Are Nurses Losing Ground? Part 2

In my last post I discussed the Woodhull Study that was published in 1998, which showed nurses were quoted in the media (newspapers) 4% of the time. The 2017 replication of study showed a drop to 2%.


Click here to view a video discussing the study, findings, limitations, and input from a panel of journalists/media experts. At the end of this post, I’ve listed some suggestions to improve nursing presence given by the nurse researchers and media panel (In no special order).

But before I get to the list, I was heartened in the last few weeks to note nurses quoted in the media:

In the Nation, May 3, 2018, Nurses have a prescription for the Democratic Party: Back Single Payer, by John Nichols citing nurses as experts in knowing what will help their patients achieve optimal health and what will benefit the health care system.

In letters re: Children of the Epidemic,a nurse wrote to the editor in the New York Times Magazine, May 27, 2018 describing her work with women addicted to crack cocaine during the AIDS epidemic in the ‘90s. During a span of two years, the babies followed by the nurses were on target developmentally. They were not “medical burdens.”

In my local paper, the News & Observer:

  • NPs step up as demand for doctors outpaces supply. (Reprinted from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis) by Jeremy Olson, April 29, 2018
  • Midwives say they can help fill gap in women’s health care,by Anna Douglas and John Murawski, May 20, 2018.
  • Medicare for all,letters to the editor, Patti Rieser, RN, FNP “supporting all medically necessary care, including dental, vision and mental health services and cover everyone from birth.” June 2, 2018.

Now back to the suggestions to improve nurse input and visibility in the media:

  1. Nursing leaders should meet with the PR department of their institutions to inform them about what nurses can contribute.
  2. Schools of nursing can provide media training for students and “media competencies” for nurse instructors/clinical experts.
  3. Nurse researchers should write press releases to the media about their study findings.
  4. Nurses need to make themselves available to journalists; develop a relationship so when a spokesperson is needed, the journalist will think of the nurse.
  5. Increase education in health care policy across nursing educational programs.
  6. Nurses should register with SheSource as experienced experts on health topics.
  7. Nursing schools/colleges are encouraged not to limit communication to other nurses and nursing sites using “inward tweets,” but cast a wider net to contact the non nursing sites/individuals or “outward tweets.”(Journalists look at both Twitter and Facebook for inspiration and sources.)


There are 3.5 million nurses

Physicians are not the center of the universe

Of course, I am always advocating that nurses tell their stories using every media venue available to educate the public, and especially the journalists, about who we are, and what we do, and how we make a difference.

Are Nurses Losing Ground?

I wrote the following blog on February 10, 2013.

I can’t believe I was the only one.

In my last post I referenced The Truth About Nursing blog in which we are asked to write to two journalists who did not mention nurses in their article in Businessweek about Hillary Clinton’s hospitalization. The story read as if doctors were the only health professionals caring for her.

I’ve always been angry about how we nurses are represented in the media and, in this case, how we are ignored in the media. On February 5th, I wrote the journalists the following and copied The Truth About Nursing.

Matthew Lee and Marilynn Marchione,

As a long time nurse I am always sad when I read stories related to health care that omit any mention of the contribution of nurses. In your December 3, 2012 article: “Hillary Clinton hospitalized with blood clot,” you stated Hillary needed hospitalization. Indeed she did. The main reason a patient is hospitalized is to receive the oversight, management and personal care from professional, knowledgeable nurses.
The general public relies on well informed reporting and accurate facts. The doctors were responsible for Hillary’s care in conjunction with nursing care. It is a disservice to the largest group of health care providers that they are dismissed without a mention in your timely and well presented story.

My hope is that in the future you will give credit to the role nurses play in our health care setting.

Thank you,
Marianna Crane

I received the following email from Sandy Summers, co-founder of The Truth About Nursing.

Hi Marianna,

I’ve been meaning to write personally, I’m sorry for the delay. You were the only person out of the 10,000 on our list who wrote a letter to these two journalists. We were thrilled to get your letter and also to read your blog, which laid out so well the problems of the media. Thank you, and keep up the good work!


I can’t believe I was the only one.

The scenario continues.

On May 14, 2018 Shawn Kennedy wrote in AJN, Off the Charts: The Continuing Invisibility of Nurses in the Media

. . . “The 1998 Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media: ‘dismal’ results.
In 1998, Sigma Theta Tau International commissioned a study—the Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media—to examine how the media portrayed nursing. The results were dismal—after examining over 20,000 articles in newspapers and magazines, the researchers found that nurses were mentioned in only four percent of articles about health care

New study. Even worse results.

Last year, Diana Mason and a team from the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and Berkeley Media Studies Group replicated the Woodhull Study as part of a broader study on nurses and the media.
The summary of the results, fittingly released at the beginning of Nurses Week when the media does pay some attention to nursing, were disheartening: nurses are still essentially invisible in the media and rarely sought by media as sources or experts on health care topics. The current analysis is more disappointing than the original: nurses were quoted or appeared as sources in only two percent of articles examined in September 2017. We’ve lost ground!

Why the media ignores nurses.
Other parts of the study looked at why journalists did or didn’t use nurses as sources. Findings:
• they don’t really understand all that nurses do
• the right nurse is hard to find
• public relations staff don’t offer nurses as experts to media
• nurses may be reluctant to speak with media”

My next post will discuss suggestions to increase nurse visibility in the media.

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