In a recent study of nursing in the media (The Woodhull Study Revisited: Nurses’ Representation in Health News Media 20 Years Later), only 2% of the quotes in 2017 health news stories were from nurses and only 13% of the articles used the word “nurse.” In the original 1997 highly regarded Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media, 4% of the quotes were from nurses.
Why don’t journalists seek out nurses when they’re working on stories about health and healthcare? Primarily it’s because they don’t really know what nurses do. One journalist said that he “covers the business of healthcare, not nursing issues.” In the Woodhull Study Revisited, interviews with journalists revealed that they didn’t understand the range of nurses’ roles, work, and education. They also said they weren’t sure how to find nurses to interview.
It’s that last bit—“they weren’t sure how to find nurses to interview”—where you come in. Nurses must learn how to promote themselves to the health media. That means letting the press and communications staff at your organization know that you’d like to be contacted when journalists are looking to interview someone for a story. If you’re not sure you know exactly how to conduct yourself in a media interview, request training. And don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to local journalists and pitch story ideas or constructively point out where an already published article might have been enhanced with a nursing perspective.
You also can use social media to help spread the good word about nurses, dispel myths, and educate your community. Social media is a great way to connect with other health professionals, but don’t forget that it’s an opportunity to make the important work of nurses more visible to the public. Of course, you want to follow the social media rules of your organization and protect the privacy of your patients and colleagues, but you can do all of that while still advocating for the profession.
Nurses are critical players on every healthcare team. The health media should know that, but they still have a lot to learn. Nurses can help with that. Speak up and let your voice be heard.