Nursing, as a profession, has been the most trusted profession by the American public for 18 years in a row.
  Melissa Batchelor  (09:11 – 09:17)


In this episode, we talked about the representation of nurses in health news media. Historically, nursing has been underrepresented, but in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we are speaking up and speaking out more than ever.


Our guest for this episode is Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN. Dr. Mason is the:

  • Senior Policy Service Professor at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, The George Washington University School of Nursing, and
  • Professor Emerita at Hunter College, where she held the Rudin Endowed Chair and founded the Center for Health, Media & Policy
  • She is a past President of the American Academy of Nursing,
  • Former editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Nursing,
  • and has been the producer and moderator of a community radio program on health and health policy since 1985.
  • Mason has served as the only health professional on the National Advisory Committee for Kaiser Health News since its inception in 2009.
  • She is the lead editor of the book, Policy and Politics in Nursing and Health Care (recently releasing the 8th edition)
  • and blogs on policy for HealthCetera and JAMA News Forum.


She was the principal investigator on a replication of the 1998 Woodhull Study on Nurses and the Media published in 2018 in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship and an additional analysis of journalists’ experiences with using nurses as sources in health news stories, including on policy, published in the American Journal of Nursing. Her other research has focused on nurse practitioners’ engagement with managed care organizations.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for policy, leadership, dissemination of science, writing, education, public health, media, and advocacy.

Dr. Mason received a BSN from West Virginia University, MSN from St. Louis University, and PhD from New York University; and holds an honorary doctorate of science from West Virginia University and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Long Island University.


Part One of WoodHull Study: Nurses and the Media

The release of the Woodhull study 20 years ago was the first realization that the media doesn’t seek nurses as sources for health news stories compared to other professions. In fact, at that time, only 4% of health news stories in leading newspapers used nurses as their source. Nursing’s voice provides a unique perspective in the healthcare arena, yet is missing from the national dialogue.

The study was replicated recently, and the result was still abysmal. Nothing had changed, in fact, only 2% of health news stories used nurses as their source. In fact, a significant topic at the time the study was replicated was the Affordable Care Act, and nurses were not used as sources for this health policy topic.


Some Reasons Why Nurses Aren’t Used in Health News Media …

The original and updated Woodhull studies were qualitative studies conducted using ten health journals. Findings revealed that there are real biases about nurses, and women in general, that deter journalists from using nurses as sources. For example, if a journalist wanted to interview a nurse for a non-nursing story, they reported having to justify this choice to their editors; and the response was that editors typically wanted a “rock star physician” rather than a “rock star nurse” as the expert.  


Another reason why nurses are not commonly heard in the media is that journalists do not know how to find us. Most hospital websites will prominently list physician providers but finding a nurse practitioner takes a little more digging – and staff nurses are not listed at all. Nurses in leadership roles or in academia are easier to find, but to journalists, this process is unclear and can take up too much time when up against a tight deadline. 


Another factor is that when a university or a hospital is contacted seeking an “expert” on a given topic, some public relations gatekeepers would be more likely to recommend a physician over a nurse. 


Lack of Media Training and Experience:
Many nurses do not have a background in media training, or the experience needed to build confidence to own our expertise. 


Nurses Don’t Actively Pursue Journalists:
Most nurses aren’t naturally inclined to reach out to journalists. Nurses aren’t actively sending press releases about the critical study they just completed, and are not writing as many OpEds, editorials, or letters to the editor.

The good news is, we can fix this!


As nurses, we have perspectives on things
that nobody else has. – Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN
(09:59 – 10:03)


Prior to #COVID19, nurses were often seen as someone quiet and more behind-the-scenes. But it’s time that we stop taking on that moniker. We have deep expertise, and we know things that other people are not aware of.

Dr. Mason points out, “Who else is with the patient 24/7? Who else knows about the biological, psychological, emotional, social, and even spiritual state of a patient? Who knows better about the challenges of cutting a hospital budget?” These are reasons journalists should seek out a nurse and nursing’s voice for health news stories.



Part Two of WoodHull Study: Nurses and the Media

Why nurses may not comment in public forums:
One of the problems is that nurses are reluctant to speak out for fear of losing their job. We should all know what our specific employer policies are in using social media, but ensuring these policies are current and appropriate also needs to be considered. We also recommend that the Chief Nursing Officers look for opportunities where nurses can speak to journalists and the public about what they are seeing and doing. 


It is not about sensationalism, but it’s about
getting information out to the public.
– Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN
(22:04 – 22:10)


Another reason nurses may not speak up is the fear of being criticized. People can be critical; but that may be something anyone has to face when you decide to use your voice.

Nurses need to recognize themselves as thought leaders and know what their unique contribution is.

Our edge is that we know how to talk to the public. Nurses provide patient education every day, so we are good at breaking information down and tailoring that education to the person that we are talking to.


So, how can you prepare yourself if you wish to work with the media?  

Nurses need to seek out media training if they are not comfortable talking with journalists. Media training can give you skills you need to better manage an interview.

If you have a public relations officer, work with them, and share your expertise. Let them know your key messages, and they can probably get in touch with people who would be interested in showing your perspective.





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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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