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Are nurses getting the respect they need to save lives?

September 22, 2019


  • Fall 2019 TV preview: All your favorites, plus the return of Ratched

  • NIH Director and The Truth About Nursing have a call about NINR

  • Curriculum strategies to strengthen nursing autonomy


Truth Hearts Call the Midwife

Fall 2019 TV preview: All your favorites, plus the return of Ratched

Call the Midwife will still offer a strong portrayal of nursing. Chicago Med and The Resident will show some nursing skill and advocacy, although physician characters dominate them. And the all-physician narratives of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor will remain. The new sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola features a nurse who seems competent, although she also hopes her son will become a physician. And oh yeah—OG battle-axe Nurse Ratched returns in a high-profile Netflix series that will likely be very damaging to nursing.

September 2019 – The new U.S. prime time season offers a range of health-related shows, most highly physician-centric, a few with some value for nursing. First among new shows, we have Netflix's Ratched, an origin story for the prototypical nurse battle-axe that will apparently arrive in late 2019. There’s little chance Ryan Murphy’s show will avoid reinforcing the misogynous stereotype that powerful female nurses must be evil. Please click here to send a letter to the producers! On the new CBS sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola (premiering Sept. 23, 2019), a Detroit sock salesman falls for his cardiac nurse, an immigrant from Nigeria. Abishola seems tough and fairly knowledgeable, but sadly, she also tells her son she wants him to become a physician so he can take care of her when she is old. The show seems unlikely to focus on the clinical setting. On another new CBS sitcom, Carol’s Second Act (Sept. 26, 2019), a woman becomes a physician at 50 and is surrounded by much younger medical interns. Five of six main characters are physicians. There are no nurses. And among returning shows, physicians likewise still dominate. It’s true that the BBC’s powerful Call the Midwife (early 2020) will offer a ninth season of nurse-midwives providing expert, autonomous community health care in 1960s London. The show has roughly 10 major nurse characters, more than every other show discussed here combined. Tune in to Call the Midwife to see the best show for nursing! Also, the reboot of the family sitcom One Day at a Time will be back for a fourth season in 2020, although on CBS’s streaming service Pop TV, not Netflix. Lead character Penelope, now a nurse practitioner, has shown some health skills, although the show’s understanding of nursing is limited. ABC’s The Good Doctor (Sept. 23, 2019), back for a third season, focuses on a brilliant young surgeon who has autism. There are six major physician characters, but no nurses. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (Sept. 26, 2019) returns for a 16th season with a dozen brilliant surgeons doing everything that matters, and a few appearances by meek handmaiden nurses. NBC’s New Amsterdam (Sept. 24, 2019), back for a second season, focuses on the brilliant medical director at a fictional version of New York’s Bellevue Hospital. All six major characters are physicians. NBC’s Chicago Med (Sept. 25, 2019), starting its fifth season, is also mainly about six physicians. But it has two competent emergency nurse characters who actually think and talk, plus a strong hospital executive who is a nurse. Fox’s The Resident (Sept. 24, 2019) returns for a third season focusing on the exploits of a rebellious (and brilliant) Atlanta hospital resident. Five main characters are physicians, but the sixth is nurse practitioner Nic Nevin, who displays skill, advocacy, and some autonomy. Returning shows from overseas, like the U.K.’s The Good Karma Hospital (available in the U.S. on Acorn), also offer physician-centric visions. At least the final season of Canada’s Mary Kills People (not yet available in the U.S.) features a nurse as the wisecracking sidekick of the euthanizing physician lead character. Click on the images to read our full analysis of each show. Or read our full 2019 fall TV preview here. Please join us in encouraging better portrayals of modern nursing!

The Resident

One Day at a Time


Bob Hearts Abishola

Carol's Second Act

Call the Midwife

Chicago Med

Grey's Anatomy

The Good Doctor

New Amsterdam


NIH Director and the Truth About Nursing have a call about NINR

On Friday Sept. 20, 2019, Truth executive director Sandy Summers had a 45-minute call with NIH Director Francis Collins. We discussed Dr. Collins's letter regarding our concerns about the leadership of the National Institute of Nursing Research, as well as the Truth About Nursing's letter in response.

The Director listened closely to our views and we believe he now has a better understanding of our concerns about the interim leadership of NINR. However, he explained some apparent constraints at NIH, and we have not yet found a way forward. So we have posed some follow-up questions regarding potential ways nurses may provide the interim leadership of NINR, and once we learn more we will send an update.

So please stay tuned. And thank you to the 4,000+ letter-writers! Please keep the pressure on and encourage others to join our campaign!

Truth's letter to NIH Director

Please keep circulating our campaign, asking friends, students and colleagues to send a letter. Change the initial sentence if you can, or just send ours if you don't have time. The form allows you to send more than one letter if you have additional thoughts to share. Keep the pressure on to encourage the NIH Director to appoint only nurses to lead NINR. Thank you!

Take Action!

Click here to sign the letter--or write one of your own!

Francis Collins

Francis Collins, MD, NIH Director, needs further encouragement to appoint nurses to lead NINR

Dentist Lawrence Tabak, NINR's new Interim Director

Dentist Lawrence Tabak, NINR's new interim Director

Tara Schwetz

Biologist Tara Schwetz, NINR's new interim deputy director

We can turn $5/month into a more empowered nursing profession. Join us?


Planning your curriculum?

We have ideas

Many nursing professors rely on the extensive and varied materials on the Truth's website to help their students engage with critical issues nurses will face in the future, from their public image to key aspects of nursing education, practice, and advocacy. Since 2001, we have explored and analyzed how the global media and society in general has seen the nursing profession. Join your colleagues and use this material to help plan your curriculum! Please consider some of these ideas... 

Curriculum planning

Speaking Engagements

Having an event? Book the Truth About Nursing's founder and executive director today!

Let Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, empower your nurses and help them fully embrace their autonomy!

Patients deserve better protection. Let Sandy help your nurses and students fully embrace their autonomy to strengthen nursing care, reduce errors and improve care! Sandy speaks widely to a variety of international nursing groups. Click here to see details and book her today!

Sandy Summers


How can nurses become fierce advocates?

Sandy Summers delivered an empowering message to new graduates at graduation speech at Widener University's Nightingale ceremony last week

In a short, compelling address, Sandy Summers welcomes new graduates to the field of nursing and inspires them to become fierce patient advocates--to put patients' interests first. Sandy explains her holistic vision of nursing advocacy and shares strategies to help nurses find their voices. She highlights areas in need of our advocacy and offers perspectives on how to overcome the resistance we meet when we challenge the world to do better. Nursing advocacy saves lives, and our patients need us to do it. So please join Sandy and let’s get started!

Widener University


Imagine a world where nurses were fully empowered to protect patients

Get an author-signed copy of Saving Lives for you or a friend

Saving Lives is the transformative book acclaimed by nurses, nursing leaders, scholars, and the media. It can help your friends, colleagues, and students be the strong nurses our profession needs to protect patients from errors, injuries, and disease. See praise for Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk by leaders in nursing and the media as well as the awards it has earned, including three Book of the Year awards from the American Journal of Nursing and an award from Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing. The updated second edition from Oxford University Press is now available! All donations and royalties go directly to support The Truth About Nursing, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Thank you for your support!

Saving Lives book cover

Think about the future

New international text Nurses and Nursing leads off with chapter by Truth leaders

The exciting new textbook Nurses and Nursing: The Person and the Profession includes a chapter on nursing's image by Truth leaders Sandy Summers and Harry Jacobs Summers. Edited by Padraig O Luanaigh, RN, EdD, the thought-provoking new textbook from Routledge "draws on international contributors with a range of backgrounds to explore, engage with and challenge readers in understanding the many aspects and elements that inform and influence contemporary nursing practice." Our chapter is "Nursing's public image: Toward a professional future." We thank Dr. Luanaigh for the opportunity to be a part of this important new project. Please consider this book for your classes in professionalism, nursing and society, and nursing leadership. Click here to request a free copy for review now! See more about the book here...

Nurses and Nursing book cover

Change the world with us!

Your support is what makes it possible for us to improve public understanding of nursing -- one media image at a time. Please make a generous donation today. Thank you!

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