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Popular cartoon attacks NPs

On March 26, 2019, the cartoon Bottom Liners, which reaches many millions of people nationwide, looked like this:

Eric & Bill attack NPs
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Please join us in asking creators Eric and Bill Teitelbaum, along with Tribune Content Agency, to apologize for this baseless attack on NPs and make amends by running cartoons that reflect reality--that NP care is at least as good as care provided by physicians.

The March 26 Bottom Liners showed a federal lawmaker on the phone assuring someone that “government-run healthcare won’t be that bad…voters get to keep the nurse practitioner of their choice.” One message, clearly, was that nurse practitioners (NPs) are just cut-rate physician substitutes. This is the same disinformation that many physician groups have long been spreading. 

The cartoon exploits a false and damaging stereotype of nurse practitioners. Extensive research shows that the care of nurse practitioners (NPs) is at least as good as that of physicians. The vast majority of NPs have at least a masters degree in nursing, and increasingly the doctorate of nursing practice, along with many years of clinical experience. 

In fact, expanding access to NP care has been critical to improving outcomes in underserved communities for decades. And the central role of NPs in the future of primary care was confirmed in the landmark Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing (2010). 

But uninformed stereotyping of NPs has limited their ability to practice to the full extent of their ability, in addition to limiting the funds available for their education, residencies, and clinical practice. Public health research shows that fictional media has a real effect on health care views and actions. We know that the cartoon was a "joke," but jokes are a common delivery method for harmful messaging about targeted groups, including nurses. For example, studies show that disparagement humor directed at women increases acceptance of discrimination against them, normalizing it. Few people would accept "just joking" as an excuse for stereotyping of other groups.

Please ask Eric & Bill Teitelbaum and the Tribune company to make amends with a public apology and by working to educate the public about the true value of NP care. One good way to do that would be to print cartoons or other influential media depicting nurse practitioners as qualified, life-saving health professionals. The Truth About Nursing would be happy to assist them. And going forward, please ask them to avoid contributing to damaging stereotypes that undermine the efforts of nurses to get the resources they need to save lives. 

Thank you for joining the effort to increase public understanding of nursing!


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