- Nurses have been the most trusted profession for the past 20 consecutive years, but only 2% of quotes in the media can be attributed to nurses.
- Intentionally engaging with media outlets establishes nurses as subject-matter experts in their field and can help to grow their audience.
- Several steps can help nurses work with news outlets, including pitching stories to journalists, answering queries on the online journalism platform HARO, and building a social media audience.
Nurses are at the heart of healthcare and have ranked as the most trusted profession for 20 consecutive years. Roughly 81% of Americans also see nurses as highly ethical. Yet, data show that only 2% of quotes in the media can be attributed to nurse interviews.
This is down from 4% when it was last measured nearly 20 years ago. Is the decline in attributions related to the media’s disinterest in speaking with nurses or because nurses are not naturally inclined to talk about themselves?
Healthcare entrepreneur Veronica Southerland believes it’s the latter. She was among our nurse contributors who have provided ways nurses can and should engage with media outlets and tips to get it done properly.
Why Nurses Should Engage With the Media
There are nearly 4.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide, and 84.1% are employed in nursing. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes that most healthcare services involve nurses. In fact, there are nearly three times more RNs than physicians, many of whom enter the practice with a bachelor of science in nursing degree.
These statistics fly in the face of the 2018 Woodhull study that found the prevalence of quotes attributed to nurses interviewed in the media had dropped from 4% in 1997 to only 2% in 2017. Additionally, they found that nurses were never sourced in news media stories that addressed health policy but instead commented on the profession itself.
The researchers concluded that nurses “remain invisible in health news media, despite their increasing levels of education, unique roles, and expertise.”
Since 2020, the media has had a greater interest in what nurses have to say since they have been on the front line of treatment for patients with COVID-19. The 2010 Institute of Medicine report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” noted that nursing leadership and influence were important.
This is partly because of the trust the public has in the nursing profession, and the unique perspective nurses have in healthcare. Many outside the profession do not have an understanding of the role nurses play, their education, and scope of practice.
This lack of understanding is an opportunity for nurses to educate the public about their contribution and become a trusted voice in public health. Nurses can develop relationships with journalists in media outlets who can tell the story in print, radio, television, video, online articles, and podcasts.
“We must interact with the media because it’s us doing this work. No one understands the life of a nurse better than another nurse. There are millions of us quietly serving in this world. What if we shared what we knew instead of hiding it?” Southerland says.
McKayla Schulke, from Soul Simple By Kayla, uses her platform to share healthcare information. She believes that it’s important to interact with the media since nurses have different experiences in the world of health and wellness. Sharing that voice can help create positive change in nursing practice and patient care.
In What Ways Can Nurses Engage With Media Outlets?
Nurses should use their voices and accept interview requests to speak with reporters, do radio shows and podcasts, or share information on local and national news stations. Reporters and media outlets look for nurses who have an audience and an established network of individuals who are interested in hearing from them. These are the nurses who are more likely to be used for quotes and interviews.
Nurses are well-educated, thoughtful critical thinkers who are responsible for the care and health of millions of people each day. They are well-versed in educating patients, which is vital to the future health and wellness of society.
Because of this authority and expertise, people who do not have health insurance or are afraid to go to the doctor are willing to listen to healthcare experts who are communicating through media outlets.
Southerland is a leader in business development and uses her platform to empower healthcare professionals. She has been featured in a variety of media platforms where she tested her theories and processes before teaching what she knows to others.
“So, I know the power of media — and media is much more than your local news — to grow a nurse’s platform. My students have written their own books, started and been featured on podcasts, along with being featured on radio, television, and in magazine articles,” she says.
News media outlets are not limited to the big three national news stations and large newspapers. Nurses should think beyond national media outlets and consider:
- Local newspapers
- Local TV news stations
- Morning shows
- Local radio stations
- Independent video journalists
- Bloggers with a large following
- News media influencers
- Magazines (online and print)
- Nonprofit organizations
- Lifestyle websites
- News magazines
Yet another way that nurses can lend their voice to the news cycle is by interviewing other experts in their field. For example, nurses with their own businesses, websites, and followers can access resources such as help a reporter out (HARO).
This source helps connect journalists and subject-matter experts (SMEs). Nationally known media outlets consistently use HARO, and so can nurses. HARO seeks both journalists and SMEs to fill a gap that often exists between the two.
Responding to journalists’ requests is an excellent way of interacting with news outlets without cold pitching your story.
5 Tips for Nurses Seeking Interview Opportunities With the News
Southerland recommends that nurses interviewed begin speaking with the news media in their area of expertise. For example, if the nurse understands emergency care, they can talk about what happens in the emergency room.
“Maybe the reporter talks about losing weight, and you have a great weight loss option. Connect with him or her on what you can offer as a support system for them. Start with making a personal connection before making an ask,” she says.
1 | Research, Research, Research
Schulke recommends that you research the media outlet before approaching a journalist or consenting to do the interview. In fact, research is one of the most important things you can do before getting involved with any news outlet.
It is important to understand the news outlet you’re approaching and its historical perspective on your topic. Be sure that you want this outlet associated with your brand. At the end of the day, your credibility and reputation include the types of companies you do business with.
It’s also important to be strategic about what you’re going to share, why you’re going to share it, and the goal you want to achieve. Your research should include the intricate details of your topic and how it might relate to the journalist’s agenda.
Nurses who want to interest a journalist are often under the misconception that their information is as interesting to the journalist as it is to them. But journalists are looking for stories that impact their readers’ lives. It’s your job to find an angle that entices the journalist to interview you.
2 | Get Their Attention
Good journalists get lots of emails pitching stories. Your job is to make you and your information stand out. Journalists are looking for information that will wow their readers, and it’s your job to give it to them.
For example, a journalist doesn’t want to write about topics that have been covered in great detail in the media. However, if your information contradicts the status quo or you have a different view, it may be enough to interest a journalist. Knowing how few nurses are interviewed to begin with, just offering your nursing expertise may be enough to get you an interview.
After pitching a story, follow up with them in a reasonable amount of time. If your information is time-sensitive, you may want to follow up sooner rather than later. If the information is not time-sensitive, follow up one week later. They may have filed the information, or the email may have gotten lost in their inbox.
Identify yourself as a nurse before any title or credential you may hold. Journalists and their readers are interested in hearing from a registered nurse. During the interview, you can always include more information about yourself and how it relates to the information you’re sharing.
3 | Accuracy Is Essential
Just as your reputation is influenced by the news outlet, the reputation of the journalist is influenced by the accuracy of the information you share. Accuracy is one of the most important factors in any story. Public trust is a crucial part of their businesses, and nothing erodes trust faster than lies.
Take the time to be sure the facts you are sharing during the interview are true and not misleading. This saves the journalist time and energy when checking your story. When you provide them with accurate content, they are more likely to use you as their “expert.”
Adhere to all deadlines the journalist gives you. This helps to make it easy for the journalist to use you as a credible expert in your field.
4 | Develop a Relationship With Journalists
If reaching out to the media is not a one-time strategy, you’ll want to develop a relationship with one or more journalists and the media outlet. It’s helpful to remember that journalists are humans too. If you provide them with accurate information in a professional manner that helps their readers, they are likely to contact you again.
Developing a strong positive relationship with several journalists in different media can help get your information to the right people. Learn what the journalist cares about and send them story tips, including those that are not yours.
Introduce them to people in your nursing network and consider sharing their articles on your social network or your website. Your goal is to become the journalist’s go-to person for information in your field.
With the increasing labor issues within nursing, having a trusted journalist can be helpful in getting your experience as a nurse highlighted in the news.
5 | Build Credibility Through Social Media
Building a social media platform or brand is another way to connect with the patient population and spread public health information. Nurses have increasingly spread public health information on media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn since the COVID-19 pandemic. This has set a precedent for people seeking information from social media, but nurses using these platforms can come with pros and cons.
Although social media is an excellent tool, Sutherland reminds nurses of the importance of working directly with people. She coaches her students to look for business partnerships and work in the community rather than promote their businesses on social media.
Her goal for students is to help them create newsletters, podcasts, and blog posts that they can control and use to grow their reach.
“Social media is also hard to control. We do not own it. It’s owned by someone else who can shut us down at any minute,” she said.
Check out our guide for nurses using social media as a way to spread accurate, reliable, first-hand information about public health.
Meet Our Contributors
Veronica Southerland, FNP-BC
Veronica Southerland is a leader in business development with a focus on healthcare. A tenured healthcare entrepreneur, Southerland, also known as Vee The NP, has dedicated her career to raising up the next generation of healthcare entrepreneurs. Her mission is to empower and embolden healthcare professionals to think outside of their 12-, 14-, and 16-hour shifts. With this vision, Vee The NP opens minds to the seemingly impossible and teaches how to make the opportunity you want possible, profitable, and powerful.
McKayla Schulke first started out as a CNA in 2018 and worked in long-term care facilities until she earned her LPN in May 2021. Her original plan was to become a dietician, but then she realized her true passion was with the nursing field and the patients she cared for. She now works part time in a clinic with a family practice provider. In her time as a nurse, she’s realized not all patients have the same type of access to healthcare. It’s because of that passion she started her own health and wellness website, Soul Simple By Kayla. She uses this platform to share information about healthcare and health-related topics because she believes everyone should have equal access to healthcare.