How to the tell the story of nurses of color experiencing racism at work

Nada Hassanein (Photo courtesy of Alicia Devine)

When Nada Hassanein read the press release about a survey that shed light on racism nurses of color are enduring in the workplace, she seized the opportunity to write a story to give real-world context to the findings. In telling the story, the environmental and health inequities reporter for USA Today, said she wanted to “weave [the survey results] into a kind of narrative about nurses’ experiences.”

In this “How I Did It,” Hassanein shares her reporting process for the story, talks about why leaning heavily on data may matter more for some stories over others, and offers tips for cultivating and building the trust that allows sources to open up about painful experiences.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

You get this press release and decide that there’s a bigger story here other than the survey. What was your next step? How did you find the sources for the story?

First, I asked the [National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing] if someone from the Commission — a nurse of color — would be willing to talk with me. And that nurse connected me with other nurses that are not part of the Commission.

How hard was it for nurses to be candid about their experiences?

The nurses I spoke with were quite open and candid about their experiences. I think they felt that someone was listening and, therefore, were willing to share their experiences.

How did you weave in context about the profession? 

I found demographic breakdowns of nursing staff or registered nurses in certain states to show how they are minorities or underrepresented. Being a health reporter, I see a lot of discussion about racism among physicians and residents but less so about nurses.

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Brain-computer interfaces translate thoughts to actions

A student in Dr. José del R. Millán’s lab at the University of Texas at Austin, demonstrates a brain-computer interface project during one of the Health Journalism 2022 field trips. The cap is outfitted with electrodes. When an external magnet is placed near the cap, it produces an electric current that moves the student’s finger. The technology could potentially be harnessed toward recovery for stroke or other patients following brain injury.

Imagine if a computer or assistive technology could process the thoughts of a person paralyzed or lacking the ability to speak and respond. That’s the burgeoning field of brain-computer interfaces, a world that journalists covering Health IT may want to learn about and explore to further enhance their reporting.

brain-computer interface (BCI) is a technology system that collects and interprets brain signals and transmits them to a connected machine that outputs the commands, panelists explained during “The electric brain: How technology can unite minds and machines” session, moderated by AHCJ Board President Felice Freyer at Health Journalism 2022. During the panel, researchers from Massachusetts, Texas and Michigan highlighted their work in BCIs as potential therapies for people with physical and/or speech limitations.

“When I see somebody in the neuro ICU who yesterday was able to walk and speak without any difficulty, but suddenly today is unable to move with cervical spinal cord injury, I’d like nothing more than to be able to tell that person, ‘I’m sorry this happened, but you’re going to be able to move again tomorrow,’” said Leigh Hochberg, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of engineering and senior lecturer in neurology with Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Providence VA Medical Center in New England. 

That’s one of the goals of a project he directs called BrainGate, an effort funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health, among others, to develop BCI technologies to restore communication, mobility and independence for people with neurologic disease, injury or limb loss. 

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Going beyond umbrella statistics when covering health in LGBTQ communities

Photo by Katherine GilyardDaniel Downer, executive director of The Bros in Convo Initiative, addresses attendees during the “Covering the LGBTQ+ communities: Anti-LGBTQ+ measures, COVID-19 and reporting insights” panel.

Reporters covering LGBTQ people are encouraged to go beyond umbrella statistics, become familiar with appropriate terminology and avoid framing stories in ways that further stigmatize the community. 

Those are just a few of the key takeaways from the  “Covering the LGBTQ+ communities: Anti-LGBTQ+ measures, COVID-19 and reporting insights” panel at Health Journalism 2022. The presentation also focused on health care inequities and discriminatory legislation like Florida’sDon’t Say Gay” bill. 

The panel — moderated by Naseem Miller, senior health editor for The Journalist’s Resource — also included Brad Sears, executive director and associate dean of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law,  Daniel Downer, executive director of The Bros in Convo Initiative, Dallas Ducar, CEO of Transhealth Northampton, and Jen Christensen, a CNN producer and immediate past president of the National Association of LGBTQ Journalists.  

Panelists urged reporters to get it right. “As health journalists, we have an opportunity to educate people in a really straightforward way,” said Christensen, “It’s exciting to think that you get a chance to talk about something a lot of your audience hasn’t heard about before.”

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Beyond PitchFest: New market guides and tips for negotiating contracts

Photo by Paola RodriguezEditors attentively listen to freelancers pitch their ideas during PitchFest at Health Journalism 2022.

Hello freelancers! Many of you may be finalizing your pitches for the editors you met at PitchFest during Health Journalism 2022 in Austin and preparing to sign contracts. To help, I have added some new and revised market guides to the Freelance Center and provided a list of resources for negotiating contracts in case they contain clauses you don’t like.

And don’t forget to join our monthly Lunch & Learn discussion this Thursday. We will be discussing sourcing and reporting. Lunch & Learns provide an opportunity for member freelancers to chat about a designated topic over Zoom every third Thursday at 12 p.m. CST The Zoom link stays the same every month, and it can be found on the Networking tab at AHCJ’s Freelance Center.

New and revised market guides

Since last blogging about the market guides, I have added two new ones and one revised guide. Here are some quick summaries:

Grid News

This digital publication pays $2 per word for feature articles that range in length from 800 to 3,000 words. Science & Technology Editor Lauren Morello said, “Our sweet spot is the collision of science and medicine and policy.” Features typically approach a story through multiple lenses such as science, economics, misinformation, the law, politics and technology.

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Gaps in medical, legal systems may allow other ‘Dr. Deaths’ to practice, panelists say

Panelists of “Dr. Death” session (from left to right): Matt Grant of KXAN, Kay Van Wey, an attorney of medical malpractice at Van Wey Law PLLC; Laura Beil, an independent journalist and award-winning host and reporter of “Dr. Death” podcast; Lisa B. Robin of the Federation of State Medical Boards and Ware Wendell of Texas Watch (Photo courtesy of KXAN and Chris Nelson.)

Journalists must draw attention to the failures in the U.S. medical and legal systems that allowed Christopher Duntsch, the subject of journalist Laura Beil’s well-regarded “Dr. Death” podcast series, to injure dozens of patients, members of an expert panel said at the “10 years after ‘Dr. Death’: Are patients any safer from bad doctors?” panel at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin.

Despite the publicity generated by Beil’s work and that of other journalists about this case, there’s still too little protection for patients against doctors who already have been proven incompetent, said speakers at the April 30 session. Doctors may change hospitals or even states and continue to practice after harming patients, due in large part to a reluctance among physicians and hospital administrators to report harms, they said.

Matt Grant of KXAN Austin presented highlights from his “Still Practicing” series, which looked at how doctors with problematic histories have been able to transfer to new hospitals.

In the website that houses the videos from the series, Grant and colleagues note that February 2022 marked the fifth anniversary of the conviction of Duntsch for injury to an elderly person, which resulted in a life sentence.

Grant and KXAN colleagues pulled thousands of physician disciplinary records from medical boards across the United States. The records were then checked against the Texas Medical Board’s physician portal one name at a time. The KXAN team said they found at least 49 doctors who had disciplinary actions in other states — including having their medical licenses suspended, revoked or surrendered — who were still practicing or able to in Texas. Some of the physicians were repeat offenders with actions in multiple states. Criminal charges previously filed against doctors included ones for driving drunk, domestic violence, possession of a controlled substance and operating a firearm while intoxicated.

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