RN Takes to the Airwaves

RN Takes to the Airwaves
By Lisette Hilton
Nursing Spectrum/Nurseweek
Monday September 11, 2006

A radio talk show puts nursing right out front.

Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA, thought nurses were the ultimate health care educators, yet they were underrepresented as health care experts in the media. To bring nurses to the forefront, Ficarra launched and today hosts and produces Health in 30, a live, unedited, radio show.

Every Friday, Ficarra and a guest expert discuss a health care topic from 5:30 PM to 6 PM on WRCR (1300 AM). The show also goes live on www.wrcr.com, which reached some 800,000 people from May to July of this year; Ficarra launched the show in late April 2006. Thanks to the Internet, the show reaches far beyond the radio’s Rockland County airways into the national listener market.

Ficarra, who still keeps her hand in traditional nursing by working per diem at Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, N.J., as an administrative head nurse, says the program inspires and educates consumers.

Many of her guests are registered nurses and nurse practitioners, and Ficarra says nurses are great guest experts. “They’re so sharp. They provide so much valuable information to the listeners,” she adds.
Ficarra’s trademarked tagline for the show is “Always speak. Ask. Know.”

“I’ve always been a proponent for people to speak up and ask questions, and I think now I’m even more so. I think patients get intimidated by health care professionals, but I’m always making it a point on the show that everyone should speak up and ask,” Ficarra says.

While Ficarra says she is a nurse first, she has a media coach and has learned about how to communicate via media outlets, for example, through associations such as the National Association of Medical Communicators. She has raised her own money to keep the radio show afloat, because her writing and producing the show hasn’t left much time for selling advertising.

Ficarra addresses a spectrum of health topics with national experts based on what she hears about and thinks the public needs to know. The topics range from “Decorating for Stress-free Living” to “Take Charge of your Diabetes,” with a guest spot by an RN adult nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator. She interviews authors and has planned an interview with New York Times reporter Abby Ellin, to discuss her book Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat Kid Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight and How Parents Can (and Can’t) Help.

Sandy Summers, RN, MS, executive director of the Center for Nursing Advocacy, was on the program to speak about nursing’s image. A nurse faculty member at Yale University discussed heart disease in women and its prevention. Physicians and other health care professionals talk on the show as well; for example, one physician spoke on safety in the sun and the prevention of melanoma. During the shows, Ficarra takes calls and questions from the audience.

She says the show is a labor of love. “I love it so much. Otherwise, I couldn’t do it, because it’s pulling me in so many directions – from writing, producing, and trying to go out and get advertisers,” she adds.

Ficarra, who has been an oncology and med-surg nurse and has spent the most recent part of her career in all areas of the hospital as an administrative head nurse, is gaining notoriety for her work in radio. In November, she’ll be the keynote speaker at the National Primary Care Conference for nurse practitioners in Boston, on the topic: “Professional Development in the Media and Behind the Microphone.” She says the program will teach nurses how to communicate with the media.

And Ficarra has big plans for her Health in 30 show, although she says she has no plans to leave hospital administration. Ficarra would like to take the concept of the show to television and has already met with a producer who is marketing it to different networks.

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