In the Media: Nursing Champion Calls on Hollywood to Portray Realities of Nursing

Aug 6, 2014, 9:41 AM

This is part of the August 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

The TV is a funhouse mirror—at least when it comes to its portrayals of nurses.

That’s the view of Leah Binder, MA, MGA, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, a national organization that promotes quality and safety in hospitals, and a member of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action’s Champion Nursing Coalition.

In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal’s The Experts blog, Binder says television medical shows badly distort everyday life in hospitals and health care facilities. “Tune to your favorite hospital drama and count how many characters are nurses and how many are doctors,” she writes. “More likely than not, you will find about 10 doctors for every one nurse. The reality is roughly the opposite: There are about 10 times more nurses than physicians in the hospital down the street from you. Most of what hospitals do is deliver expert nursing care.”

These types of media-inspired distortions, she writes, cause confusion and dismay among health care consumers and may discourage young people from pursuing nursing as a profession at a time when more nurses are needed to combat looming shortages.

The entertainment industry, she writes, must “acknowledge the actual work of nurses. ... The best and the brightest young people might think from watching TV that it’s a waste of their talents to aspire to a career in nursing, but we need them! We also need to reverse the nursing shortage.”

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.