Introducing PANSA

-- by Bob Glickman

Before the summer "recess," the PhACT Council formed a new committee called PANSA -- Philadelphia Area Nurses & Skeptics Alliance. PANSA had been originally conceived as a separate and somewhat independent organization. It had held informal meetings to discuss goals and projects. However, the burden and the logistics of trying to run two organizations made this a heavier task than I desired. Thus I view the PhACT Council decision as a favorable development. As a Committee of PhACT, the backing and resources of the parent organization are available to PANSA.

A major problem for an independent PANSA would have been attracting members to the group. PhACT has had the luxury of using the Skeptical Inquirer's mailing list (twice) and it is listed in the back of the magazine with other regional skeptical groups. There were no similar organizations with the goals we had in mind for PANSA. We would have had to start from scratch.

The need for a group like PANSA has been obvious to me for a while. The Nursing profession can be quite rigid and stubborn and it doesn't want help from an outside, non-Nursing organization such as PhACT. It sees me as a lonely maverick trying to cause trouble. The best way to change Nursing is for nurses to do it themselves. In addition, I will need the help of nurses to petition the State Board of Nursing and the Pennsylvania Nurses Association, and to carry out some other involved projects.

PhACT should see some benefits from the addition of this Committee. It will allow PhACT to make a big step; to reach beyond the usual circles of skeptics and into the general public. Future PhACT lectures with a healthcare theme will be advertised in Nursing publications as PANSA projects. Hopefully, this will also lead to new PhACT members being recruited from the ranks of area nurses.

It is important to note that PANSA is an alliance of nurses AND skeptics. I have been quizzing nurses and have found that many are unaware that concepts such as homeopathy and foot reflexology have no scientific basis. Of course, therapeutic touch continues to make a big, negative impact in Nursing so the need for skeptics to help educate new recruits will be great.

The next meeting of PANSA is tentatively scheduled for August 24 at 1 pm with the location yet to be announced. If you know of any nurses who would be interested in the group, have them call me at PhACT's phone number (215) 533-4677.

The following is an introduction prepared by PANSA:

The PANSA committee is a group of nurses and skeptics concerned about the increasing presence of misrepresented science, pseudoscience and paranormal claims in Nursing and Healthcare. We feel that the use and promotion of improperly designed and tested therapies and diagnostic methods have the potential of unnecessarily placing patients' health and finances at risk, creating false hopes and barring or delaying the onset of proven treatments.

PANSA feels that Nursing is a science that incorporates the human need for caring in its practice. Still, as a science, we feel it is vitally important that Nursing follow the Scientific Method to prevent bias and wishful thinking from altering research results and healthcare. While we recognize that many scientific and medical discoveries have had their roots in unusual ideas and odd discoveries, this does not mean that every alleged discovery is valid. Vague or impossible to duplicate events, anecdotal evidence and popular opinion are no substitute for solid research and double-blind studies.

The terms "Alternative" and "Complementary" healthcare have come to represent hundreds of alleged healing modalities. Many of these modalities are supported by little or no research and, at times, by misrepresented research and data. We feel these modalities should be treated individually. None should be accepted into main-stream healthcare until quality research has confirmed their safety and efficacy.

A scientifically valid therapeutic modality must have benefits that exceed those of the placebo effect. We recognize that the placebo effect plays a role in medical practice, in that it enhances and supplements the bio-medical effect of other treatments. Nevertheless, any treatment or therapy that is touted as medically effective but whose sole mechanism is, in fact, the placebo effect (or other, non-specific, causes of change) is considered improper, and perhaps deceptive.

PANSA, as part of an organization dedicated to truthful scientific research, will:

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