This is How I Became a Media Health Expert on TV as a Nurse
It’s no secret that nurses are the heartbeat of healthcare, working long hours to take care of patients and their families, including providing them with the education they need to understand their health and medical conditions. Nurses also play a vital role in disseminating research into practice and leading national and international health missions. And, in national Gallup® polls, the public has ranked nurses the most trusted profession for 18 years in a row.
Despite being part of the largest segment within the healthcare workforce, with nearly 4 million nurses in the United States, nurses aren’t in the media as much as you might expect. Why is it always a physician discussing important health issues, emerging research, and health education? For decades, nurses have been battling unflattering Hollywood caricatures and images that influence public opinion of what we do, our knowledge, and skill set. Such opinions undermine our pursuit of goals like quality care, safe staffing, and fair wages.
It’s time to change the narrative and show the public what nurses really do. We can change this perception by being the change we want to see in the media. So, in this article I’m sharing my personal experience of how I landed my roles on radio, news and TV as a nurse.
What I Do As A Media Health Expert
I have been a nurse for about 23 years and actually started as a CNA right out of high school. Over the years I've worked my way up the nursing ladder from CNA to LPN to ADN to BSN to MSN. Today I hold a masters degree in nursing and am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who has worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner. In fact, I still work as a nurse today on top of all the work I do with the media.
As an advanced practice nurse (APRN), I’ve had the privilege of being a media health expert. I’ve found that media outlets and viewers appreciate my perspectives, professionalism, and expertise. I’ve appeared many times on national television shows and networks including,
- FOX News
- Dr. Oz
- The Doctors
On these shows I have discussed important health topics, such as Covid-19, the opioid epidemic, the health dangers of Hurricane Harvey, trauma care during the Las Vegas shootings, safe staffing, rare medical stories, and violence in the workplace.
How I Got Started Working With The Media
I started my media journey as an active volunteer with the American Heart Association (AHA) with no idea that I would ever enter media. As a cardiac clinical nurse specialist my volunteer work with AHA was a natural fit based on my nursing specialty and passion to provide community education and outreach.
I had participated in numerous health fairs and given several health presentations to different churches, schools and employers. One day someone from AHA noticed how engaged my audience was and how much I was enjoying educating them in a manner that was relatable.
From there I was asked by AHA to go on KJLH radio in Los Angeles to discuss how to be heart healthy during the holidays. From there AHA continued to call upon me to discuss important health issues on radio as a guest on various radio stations. Then while at the radio stations, I nurtured relationships with show producers who would call me to discuss other important, trending or new health studies or stories.
Social Media and Blogging
From there I simultaneously became active on social media and blogging on my own website and eventually landed a role as health contributor at an online platform known as Loop21. While it is no longer in existence, the relationships I built there would help me continue my journey. Many of the people I worked with had gone on to work elsewhere and they would call upon me to contribute to their outlets. This experience also prepared me to contribute to other online outlets.
Television and News
As a vocal nurse on the internet and radio, I was soon called upon by various news and television stations to contribute on television. And with every appearance I made sure to be very knowledgeable and engaging in the short amount of airtime allotted.
Advice For Nurses Interested in Working With The Media
Has it been a fun journey? Absolutely! Has it been easy? Heck no! It’s been challenging to say the least.
- Study media & entertainment: In my early years working with the media I learned that nursing and the media world were extremely different and as I would with learning a new nursing specialty or unit I began to study and orient to media and entertainment to better understand the landscape. I studied the various roles and objectives of the outlets I was contributing to.
- Take classes: I took several classes to help me to be better prepared. These classes included, media, journalism, speaking and even some acting classes.
- Nursing experience: My saving grace has been my colorful and decorated experience as an advanced practice nurse with over 23 years of experience. Without that, I would find it challenging to speak on some of the topics and answer some of the questions tv anchors have asked me on the fly. Nothing is rehearsed. It is just like speaking with your patients at the bedside.
- An advanced nursing degree is not required but, it might help you break into media. Check out this ultimate list of all the masters degree in nursing.
- Social media: Many nurses use social media to educate the public - and it is an excellent place to do so. Social media is also an excellent way to get noticed and to network with major media as well as large blogs like Nurse.org.
- Stay consistent and dedicated: What has landed me my most current role as a medical correspondent on television for NBC and regular appearances on national television platforms has been my consistency, professionalism and ability to incorporate health literacy into some of the most complex medical research.
I am truly honored to represent the nursing profession on television. And I hope and welcome many other nurses to join me as well.
Why The Media Needs More Nurses
As nurses, we’re primed with the knowledge and clinical expertise to deliver important health information using mainstream media, including television, radio, and print, as well as the internet. However, the media puts the audience in a passive role to receive information, which isn’t how nurses typically communicate with patients and family, so some training is needed. This training prepares nurses to speak succinctly and address important points while being mindful of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
- Nurses are health experts who can collaborate with journalists and media outlets to ensure that health news is accurate and that important topics are addressed.
- They can provide content expertise and address crucial information, such as quality of evidence, costs, and risks vs. benefits that might be overlooked by a journalist.
- Mainstream media, the internet and social media allow nurses to meet people where they are—in their living rooms watching TV and on their electronic devices—to provide benefits to those in the community who may not have access to healthcare, are without health insurance, or are afraid to go to the doctor.
The future of nursing requires us to embrace technology and the media to educate patients, families, and the public beyond the bedside.
Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACNS-BC, FNP, is a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner with over 23 years of healthcare experience. She is a community health activist, freelance media health expert and CEO of I Am Nurse Approved. You can follow her at AskNurseAlice.com and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @AskNurseAlice.
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