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Make amends for an abysmal portrayal of nursing

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See the video clips of the episode here! 

October 3, 2013 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's Glee included an abysmal depiction of school nursing. In the Beatles-themed episode ("Tina in the Sky with Diamonds"), the McKinley High School principal apparently hired a college student named Penny--who had not yet even begun nursing school--to give vaccinations and other school nursing care. Penny described her work as part of “an internship” that would help her gain admission to nursing school later. Penny was dangerously incompetent; her "care" included mistakenly injecting urine instead of vaccine. And the episode implied that a real nurse would be better. But Penny was still repeatedly identified as “Nurse Penny," and the overall effect was to make a mockery of school nursing. Such media disinformation, even as a "joke," contributes to the undervaluation that has already led to rampant understaffing of school nurses and takes the lives of students everywhere. Please urge those responsible to make amends!

Penny was clearly a nice person, but she was also totally inept. She tried to give a vaccination with a needle she had just contaminated by practicing on a sausage, and mistakenly administered steroids instead of aspirin. The principal did temporarily fire Penny for that last caper. And the episode suggested that Penny fell short of what a real nurse could do; she freely admitted that she was just learning. But she was still repeatedly identified as "Nurse Penny." 

Sadly, this is not the first time Glee has sent dangerously inaccurate messages about school nursing. Four years ago, in an October 2009 episode, character Terri applied for a school nurse job in order to keep an eye on her teacher husband Will, even though her health care training consisted of a CPR course. The principal and the ensuing plotline suggested that a school nurse ought to have more training, but Terri still got the job and put the students at risk.

In fact, school nursing requires a bachelor of science in nursing. Today's overburdened school nurses need that training because they manage the health of hundreds of students who attend with serious conditions including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and allergies. Students have died because no registered nurse was available. And school nurses play a key public health role, educating students about critical health issues like pregnancy and STDs, as well as monitoring the student population for disease outbreaks.

We urge the creators of Glee to refrain from spreading further disinformation about school nursing to their impressionable audience, and to make amends, perhaps with a plotline that reminds viewers that real school nurses save lives.

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