Los Angeles Business Journal

Image Could Use a Booster Shot

OP-ED: Hollywood routinely misdiagnoses the crucial and varied roles that nurses play in health care. By COURTNEY H. LYDER Monday, May 16, 2011

We live in a city that is home to one of the most influential businesses in the world: the entertainment industry. Capable of entertaining and enthralling the masses, informing and educating the public, the industry wields a delicious amount of power. That’s why it is so important for those entrusted with this power to get it right when telling their stories.

To their credit, they most often do. This is an industry consumed with accuracy. Studios spend years scouting for the right location, designing perfect period costumes, testing the same crash scene over and over, or schooling a star in a foreign accent.

So it seems ironic then that this same industry can’t quite get it right when depicting something so integral to our society and so universally renowned as the nursing profession.

The entertainment industry today continues to portray nurses in the same stereotypical or confusing ways as they did two decades ago: as order-takers, naughty nurses, or dark characters plagued by moral and ethical imbalance.

As someone who interacts with thousands of professional nurses each year, I see a very different kind of nurse – someone who is highly skilled, professional, well-respected, kind, hard-working and, today, on the cutting edge of clinical and scientific research innovation. These nurses are clinicians versed in symptom management and holistic care. Surely it is time for the entertainment media to step up to the challenge and more accurately portray the amazing roles played by 21st century nurses.

That’s why the UCLA School of Nursing, where I am dean, last week sponsored its first national symposium exploring controversial “Media Images and Screen Representations of Nurses” in Los Angeles as part of National Nurses Week.

Today’s nurses possess in-depth health care knowledge, have amazing tools and technologies at their fingertips, play a key role in the patient care process, help drive national health policy and are leading the way in many dimensions of critically important clinical research. In short, they are transforming health care in ways that will have an immeasurable impact on the nation’s health.

Across the health care spectrum, academic nurse researchers are searching for answers that will improve patient outcomes and enhance quality of care. Like many nursing schools today, the UCLA School of Nursing is redefining both the role and image of nursing through research that is helping build the scientific foundation for breakthroughs in disease prevention, pain management and quality of life. Our faculty members – nurses, basic scientists, bio-behaviorists, engineers and physicians – are conducting research in oncology, neuroscience, physiology and genetics.

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