Nurses in the Media

by Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

It was at the American Medical Association’s Medical Communications Conference when the words of Julie Gerberding, M.D., Director for the CDC validated what is imminent in the minds of some nurses, or at least mine; that it is both health care professionals at the bedside, doctors and nurses that make excellent medical communicators.

Nurses are generally regarded as being kind, compassionate and angelic. What is not generally recognized are their sharp assessment skills, educational expertise and the vital and often primary role a nurse plays in providing quality health care. Yet it is this combination of compassion, understanding and expertise that makes nurses a perfect choice as advocates and educators in health care. This is the message that the nursing profession needs to convey to the public and the media at large.

A large part of the current image problem is attributable to nurses themselves. As a group, nurses tend to be silent and passive, willing to assume a supporting role in the healthcare industry. Until they change their self-perception of their importance within the health care community, nurses will never receive the recognition they deserve. Nurses need to stand tall as a strong group of professionals with a strong voice. Contrary to the opinion of some nurses in the industry, nurses do possess the power to improve their image. It all begins with nurses recognizing themselves as the health professionals that they truly are and stepping forward to utilize their knowledge and expertise to educate the public.

Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm for becoming vocal in the media is a remnant from the shortage of nurses. Overworked, underpaid, burnt-out, lack of respect, stressful work environment, poor interdisciplinary team approach and lack of communication within the system are all symptoms of the present nursing shortage; nonetheless nurses cannot afford to take a step back. Nurses must be pro-active and speak out as advocates on behalf of their chosen profession.

First and foremost, nurses must consider themselves communicators; after all constant communication with patients, families and other healthcare professionals occurs on a daily basis. Communicators, from helping a patient and family member reduce their anxiety of the unknown, advocating for their patient, explaining a procedure, educating them on medications, questioning a physician’s order, offering a voice of reassurance or a hand that saves a life; always a communicator, always professional.

If nurses want society to recognize them as a strong group of educated men and women, nurses must do whatever it takes to get their voices heard. There are always excuses why something cannot be done. Change does not occur with excuses, change occurs through effort. Nurses must step forward and out-of-the-box so society can recognize them as true professionals. Nurses must be ready to go beyond the day to day and give more of themselves to make it happen. After all, don’t you truly deserve to be recognized?

There are many avenues available to help nurses become active in communications. One such conference is The American Medical Association’s Medical Communication Conference. The AMA’s Medical Communications Conference is a must for medical professionals who want to learn first hand media training. The National Association of Medical Communicators is an excellent association to join for those interested in medical communications. Bottom line, we can do this together for the benefit of us all. (Subsequent article to follow regarding various media outlets and training centers).

Thank you once again to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) for the Journalism Award of Excellence for the Health in 30™ Radio Show on the “Ins and Outs of the ER.”

General Public and Professionals – We Would Like to Hear From You! Please email us and let us know your thoughts on nurses. How would you define nursing today? How would you describe a nurse? Do you think nurses are misrepresented in the media? Are nurses portrayed inaccurately? Are nurses doing enough to elevate the profession? Any thoughts on nursing would greatly be appreciated. Please email Thank you so much for your time! Your input is greatly appreciated! Please forward to family and friends. Thank you so much.

Here’s What People Are Saying:

Hi Barbara!

I just finished watching the show you did with Sandy- great questions!!!!

History shows that professions (or people…) do not elevate their status by being REACTIVE- only by being PROACTIVE! By merely begging for the attention of “important” people with a list of our complaints, nurses will NEVER get the respect we deserve. Respect is earned by rising above a difficult situation, offering solutions and leading the way to a better place. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. (who led a much more oppressed group than nurses….), “I have a dream!”

Once again, thank you for the insight you have into our profession. It is rare and very much needed!!!!

Kind Regards,

Ruth Amos, JD, RN

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