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The Truth About Nursing: Changing How the World Thinks About Nursing

Posted Feb 19 2009 6:12pm

The Truth About Nursing (TTAN) is a new, Maryland-based non-profit organization that promotes nursing by insisting on accurate portrayals of the profession by all media, be it television, movies or print. TTAN is a tough taskmaster, keeping a close eye on the media and raising a ruckus when they get it wrong.

I’ll bet most of us watch an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “House” and say, ‘That would never happen,’ or ‘What really goes on in the hospital is nothing like that,” and let it go at that. Thank goodness TTAN is on the ball, watching out for the rest of us who, for whatever reason, rarely, if ever, take action.

It’s easy to say, “Oh, it’s just TV—what’s the big deal?” But TTAN says it is a very big deal indeed. Just two examples: The media continue to diminish the value of nurses and the major contribution they make in managing the world’s health. The media allow major physician characters in TV medical dramas to demean and disparage nurses. In so doing, media is also adding to the problem of the world’s nursing shortage and, ultimately, untold unnecessary deaths across the globe. When a profession is depicted as lacking esteem and respect, or represented as performing unimportant tasks, it is difficult for that profession to attract the numbers of quality practitioners necessary to do its job well.

TTAN wants the world to know exactly what it is nurses do—and, we do plenty. But, the majority of the populace has no idea regarding the level of education and skill that nurses bring to their work or the magnitude of the responsibility we carry.

A major complaint of TTAN is that TV medical dramas most often show physicians doing the work that is done almost exclusively by nurses. Wouldn’t we all love to see a real life situation where the physicians really were left to do it all with no help whatsoever from nurses? What a chaotic scene that would be!

We all need to get involved in helping set the record straight and TTAN has simplified the process for us. Go to and click on campaigns, take action or contact us. There is great information on all three pages.

TTAN’s executive director, Sandy Summers, has written a new book, “Saving Lives,” with co-author Harry Summers. Two chapters of the book are devoted to a plan that tells in simple terms how each of us can help change how the world thinks about us. I haven’t yet had a chance to read and review the book or to get a good look at the plan but I’ll be writing more about all of it in the near future.

Come on nurses, get on board. We have important work to do.

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