In 2014, the Ebola outbreak was storming through West Africa and found its way to the United States via four patients medically evacuated to the United States for treatment. Then, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man visiting family in Texas, showed early symptoms of Ebola. Initially misdiagnosed before more severe symptoms developed, Duncan then was hospitalized and eventually died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Nina Phan, a nurse who cared for Duncan, made headlines when she was diagnosed with Ebola herself.
Unless the story focused on health care workers’ potential exposure and protective equipment, American journalists rarely included nurses in their stories about Ebola before Phan came down with the disease. After that, journalists could not get enough interviews with nurses and representatives of nursing organizations. When the Ebola story receded from the headlines, press inquiries stopped. Diana Mason, a co-author of this blog, was president of the American Academy of Nursing at that time and saw the difference in media requests for interviews. Continue reading