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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Media Watchdogs

Published February 21, 2008 11:34 AM by Kathleen Bensing

For those readers who know me from Career Beat, the column I wrote for ADVANCE for 8 years, you may remember I am passionate about wanting to get the correct message to the public about who nurses are. I encourage all nurses to be "media watchdogs." In other words, if you notice incorrect information about nurses or nursing in the media -- newspapers, radio, television -- or any other publication or outlet, it is your responsibility to call the writer or reporter and simply question the information you heard or read.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. Last evening, on a Philadelphia television station, an investigative reporter related a story about students enrolled in a $12,000, one-year training program for medical assistants. The program claimed to be accredited and advertised its graduates were eligible to take the certifying exam after graduation. I applauded the reporter's choice of this story advocating for consumer protection and specifically for these students.

My problem with the reporting of the piece was it started out with a student in the program identifying herself as a nurse. She says she had previously been a nurse and because of illness had to leave nursing and now wanted to return. In fact, this is what caught my attention. However, then the story switches to this individual then enrolling in this allegedly fraudulent medical assistant program. Of course, this makes no sense at all. I have left a message for the reporter and hopefully he will call me so I can question, first, if I did hear the piece correctly and then if I did educate him about the need to clearly identifiof nurses-RNs, LPNs or non-nursing personnel, medical assistants, in future stories.

I want to emphasize we need the press to help the public receive more accurate information about nursing. So by all means be polite and courteous. You don't want to start off with an adversarial approach that will not result in a positive relationship. As a nurse of 43 years, I want nurses to be recognized for their hard work -- and not be misidentified to the public.


A few days after I read Kathleen Bensing's Media Watchdogs blog , an article appeared in my local newspaper.

March 18, 2008 10:52 AM

I do applaud you for bringing to light the health care careers that often go misrepresented.  I, however, work in a medical field that often goes unnoticed, unrecognized and misrepresented.  I am a Medical Technologist.  You say, " What is that" or " I think I have heard of that, but dont know what they do.."  Well...  we are "The Lab"  Whenever you dial the lab (directly) and speak to a tech regarding a result or to add on a test or to check on a result, you will most likely speak to a Medical Technologist.

I am not talking about the receptionists, the desk clerks or customer service, I am talking about the skilled individuals that are responsible for the 24/7/365 testing of patient samples.  We  have gone to school for 4+1 years and have acquired a Bachelor's of Science degree in a field that intensive in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Hematology, Immunohematology, Genetics, Anatomy and Physiology, Instrumentation and many other ancillary areas.   In addition to the 4 years of college, we have also completed a NACCLS-Acredited 1 year internship in Medical Technology.

What makes this similar to the blog topic is that we (Medical Technologists) are often overlooked as the core part of the laboratory.  The people often associated with 'The Lab'  that the public, the patients and coworkers in a hospital setting often see are the Phlebotomists.  Although important to the lab for a variety of reasons, phlebs are not the 'TECHS'.  

Please do not refer to phlebs as "Lab Techs".  Just as you (nurses) wouldn't want to be referred to as 'medical assistants' or CNAs.

Ryan , MT(ASCP) March 4, 2008 6:48 PM
Buffalo NY

No matter how loud watchdog organizations like the Center for Nursing Advocacy bark, there always seem to be demeaning and tawdry images of nursing in the media.

Take this article from the New York Times' special fashion magazine:


Fashion Emergency


Everywhere you look — from Richard Prince’s kitschy ‘‘Nurse’’ portraits to Keira Knightley’s wartime angel of mercy in ‘‘Atonement’’ to the white-suited vixens in recent videos for Duran Duran and Good Charlotte — Florence Nightingale and friends are having a moment. Not since Catherine Barkley, the love interest in ‘‘A Farewell to Arms,’’ achieved literary immortality wearing ‘‘what seemed to me to be a nurse’s uniform’’ has the peaked-capped protector generated so much cultural traction.

Or so much chic.

Inspired by Prince’s artwork, Marc Jacobs staffed his spring runway for Louis Vuitton with sexy health providers. But if Jacobs was hoping to add Fashion Nurse to Prince’s roster of types — Debutante Nurse, Island Nurse, Dude Ranch Nurse and so on — he need only have looked to real life for a role model: meet Akari Moffat, better known as Ako, the Blabla Nurse, who ministers to the ‘‘fashion sick.’’

Moffat operates Blablahospital, a cultish clothing boutique in London, where her focus is healing. To this petite, 26-year-old Japanese woman, who greets her ‘‘patients’’ in a nurse’s uniform and does her ‘‘operating’’ in a doctor’s coat, fashion sickness is a serious condition. It is a state of boredom with one’s clothes and one’s life that can only be alleviated by dressing like someone, or something, out of a hospital.

During my recent visit to Blablahospital, a tiny stall in Camden Stables Market, Moffat said her idea of curative clothing dates to her childhood, when accidents landed her in the hospital and left her with a fondness for all things medical. Later, as a design student in Tokyo, she began wearing hospital-inspired garb. In the Japanese context, these outfits had an obvious kinship with the get-ups beloved by the fashion-forward youth of Tokyo’s Harajuku district — and associated in this country with Gwen Stefani. (Stefani’s backup dancers, the Harajuku Girls, have also been known to dress as nurses.) Yet even among her outrageous peers, her medical ensembles, worn with striped Raggedy Ann stockings, always stood out. ‘‘When I dressed as a nurse,’’ she recounted with a humor so dry it may not have been humor at all, ‘‘everybody became sick in front of me, saying, ‘Help me, nurse!’ ’’

And so the Blabla Nurse was born, with Moffat bringing her off-the-chart style to one and all, ‘‘from 8-year-olds to 80-year-old grandmums.’’ In truth, I can’t quite picture kiddies or grannies adopting the Blabla look, best described as Rei Kawakubo and Sid Vicious Getting Naughty in the Sick Ward. Her patients are mostly punk: young people whose presumed fashion malaise does not mean fashion timidity. In her shop, I was the only customer whose face hadn’t been pierced and whose hair wasn’t a riot of spikes and horns. Typical was the hedgehog-headed teenager who stopped to browse the Injury Ties. Seeing that the tag on the tie read ‘‘Cure Level: Slight Sickness,’’ I asked what ailed him. ‘‘I don’t have an injury!’’ he bellowed. ‘‘I’m just mad!’’

To such sick puppies, Blablahospital offers a list of treatments as long as a waiting-room line: deconstructed nurses’ caps emblazoned with a red cross; Arm Plasters (casts) appliquéd with ‘‘blood’’-stained bandages; and the aforementioned Injury Ties, which, like the Blabla Injury T-Shirts and Injury Jackets, are adorned with felt crosses, tattered pieces of gauze and/or jagged EKG stitching in contrasting thread. With very few exceptions, the Blabla Nurse’s color palette is restricted to ‘‘Cleanliness Hospital White, Bloody Red and Always Mysterious Black.’’

But if there’s anything mysterious about the Blabla enterprise, it is less the tricolor garments than the mechanisms by which they promote good health. Her pricey prescriptions are exasperatingly vague. A sample Blaba citation: ‘‘Knot nurse’s hair with bandages.’’ What?

Well, as Moffat elaborated by e-mail, ‘‘Blabla = blah blah blah. When you can’t explain and it will be a really long story, you know, ‘blablablabla.’ It means blabla can be anything.’’ That’s probably true. Suffering from my own brand of fashion ennui, I recently sported one of Moffat’s casts to a dinner party, where my spirits soared at my host’s baffled question: ‘‘Why is there a leg warmer on your arm?’’ [/quote]

Abbey Scott February 25, 2008 8:46 AM

Dear Kay,

I read your column for years and still miss it!  I was just thinking about your blog topic.  My husband and I went to see "The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  Though much of it was set in the hospital, there was very little nursing care shown.  I was so disappointed.  The wife of Morgan Freeman's character stated at one point that she was a registered nurse, but so much more could have been done with that to make it more than just a fact.

Now if you wrote a movie or book, I just wonder what you would have to say that would make all of us in the profession shine!

Keep writing, we need you!


Lorettajo Kapinos

Lorettajo Kapinos, Emergency - RN, Baystate Medical Center February 22, 2008 1:40 PM
Springfield MA

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