Category Archives: Nursing

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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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.

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Health care ballot measures challenge reporters to separate fact from fiction

Photo: Newslighter via Flickr 

In California, an initiative known as Proposition 8 asks voters to limit the revenue that kidney dialysis clinics can earn. The proposition pits health care unions against the large companies that run dialysis centers.

In Massachusetts, a ballot question asks voters to consider a proposal to limit how many patients a hospital can assign to each registered nurse at hospitals and other health care facilities. Continue reading

Underrepresentation of nurses in health care coverage continues to be a concern

Photo: National Museum of Health and Medicine via FlickrA new study indicates that many reporters continue to have antiquated notions about the utility of nurses as sources.

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

Stories on changing role of nursing illustrate ‘scope of practice’ issues

On Wednesday, I wrote about “scope of practice” – what health care providers, particularly nurse practitioners, who aren’t physicians are or are not allowed to do in their state. I provided several resources, reports and links to understand these fights, and the role nurses or physician assistants or other providers can have in providing primary care in underserved areas. Today I want to look at two stories:

Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) is AHCJ’s health reform topic leader. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources, please send them to

The first was published earlier this fall online by Tina Rosenberg on The New York Times Opinionator section, part of a series called “Fixes” on solutions to social problems . She profiles a clinic in Indiana that provides full-service health care to 10,000 people – without any doctors. It’s one of about 250 clinics in the country run by nurse practitioners. Rosenberg reviews the reasons that there aren’t enough primary care doctors serving the poor or practicing in rural areas. She writes:

It might seem that offering the rural poor a clinic staffed only by nurses is to give them second-class primary care. It is not. The alternative for residents of Carroll County was not first-class primary care, but none. Before the clinic opened in 1996, the area had some family physicians, but very few accepted Medicaid or uninsured patients. When people got sick, they went to the emergency room. Or they waited it out — and then often landed in the emergency room anyway, now much sicker.

She says nurses are trained to do what many doctors do not learn – how to treat a patient more holistically, how to listen, how to “coach more, and lecture less.” All those skills are part of what’s needed to treat and manage chronic disease – which is what so much of primary care is about. Because nurses at the clinic are salaried, they aren’t stuck in the 15-minute-appointment hamster wheel of fee-for-service medicine. “At the Family Health clinics, appointments last half an hour — an hour for a new diabetic or pregnant patient.” Continue reading