RN Uses the Media to Reach Larger Audience
By Glenna Murdock, RN, contributor
Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA has a lot to say and people are listening.
Ficarra is the originator, producer, writer and host of Health-in-30, a 30-minute weekly radio program that airs live every Friday evening from 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST, broadcast on WRCR-AM 1300 Radio Rockland (New York) and live online at www.wrcr.com. Each week her show addresses a health issue as she interviews guests who are considered experts on the specific subject being featured. Her goals are to educate the public and to get more RNs involved in educating.
“I have always thought of nurses as educators,” Ficarra said. “They have so much to offer the public.” With her radio program, Ficarra has taken the information nurses have to offer to a broader audience. She selects topics based on what she feels the public needs to know and tries to keep them timely. She scheduled, for instance, a program about Lyme Disease at the beginning of summer, before the deer tick-borne disease kicks into high gear, and she is planning to address the problem of teenage drinking and driving just prior to this spring’s prom and graduation season.
It was Ficarra’s graduate school thesis that jump-started her media career. Her advisor was impressed with the extensive research and interviews that made up her thesis, Stem Cell Transplantation, and encouraged her to “take it further.” Looking back, Ficarra now thinks he meant that she should expand it into a book. Instead, she tried to get the topic produced as a television program. Although a network was interested in producing the piece, she was unable to find the sponsors she needed to make that happen but her quest sparked an interest in media.
“I realized, as a registered nurse and health care professional, that there was a lack of nurses in media. Often nurses are portrayed inaccurately in television dramas. They are not portrayed as the true professionals they are, and I wanted to change that,” Ficarra said. “I began taking media classes and hands-on training classes, learning TelePromTer, interviewing skills, anchoring and on-air hosting, among other skills.”
Health-in-30, which uses the slogan Health Care Professionals Coming Together for You, was first created as a treatment for a television show. “The idea for radio didn’t come until I approached the radio station, asking them if I could write and read just a 60-second health report,” Ficarra explained. “The station suggested that I host a live half-hour health radio show instead.”
Ficarra, with the help of Delaney Computers, has created the www.Healthin30.com website. It is an extension of the radio show and is dedicated to the responsible sharing of healthcare information. One facet of the website is the “Speak Out” prompt, where all healthcare communicators can sign up to be a guest on the Health-in-30 show and/or write for the website. Healthcare communicators come from a number of professions and include attorneys, journalists and best-selling authors, as well as physicians and nurses. Nurses are especially encouraged to sign up in order to give them a larger presence and better representation in the media.
Working with Scribe Media, Ficarra has begun filming Health-in-30 for online videos. So far, two shows have been filmed. The first is entitled Integrative Medicine, the second is The Nursing Shortage, Part I—the Dialogue Begins.
Ficarra earned a BSN from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration with a specialty in Health Administration from Long Island University. Her work experience has been broad, covering many and varied medical specialties. She is currently employed by Hackensack (New Jersey) University Medical Center as an administrative head nurse, managing all medical/surgical units and critical care units. Her vast experience in so many areas has kept her in touch with the needs of the public and the information they want. She draws on that experience to determine the subjects she addresses on her show.
Ficarra is in demand as a speaker at professional conferences. On her upcoming schedule is the keynote speech, Using Our Voice, for the American Association of Critical Care Nurses on April 20, 2007 in Fairfield, New Jersey.
She is especially pleased that she has been invited to speak on April 12, 2007 at the American Medical Association 27th Annual Medical Communications Conference at the Grand Hyatt-Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida. The title of her speech is Insider’s Guide to Getting On-Air: What a Passion, a Goal and Hard Work Can Do.
“I am truly excited,” Ficarra said. “It’s a monumental step for nurses to be included with physicians. To be invited to speak at the conference and offer my expertise and experience is thrilling. It’s a positive step when we’re working together toward one goal. We are, after all, all in this together.”