Social Determinants to Health

Health Communications: Nursing Education
for Increased Visibility and Effectiveness


The media play an influential role in American society.
The challenge for health professionals, including
nurses, is to translate and transmit complex health
information for the public through many channels.
Although nurses are trained to be effective communi-
cators in practice, a recent study demonstrates that
nurses are virtually invisible in the media. This lack of
visibility limits nursing's ability to communicate impor-
tant health information, impedes nursing's ability to
define its role and contributions in the health care
delivery system, and restricts nursing's ability to
advocate for health policy. One option to improve
nurses' ability to communicate effectively in all media
venues is to integrate health communications content
into nursing programs, which would provide nurses
with the opportunity to develop advanced communica-
tion skills, media expertise, and new strategies for
educating the public. Health communications pro-
grams exist in several colleges and universities, but
not within nursing programs. Because nursing cur-
ricula are in a period of transition as changes in the
health care environment are accommodated, health
communications courses could be integrated into
nursing programs as elective courses, graduate certifi-
cate programs, or a field of graduate study. Without
creative educational strategies, nursing will remain
invisible to the public and ineffective in its ability to
influence the health care environment. (Index words:
Curriculum development; Health communications;
Health writing and editing; Media training; Media
visibility) J Prof Nurs 16:31-38, 2000. Copyright. 2000
by W.B. Saunders Company

A REMARKABLE book about nurses, Life Sup-

port--Three Nurses on the Front Lines, was
published in 1997. It received glowing reviews from
nurses and the national press. The author...