Nurses can make mainstream media take notice

By | 2020-05-15T18:03:44-04:00 July 3rd, 2018|3 Comments

I use Twitter frequently to broadcast nursing news, ranging from news about state legislators removing barriers to practice for nurse practitioners to highlights from commencement addresses I give. Oftentimes, I’ll single out nurses for their research findings or acts of compassion.

My hashtags range from #nurse to #gonursing most of the time. Occasionally I’ll use #CultureofHealth.

What I didn’t realize is that by using those hashtags, I have been mainly communicating to other nurses and missing an opportunity to reach a broader healthcare audience, through the mainstream media, including journalists.

And I’m not alone.

According to the Woodhull Study Revisited, a study partially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the majority of nursing tweets from the top 50 schools of nursing are inward-facing, such as #nursing or #gonursing, rather than outward-facing hashtags, such as #pain, #opioid, #publichealth.

The result: As nurses, we are primarily talking to ourselves.

Woodhull study serves as call to action

The Woodhull study, released in May, found nurses were rarely quoted in newspapers, dailies and industry publications in 2017. The findings were nearly identical to the original study, which was published 20 years ago.

Theresa Brown, a New York Times op-ed contributor and nurse, told me a large part of the problem is “journalists don’t think of nurses as sources and nurses are unprepared to be sources, so no one thinks of nurses as sources.”

I view the Woodhull study results as a glaring call to action for the nursing field.

In 2010, the landmark Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, called for nurses to be full partners with physicians and other health professionals in redesigning healthcare in the U.S. The report also recommended we prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health.

In addition, a Gallup study supported by RWJF in 2010 found an overwhelming majority of opinion leaders say nurses should have more influence on health systems and services, and they view them as one of the most trusted sources of health information.

However, these opinion leaders — including insurance, corporate, health services, government and industry thought leaders as well as university faculty — see significant barriers that prevent nurses from fully participating as leaders in health and healthcare.

It’s beyond time for the nursing field to get more representation in the media, and we need all nurses to make this a priority.

How we can help journalists begin to see nurses as sources

  • Deans at schools of nursing and chief nursing officers should meet regularly with their public relations departments to suggest academic and clinical experts who can talk to the media about pressing topics. They should also offer story ideas.
  • Deans at schools of nursing and chief nursing officers should arrange for their academic and clinical nursing experts to undergo media training so they are comfortable talking to the press.
  • Nursing journals should follow the example of medical journals and send press releases to the media that highlight new research findings. If nursing journals have limited resources, nursing researchers should work with them to craft press releases that explain why their research is important and how it contributes to improved care.
  • Nurses should build relationships with journalists. Contact reporters with your story ideas. Let them know if a story is missing an important angle they can follow up on in a subsequent story. If they know you, they may use you as a source when they are on deadline. Make sure you know journalists’ “beats” — the subject areas that they cover — and what is important to them.
  • Last, but not least, nursing schools and experts, including myself, need to make better use of social media.

Tips to help nurses make better use of social media

  • Schools of nursing should ensure their marketing department is promoting and following them on social media.
  • Tweets should be outward-facing, such as #pain, #opioid, #public health to reach others, including journalists, outside of the nursing field. Nursing schools should likewise use hashtags aligned with current events.
  • Nurses should reach out to journalists on Twitter by following their feeds, retweeting stories and direct messaging. Nurses can use Facebook, Instagram and other platforms in the same manner.

Let’s do our part to get better represented in the media and to help ensure that nurses help to tell the public a more complete healthcare story.

Courses related to ‘promoting a positive image and influencing the public’

CE492: Do You Reflect a Positive Image of Nursing?
(1 contact hr)

Year after year, Gallup polls reveal that the public has a high level of trust in nurses. However, the public has little understanding of what nurses do and doesn’t think of them as key players in healthcare. This is particularly true when faced with negative images in the media. It’s up to nurses to promote themselves as having valuable first-hand knowledge that significantly influences patient outcomes — and to get the message out that the nursing profession attracts talented and bright people. This module provides an overview on nursing and its image and how nurses can enhance the public’s perception of nursing by taking action individually and as a profession.

WEB330: Increasing Your Nursing Influence through Leadership: Boards!
(1 contact hr)
Nurses are influential and trusted. As a profession, nursing has been rated as one of the most honest and ethical for well over a decade. With the trust that nurses have merited from the public, what is a significant way for nurses to impact public and community health? Active involvement on boards! One of the goals of the significant The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report was that nurses practice to the best of their capacity including pursuing leadership positions to improve healthcare in America. Nurses are key leaders that should be at the forefront of decision-making to improve the health of communities. Learn key info about why and how joining a board, commission, or coalition can help you influence public health with the skills you already hold! The Nurses on Boards Coalition has a goal: 10,000 nurses as members of various boards by 2020.


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Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN
Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, is senior adviser for nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and director of the foundation’s Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.


  1. Avatar
    Cathy Riccio July 10, 2018 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Dr. Hassmiller I agree with your thoughts about nurses stepping forward as experts on issues that affect health and well-being. I would like to have the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation be a leader in supporting a multi-state longitudinal study of the impacts of school nurse leaders utilizing public health interventions. We have a strong nurse directed school health foundation in Massachusetts and I would like to expand the study population to include 4 other states. I would like to follow the impact of school nurse leaders (public health experts) for 5 years. Is this something I could speak to you about? I appreciate your time and thoughts. Cathy Riccio BSN MS MSN

  2. Avatar
    Annett Bracher July 11, 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Twitter can be the best way to spread a healthcare campaign and asking people about the kinds of treatment best suitable for aging adults who are at risk of a major disease. Many doctors and hospitals are using social media to get in touch with the patients. It can be a great way for learn more about the latest trends of health care. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Avatar
    Juliana Adams July 21, 2018 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Nursing has been inward focused. Your article offers actions and persons that could lead the way in highlighting nursings extraordinary expertise. As an unaffiliated nurse academically and employment wise, I would suggest that it has been easier, more rewarding and I believe more impacting, focusing on non health care environments where the “public”is. Nursing often judges and does not invite all of its members to be recognized as experts.

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