Nursing is a vital part of the healthcare system, yet their presence and contributions in health-related news articles are often overlooked. The 2017 Woodhull Study exposed the minimal coverage of nurses and nursing in the media, with nurses cited as sources in only 2% of health-related articles, compared to 18% of physicians. This is a startling statistic considering nurses outnumber physicians 3 to 1.
The lack of nursing representation in the media is part of deep-rooted gender disparities in the media, with men quoted almost twice as often in health news stories sampled compared to women, and images of men outnumbering those of women. This has a major impact on how people view nurses as experts or key leaders, and it is important that nurses stand up as sources and leaders in the media to help broaden the definition of experts and expand the pool.
Alicia's story highlights the barriers she faced when engaging in a media opportunity and how these are symptoms of larger systemic policy and cultural issues.
On a morning early in March 2022, I didn't know how soon an opportunity would come to use my media skills after I submitted an application to ANA\California's Nurses in Media Training program.
See, I had always been interested in learning how messages are constructed and presented; a foreign topic for most nurses. I wanted to learn how to say things in a way that would resonate and empower critical thinking about important health issues.
So when I completed the media training program, I was excited to put my newly learned skills to the test.
A few days later, I received a message on LinkedIn (where I'd been posting fairly frequently over the past few weeks). A Youtube Channel saw my activity on LinkedIn and reached out to discuss my personal journey and experiences through COVID as a registered nurse.
My initial reaction to receiving this opportunity was the excitement around building rapport with this channel. The process was laid back and they met with me before to go over questions.
I thought this could be a great chance to invite other nurses to discuss their experiences as I would.
I'd even set goals in my head:
I wanted nurses' authentic voices to be heard and shared
I wanted to humanize nursing
I wanted to show the reality of nursing
I wanted to help advance nursing in a time when regressive stories were being told (e.g. gag orders, reusing masks, nursing home deaths)
But the process following the media opportunity was frustrating and left more questions than answers.
During the interview on the Youtube Channel I mentioned my employer at the time was a safety-net hospital. I didn't mention the name of the organization, or specifics about the workplace conditions. However, my LinkedIn profile shares my work history and who I was currently employed by.
I knew this would require me to notify my employer because I'd already read my organization's media policy as part of ANA\California's media training program.
After a few follow-up messages to my marketing and communications department, they responded that since the media opportunity did not come directly to the organization first or at the direct request of the organization, I was not allowed to publish the media opportunity with the Youtube Channel.
I did my due diligence to try and manage the institution's image by going back to the Youtube Channel and having them edit the segment. But at this point, the Channel didn't respond back and the media opportunity was lost.
This left me feeling apprehensive and frustrated because I did not know specifically which part of this media opportunity was contentious or concerning.
This led me to join ANA\California's 2023 Advocacy Institute Fellowship program a month later where I began a new campaign to increase nurses' presence in media.
Over the course of the Fellowship, I reached out to nurse leaders, communication departments, and journalists to better understand the processes behind media opportunities. I reviewed multiple organizations' media policies and identified best practices from several.
While the work is still underway and the campaign begins to enter its 2nd year, the benefits from this work are tenfold.
Nurses, the institutions in which they work, and their professional associations can do more to be strategic about engaging with journalists and claiming their professional authority, expertise, and experiences. Proactively engaging with the media can help expand the pool of sources and make nurses more visible but only if policies and cultures support it.
Institutions of all shapes and sizes have a responsibility to review their media policy and culture best practices to ensure an equitable and presentative system.
ANA\California is the state chapter of the American Nurses Association. ANA\California is a 501(c)6 lobbying organization, advocating for and representing all registered nurses in the state of California, without regard to specialty or practice setting.
Joining ANA\California ensures that registered nurses will continue to provide safe, competent, and quality health care to Californians.