Health care is a hot topic, but journalists aren't spending much time talking to nurses, according to a national study.

Reporters quote doctors, government officials, educators, patients and family members, while nurses are "virtually silent," according to a study of the Women, Press & Politics Project, which was sponsored by Nurses of America.Some Utah nurses say they generally agree with the results. But locally, Paula Julander's position as a state representative and president of the Utah Nursing Association helps bring more status to the profession.

"I think I've seen the discipline at times ignored," agreed Marj Peck, assistant administrator at LDS, Cottonwood and Alta View hospitals.

The study analyzed the content of 423 articles on health care printed in three large newspapers - the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times - during the first three months of 1990.

There are 2.1 million registered and licensed nurses in the United States - 97 percent of whom are female. That compares to 585,600 doctors.

But doctors claim the majority of quotes in medical reports. Of 908 sources directly quoted, one-third were doctors. Nurses were quoted in only 1 percent of the stories. Patients and family members were quoted more often.

In references to professional categories, doctors garnered 36.9 percent of the references, while nurses were referred to only four times.

One example cites a New York Times article reporting on heart transplants for infants. The story quoted doctors and parents concerning patient conditions and said the infants were closely monitored. But the story didn't detail who performed such monitoring. "Despite the fact that nurses care for such infants 24 hours a day in Neo-natal Intensive Care Units and know in a very detailed way their problems and outcomes, no nurse is included as a source of information in the article," the study reported.

"In terms of this sample, journalists do not appear to seek out nurses as sources of information on health care. Nurses are not among those who count in news coverage."

-Ellen Fagg