1. Freda, Margaret Comerford EdD, RN, CHES, FAAN, EDITOR

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Sometimes it drives me completely crazy. I'll be watching TV or reading the newspaper, and suddenly there it is: a totally false image of a nurse. I tried to watch the new shows "House" and "Grey's Anatomy" on TV, but once I saw that these shows either ignore nursing, insult nurses, or, conversely, show every doctor actually doing what nurses do, I became too exhausted to watch anymore. Physicians are shown not only performing nurses' technical functions such as medication administration, but they also sit with patients and families to discuss their needs, provide holistic care, touch patients, look in patients' eyes and listen to them, offer support, and provide patient education. We all know who does those jobs in hospitals: nurses. Clearly the writers of the shows think these functions are important; it's just that they prefer to show doctors doing these things, not nurses. It gives me a headache. It's particularly irksome when these shows, including ER, show hospital nurses as working "for" doctors. A nurse needs time off? Ask the doctor in charge. A nurse makes a mistake? Go to the doctor in charge for discipline. Need to hire a nurse? Go to the doctor in charge. I guess nurse managers don't exist in television land. Nursing is somehow never an autonomous profession, but a subordinate profession to medicine.


Enter our hero, Sandy Summers, MSN, RN, MPH, the Executive Director of The Center for Nursing Advocacy. Have you been to Sandy's Web site? It's a watchdog Web site ( that monitors the portrayal of nurses in media of all kinds. I hope you'll go there, learn what's happening in the media, and then take some action. Sandy monitors television, newspapers, magazines, and any other media that have stories that could have an impact on the image of nursing. She points out the good portrayals of ones. One recent edition of her Web site described an episode of ER:


Sandy Summers monitors television, newspapers, magazines, and any other media that have stories that could have an impact on the image of nursing. She points out the good portrayals of nursing as well as the misleading ones.


"April 28, 2005-Most of tonight's episode of NBC's 'ER,' written by Lydia Woodward and Lisa Zwerling, M.D., was fairly unremarkable from a nursing perspective. It featured the standard portrayal of nurses as skilled but peripheral physician assistants. However, one scene did call upon intern character Abby Lockhart-also a nurse-to address a patient's dismissive reference to her as a nurse. So, did the show have Lockhart mount a brief but spirited defense of the widely disrespected profession-in-crisis in which she herself spent many years saving lives and improving outcomes? You make the call, based on her indignant response to the patient: 'I am not a nurse. I'm a doctor.'"


It's not possible for each of us to keep up with how nursing is being portrayed in the media. Ms. Summers, therefore, is doing it for us. She then helps us to change misleading images by providing names and addresses of people we can write to, to explain to them why they are hurting nursing through their portrayal. Several months ago she featured a segment of the Dr. Phil show in which he apparently said that nurses were all dying to find a rich doctor so they could get out of being nurses. Thousands of nurses inundated Dr. Phil with e-mails!! He apologized to nurses within days of his original statement and said he'd think more carefully about what he said about nurses from then on.


You might not know that a major company had planned a huge print advertising campaign featuring Christina Aguilera dressed as a "naughty nurse," complete with cleavage, micro-mini uniform, garter belt, and spike heels. Sandy Summers and the nurses active in her organization stopped that campaign before it began. Hooray for one less "naughty nurse" portrayal in the media!! I'd be happy to never see that image again!!


I say let's hear it for Sandy Summers!! She has taken on the difficult job of watching the media and how it portrays nursing because she understands how tremendously powerful television is in how we view the world around us. As much as we would like to think we are not influenced by what we see on television or in magazines, we'd be fooling ourselves. Sandy Summers is actively trying to change things. How many of us can say that? She's not just complaining and feeling frustrated (as I do). She's helping all of us to use our collective voices to contact the writers, producers, and advertisers of media that portray nursing poorly. We should all support her. Go to her Web site, and consider donating to The Center for Nursing Advocacy. Sandy Summers is a modern hero for all of us.