving lives

A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

Save Lives. Be a Nurse. bumper sticker