CommunityOff the Charts

Where are the nurses?

By: Julie Cullen

By Julie Cullen, Managing Editor, American Nurse Today

It’s sad but true, nurses continue to be underrepresented in the media. The classic 1997 Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media found that nurses were identified as sources in only 4% of quotations or other sourcing in health news stories in leading print newspapers. Recently released data from a 2017 replication study show that number has dropped to 2%. How can that be?

One phase of the replication study asked: What do health journalists perceive to be the barriers and facilitators to using nurses as sources in new stories? It turns out the answer is a bit of a two-way street.

Journalist barriers to nurses:

  • Journalists don’t really understand the range of nurses’ roles, work, and education.
  • Journalists often don’t know how to find nurses to interview and have limited time to track them down.
  • Editorial biases, policies, and processes can get in the way of using nurses as sources.

Nurse barriers to journalists:

  • Communications staff at healthcare organizations and universities don’t offers nurses as sources unless journalists ask for them.
  • Nurses and their associations aren’t strategic about engaging journalists.

What can nurses and their organizations, societies, and schools do to turn this around? I’d love to hear what you think. Email me at You might also like to read this article about how you can use your clinical expertise to communicate with your community.

Julie Cullen, managing editor of American Nurse Today and a curator of online content for the American Nurse Today website, is most definitely not a nurse, but she admires what all of you do everyday. In her Off the Charts blog she shares some of her experiences as a patient and family member of patients, thoughts and ideas that occur to her during her work editing nursing content, and information she thinks you might find interesting. Julie welcomes your feedback. You can submit a comment on the website or email her at

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