1. Osterlund, Hob APRN-BC


Tuning in to Nurse Talk radio-just for the fun of it.


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A caller named Mary Ellen describes having very swollen legs, "from my groin down to my toes."

Figure. Nurse Talk's... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure.

"Oh my God, your death is imminent," deadpans radio cohost Maggie McDermott, in an undiluted Irish brogue. With her up-for-anything tone, McDermott's cohost, Casey Hobbs, chides her: "Now Magster, let's not start right like that."


Despite that comic exchange-recounted for fans and visitors alike on their radio show's Web site-Mary Ellen ultimately leaves the air with some authentic health care wisdom. She has also joined the fun, which was the intention of Nurse Talk from the start.


The show's premise is based on the theory that most people don't pay attention to the details of health care unless there's an urgent need. Enter Nurse Talk. Each broadcast features guests who can talk about health care issues and dishes up just enough comic relief to make health education both appealing and accessible.


The idea for Nurse Talk bubbled to the surface several years ago, when Hobbs and Pattie Lockard-who would later become the show's executive producer-were listening to Car Talk on National Public Radio. It dawned on them that they were happily learning about a topic in which they had minimal interest-car mechanics-because the show was just plain funny. "People tune in for the entertainment," says Lockard. "We wanted to do the same thing for health care."


While the idea was simmering on the back burner, Hobbs crossed professional paths with McDermott, an RN who has been working in home care at San Francisco General Hospital for the past decade. McDermott says that when she met "Kissy" (which is what the name sounds like when she says it), she "told her she was as useful as any small pan around the kitchen."


"I didn't know if that was a compliment or what," Hobbs remembers. Turns out it was. They decided to try their hand at cohosting the show.


Neither of them had radio experience. "They have a chemistry that works," says Lockard, chief executive officer of Harmax Productions, which produces the show, and the only one among the three with entertainment production experience. "Casey never met a topic she didn't have a strong opinion on," she laughs. "Maggie? She prefers funerals to weddings because the meals are free and she doesn't have to bring a gift."


Collectively, Hobbs and McDermott have more than 60 years of nursing experience. Hobbs started as a nursing assistant, worked as an LVN, and received her nursing degree from the State University of New York in 1989. Since then she's worked in a number of specialties, including home care and telephone triage. She's now a hospice supervisor in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.


McDermott-the youngest of nine children-moved to the United States from Ireland in 1964, with only a 6th-grade education. Like Hobbs, she became an LVN. In 1975 she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Purdue University. "I still haven't done one single day of high school," she says with a verbal wink.


To test-drive the show, Hobbs and Lockard invested their own funds. Nurse Talk first aired in 2008 on a progressive station in San Francisco, KKGN, also known as Green 960. Fortunately, support came quickly from the California Nurses Association (CNA). "They loved the idea," says Hobbs. "In fact, they became a major sponsor in 2009. They're a national presence, and our goals are very compatible." The CNA also suggests hot topics-and experts on those topics-for the show.


"We have to make health care conversations more commonplace," McDermott says. "On the radio people can be anonymous and ask embarrassing questions; people need to know stuff. But they might not ever listen if it weren't for the humor."


Nurse Talk is planning for wider exposure. "You can already hear us on a live stream anywhere in the world," says Lockard. "I'd love to see us as a radio show in drive time [radio's counterpart to TV's prime time], with people calling in and being part of a national conversation."


The show's subtitle, "'Cause Laughter Is the Best Medicine," may make their programming sound lightweight, but Nurse Talk is unafraid to explore exquisitely unfunny topics like the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu outbreak, childbirth deaths among African American women, patients' battles with health insurance companies, and the complexities of national health care reform.


In addition to experts, guests on Nurse Talk include people with personal stories. Marsha Podd, "The Baby Whisperer," has appeared. Mike Michaud, host of the Internet radio show Life Without Limitation, recently talked about his success in dealing with HIV and AIDS. Cameron Harris, a young man with type 1 diabetes and a flare for giving tips on dealing with the disease, is a regular on the show.


Despite its hosts' lack of radio experience and having little start-up funding, Nurse Talk is on the move. "We don't know where this is all going, but there's a very powerful energy when you know something is meant to be," says Hobbs.


Nurse Talk can be heard online at,, or Osterlund, APRN-BC