A firefighter cradles a bloodied baby against a backdrop of pluming smoke in Oklahoma City. A police officer rubs his tired eyes in the pews of a city church on a morning after September 11. A famous doctor treats an anonymous toddler on live television after the Haiti earthquake.
These are the kinds of iconic images that capture the country’s imagination during disasters, and turn first responders and emergency medical personnel into national heroes.
Nurses, however, rarely find themselves in the limelight, even though they, too, play key roles during such crises.
But media coverage of nurses took a dramatic turn after Hurricane Sandy.
An image of a nurse who rescued a tender newborn in the dark hours of the raging storm went “viral” soon afterward, appearing in prominent news outlets such as The Daily Beast and CNN under headlines like “The Heroes of Hurricane Sandy.” The image focused on neonatal nurse Margot Condon who, along with her colleagues at the New York University Langone Medical Center, hand-pumped oxygen into the infant’s lungs while descending numerous flights of stairs in the pitch-dark of night after emergency generators failed.
Kim Glassman, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, the chief nursing officer at Langone and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellow (2011-2013), was thrilled to see nurses in the media spotlight. “Nurses are underrepresented in the media,” she said. “But the coverage of nurses during and after Hurricane Sandy displays the intellectual heft and strength that nurses provide for our health care system.”