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To roll out our new medical-marijuana column, " Toke Signals, " which features pot connoisseur Steve Elliott traipsing around the state critiquing pot and pot


Why the "Sexy Weed Nurse" on Last Week's Seattle Weekly Cover Was No Slight Against Nurses

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To roll out our new medical-marijuana column, "Toke Signals," which features pot connoisseur Steve Elliott traipsing around the state critiquing pot and pot dispensaries, we needed a eye-grabbing cover image. Elliott is a bit balding, a tad portly, and not what we in the biz call "cover material" (I say that with all the love in the world, Steve). So instead of festooning our cover with his bearded likeness, we went the other way, with a "sexy weed nurse" who'd be a bit easier on the eyes. This offended a real nurse. We'd like to talk about it.

Here's the letter we received from Diane Sosne, RN, MN, the president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW:

"Seattle's lively medical-marijuana scene can be quite entertaining," writes Steve Elliott ("Toke Signals, " Feb. 8).

But what's definitely not "entertaining" is the Weekly's cover image for that issue: a pin-up shot of a busty, half-unzipped "sexy nurse." Reducing nurses to sex objects simply to attract readers is just plain cheap, and trivializes the topic of medical marijuana.

Nurses are a critical part of our healthcare delivery system. We play a key role in our national quest to improve that system, so we can provide more affordable, more accessible and more humane healthcare to everyone. Responsible journalists should be elevating the important role of nurses, not denigrating them.

Stop for just a minute and think about the experiences of your family, whether in routine visits or in times of medical emergency. You will recall the vital role that nurses play in caring for you and your loved ones. RNs are the glue that holds together a currently disjointed and chaotic health care system. It is our expertise, our attention to patient needs, and our advocacy on behalf of our patients that puts the "quality" into "quality care."

The women and men who choose a career in nursing do so to provide care for people, but also carry a reasonable expectation that they will be treated with respect for their skill, knowledge, and professionalism.

What should that respect look like? We need better funding for nursing education, adequate nurse staffing to insure safe care and better accountability from hospitals and other medical facilities in how they allocate our precious healthcare dollars. We need to attract new nurses and retain those with years of experience. That's why it's important not to obscure the real, caring face of the nursing profession

So, let's not forget these real heroes of healthcare--the nurses who work every day to provide the best possible care in spite of the challenges of our current healthcare system. We should be able to expect journalists to respect our contributions to the health and well-being of our communities, as they write about our noble profession. At the very least, we shouldn't be turned into lascivious caricatures or antiquated stereotypes simply as an eye-catching stunt.

First off, thanks for writing in, Diane. We love getting feedback from readers--even those who don't like something we did.

It's perfectly reasonable for you to take some offense at the dead-sexy "nurse" we stuck on the cover. As a real nurse who's probably saved several lives over the course of your career, it's understandable that you and others in your profession might find it offensive to have a mock image of your life's calling used in a way that was more eye-catching than life-saving.

So with that same spirit of professional understanding, I'm hoping that you can respect us and others in our profession, who know that picking a good cover image is crucial in getting people to, well, read our publication.

As Mr. Elliott writes and you point out: "Seattle's lively medical-marijuana scene can be quite entertaining." It can indeed. And Steve's gripping prose and wealth of insight explains that point beautifully. But putting an image of a middle-aged white guy on the cover, or a generic pot-leaf graphic, or something else lame, runs the risk of failing to inspire anyone to actually pick up the paper and enjoy said prose and insight.

That's not to mention that the whole sexy-nurse thing is a cat that was let out of the bag a long time ago. Sure, it's mildly degrading to the nursing profession, but so are "sexy cops," "sexy firemen," and "sexy reporters" to their respective professions. Wait . . . I'm being told that "sexy reporters" is not a stereotype at all.

But you get the point.

Most all mainstream professions have their own common misconceptions. The lucky ones get adjectives like "sexy," while others get less-complimentary words like "sleazy" and "lazy."

We at Seattle Weekly have the utmost respect for nurses and all medical professionals. Hell, my own mother is a career nurse (almost 40 years spent in labor and delivery and post-natal care) who's now retired and teaching a new crop of nurses at Northern Arizona University. And while she wouldn't be gushing with admiration for seeing Nurse Chronic, R.N. on the cover of her son's newspaper, she'd understand why we put it there.

And also know that we don't just buy random stock art and slap it on the cover without a thought as to how our readers might absorb it. We have an art director who, quite literally, loses sleep during the creative process required to conceptualize and create images that not only catch people's eyes, but tell a story on their own.

Like this one:

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And this one:

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Again, that's not to say that you, as a nurse, don't have a right to find our cover distasteful. I find the fact that you nurses are always stabbing me in the arm with needles every time I see you distasteful. But I understand you're doing it because it's your job and that you know what you're doing.

So I guess the point is: So do we.

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