Journalist speaks about health care, discusses nurses’ role in debate

Article By: Angela Bray

Freelance journalist and author on political culture, women’s issues, nursing, and health care, Suzanne Gordon, hosted a discussion on Monday about how nurses are underrepresented in health care debate.

“Nursing doesn’t exactly make things for the media to come to,” said Gordon. “As a journalist, our job in the media is to inform with the changes in health care. I believe that’s the duty of a journalist, specifically a health care journalist.”

Gordon argued that nurses deserve better pay and better work conditions.

“Nurses are the engine of the hospital, why does it matter that nurses aren’t visible, discussed, or referred to in this [health care] debate? It matters for quality health care. The aid is the one who is closest to the patient, but is paid, treated, and overworked the worst,” said Gordon, who also brought up the fact that there’s a severe nursing shortage. “We’ve had the worst nursing shortage we’ve ever had to deal with.”

Gordon stressed the actual issue with the nursing shortage is not entirely wages, but staffing. “I think as a society, we have to be clear about how many nurses we need to produce and where.”

Gordon advocates having a maximum number of patients each nurse can treat, which she said would help to improve the quality of health care each person would receive. “We have 70 studies to prove quality patient care and staffing. The amount of work you have impacts the outcome of the patient’s care.”

“People feel like only a nurse would write about nursing,” said Gordon, who became interested in nursing and health care after giving birth to her first child.
Gordon earned her BA degree from Cornell University and is now a freelance journalist and author. She has written over 350 articles for leading newspapers and magazines, including the Boston Globe, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. Gordon is also the author of twelve novels; seven of them relative to nursing. Her most recent novel is Safety in Numbers: Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care. The book covers the issue of staffing ratios in California and Victoria, Australia. Two additional titles are Life Support: Three Nurses on the Front Lines and the award-winning Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost-Cutting, Media Stereotypes and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care.

In addition to writing, Gordon has been a CBS Radio News columnist, as well as a commentator regarding health care for Public Radio International’s Marketplace. She was also a member of the National Advisory Committee on the Nursing Shortage for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Gordon stumbled into journalism following a secretarial position for the Baltimore Sun magazine, and began writing about political issues. “It never used to occur to me to become a journalist,” said Gordon.

Gordon concluded by stressing the importance of understanding nurses’ roles and why it matters in today’s society.