Healthcare journalists rarely use nurses as sources, study finds

Nurses remain grossly underrepresented in healthcare media coverage, according to two companion studies published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship and the American Journal of Nursing.

Here are five things to know:

1. Researchers from George Washington University School of Nursing's Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement in Washington, D.C., conducted the studies.

2. For the first study, researchers replicated the 1997 "Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media," which found nurses were used as sources in less than 4 percent of healthcare articles from leading print newspapers, newsweeklies and healthcare trade publications.

3. In the replication, researchers collected 2,243 healthcare articles published in September 2017 by the same news outlets used in the original study. They analyzed a random sample of 365 articles using the initial study's coding method and found only 2 percent of quotes in the articles were from nurses. Only 13 percent of the articles mentioned nurses or the nursing profession. No articles on health policy included nurses as a source.

4. For the second study, researchers conducted individual telephone interviews with 10 healthcare journalists to assess potential barriers to using nurses as sources.

"It was not enough to just document that nothing has changed in 20 years," Barbara Glickstein, MSN, RN, the study's co-principal investigator and former director of communications and media projects at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, said in a press release. "We had to understand why there has been no movement in who are considered experts."

5. The researchers discovered numerous biases about women, nurses and authoritative healthcare roles among not only healthcare journalists, but also newsrooms and public relations employees.

"Journalists and the media play an important role in educating the public about issues affecting health and healthcare, but their biases about who are credible experts is limiting the richness of their reporting," Jean Johnson, PhD, RN, executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, said in a press release. "If journalists aren't interviewing nurses, they may be missing the best part of the story."

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