Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk

· Oxford University Press
2 reviews

About this ebook

For millions of people worldwide, nurses are the difference between life and death, self-sufficiency and dependency, hope and despair. But a lack of understanding of what nurses really do -- one perpetuated by popular media's portrayal of nurses as simplistic archetypes -- has devalued the profession and contributed to a global shortage that constitutes a public health crisis. Today, the thin ranks of the nursing workforce contribute to countless preventable deaths. This fully updated and expanded edition of Saving Lives highlights the essential roles nurses play in contemporary health care and how this role is marginalized by contemporary culture. Through engaging prose and examples drawn from television, advertising, and news coverage, the authors detail the media's role in reinforcing stereotypes that fuel the nursing shortage and devalue a highly educated sector of the contemporary workforce. Perhaps most important, the authors provide a wealth of ideas to help reinvigorate the nursing field and correct this imbalance. As American health care undergoes its greatest overhaul in decades, the practical role of nurses -- that as autonomous, highly skilled practitioners -- has never been more important. Accordingly, Saving Lives addresses both the sources of, and prescription for, misperceptions surrounding contemporary nursing.

Ratings and reviews

2 reviews
Richard Kimball
August 4, 2015
Savings Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk is by far the most overlooked and influential nursing book that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The book shows how the media’s portrayal of nursing negatively affects not just nurses, but also patients, the healthcare system, and public health policy. The book advocates for a cleaner, more accurate, and overall more professional depiction of nurses in today’s media. It is able to do this through its well-written narrative and the use of case studies of numerous negative portrayals of nurses in the media today—especially from high-impact television programs. Interspersed throughout the book are references and evidence from diverse research areas backing up the authors’ arguments with statistics, and to add color and life to the emotional stories of nursing care. As an example, the authors describe cases of nurses who have saved the lives of countless veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The media articles that are generated by these heroic acts of nurses using their professional knowledge and skills, give credit solely to the physicians who “saved” the veterans. Further examples discuss common damaging nursing images in the media. One common misportrayal is that nursing is an extension of medicine, not a distinct science, and something that anyone can do after a quick read on the Internet. The “handmaiden” stereotype shows nurses as doctors’ “yes men”- seen prominently in Grey’s Anatomy— and are simply there to carry out any and all medical commands. The authors illustrate this power imbalance between medicine and nursing with innovative Venn diagrams highlighting the power imbalance. The authors also discuss the “naughty nurse”, “angel” and “battle axe” images that they show are damaging to nursing. Throughout the book, the authors draw the reader to the effects that the media’s portrayal of nursing has on the way decision-makers think about nursing, which is not only blatantly inaccurate, but dangerous to the public’s health. The authors discuss how this negative image results in poor care and treatment—of patients and nurses. The media images set up negative stereotypes that are grounded in sexism and power imbalances that contribute to the uniformly negative international image of nursing. Ultimately, the authors don’t let the build up of negative examples in the seven chapters concerning the main nursing stereotypes impede them from ending the book with a powerful positive message to the public and to nurses on the roles they can and should play to improve public understanding of nursing and nursing portrayals in the media. The authors discuss what steps each group—general public, physician, journalist or nurse—can do to make a difference to improve the image of nurses. The authors argue that an improved nursing image will not only help strengthen nursing as a profession, but will by extension improve health care and patient care delivery as a whole. Saving Lives is a book that uses the media’s depiction of nursing to intelligently discuss how important and critical nurses and nursing care are to patients and the health care system—educating readers about the value of nursing. Nurses and other health care professionals can also use this book as an educational tool to remind us about professions' true skills and value to health care. Additionally, the book advocates for changes in the media that could impact the plight of nurses internationally, raising global professionalism. The book advances health care and celebrates nursing as an autonomous and distinct science. The book advocates for nurses with its own leaders who quietly and professionally serve patients everyday and are the true unsung heroes of the health care system, savings lives each and every day. I urge you to buy this book and apply its message to our fragile health care system- read it, listen to its message, and implement the changes it proposes.
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About the author

Sandy Summers is the founder and executive director of The Truth About Nursing. She practiced nursing for many years in the emergency departments and intensive care units of major U.S. trauma centers. Ms. Summers has master's degrees in nursing and public health from Johns Hopkins University. A native of Connecticut, she lives with her family in Baltimore. Harry Summers is the senior advisor of The Truth About Nursing. A lawyer who practices in Washington, DC, his background includes international development work in Cambodia and a Fulbright scholarship in New Zealand. Mr. Summers has degrees from Columbia and Georgetown. A native of Pennsylvania, he lives with his family in Baltimore.

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