Why and how to include more nurses as sources

Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy from Pexels.

Patricia Stinchfield, R.N., M.S., C.P.N.P., has just broken a glass ceiling, but it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of. As the president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), she’s not the first woman to lead the NFID. That would be Susan J. Rehm, M.D., from 2001-2004. But Stinchfield is the first nurse or nurse practitioner to lead the organization. Except for George C. Hill, Ph.D., from 2008-2010, every past president of the NFID has been an M.D.

Stinchfield’s barrier-breaking position is the sign of another shift that has been occurring in health care that needs to happen in health journalism as well: Nurses are finally beginning to get the attention and respect they deserve for work that is very distinct from, but just as important as that of physicians. 

Journalists have long relied on doctors as sources for stories, whether it’s for general service health stories, investigative stories or outside opinions during coverage of medical studies. Now a new tip sheet provides resources on how to find nurses from a wide range of organizations who can provide various perspectives in your stories.

Nurses have been underrepresented in news coverage for years, as noted in a 2018 blog post by AHCJ member Barbara Glickstein, M.P.H., M.S., R.N., and Diana J. Mason, R.N., Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University School of Nursing.

“Nurses are the kids in the background jumping up and down and saying ‘Ask us! Ask us! Ask us!’” Stinchfield told me during a recent interview about what a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) would mean.

Typically, I would talk to infectious disease doctors, respiratory virologists and vaccine developers for a story about the RSV vaccine. But Stinchfield, also the first nurse to be a voting member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, offered valuable insights from a nurse’s point of view, a perspective that the COVID pandemic has shown to be more crucial than ever. Nurses have been there all along, eager to share their knowledge, experience and outlooks with journalists. All we needed to do was ask.

Since my mother worked as a registered nurse for more than 40 years, you would think I would have already realized how valuable nurses can be as sources, but it wasn’t until this past December that I fully recognized what I and other journalists have been missing. Along with AHCJ Aging Core Topic Leader Liz Seegert and Naseem Miller of The Journalist’s Resource, I spoke on a panel at the Nurses Media Summit sponsored by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Nurses from the whole spectrum of specialties were present and expressed their eagerness to be a part of the national conversation on the health care issues they have expertise in.

I included nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants as one of the four types of sources journalists probably haven’t been using enough in a previous post, but I only included a handful of organizations in that post.

Check out the new tip sheet on nurses as sources for a much more comprehensive list of nursing organizations you can contact to enhance your reporting. Some of this information was gathered from Naseem Miller’s informative post on The Journalist’s Resource about using nursing sources. And here is a nursing organizations’ Twitter list that includes the handles of all these organizations.

One thought on “Why and how to include more nurses as sources

Leave a Reply