Journal of Advanced Practice Nursing

Health Lessons From 'The Wizard of Oz'


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (ASRN.ORG) -- The late actress Judy Garland, who portrayed the orphaned Kansas girl Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz," would have turned 88 today. You may love the film, but you may not know that it contains lessons about health and medicine.

Nurses have used the story of Dorothy and her dog, Toto, to glean a better understanding of wisdom, passion and courage in patient care. A group of 33 nurses and nurse educators analyzed passages from the book and scenes from the movie for metaphorical meanings that apply to nursing. For example, the Wizard helps the Lion to realize that sometimes it is actually wise, and not cowardly, to run from dangerous situations.

"The distance between courage and folly is not great, thus nurses and nurse educators need to be cautious. Nurses and nurse educators do need to take risks to carry out their agency's mission... but they should strive to make those risks as well informed and thoughtful as possible," many quote further, "A central characteristic of nursing is the process of giving respect and loving witness to the wisdom, compassion, and courage of others."

Psychologists have also used the film to help explain why, so often, impressions we make about the size of people based on their voices are wrong. Dorothy is initially terrified of the Wizard's large, booming voice, only to discover that he is, in reality, a short man.

"We all have had experiences roughly similar to Dorothy's in which we have formed clear, if implicit, impressions of people based primarily on the sound of their voices, only to have them dramatically contradicted when we meet them in person" psychologists note.  "They turn out to be considerably shorter or taller than we expected."

Hypnotherapists have even used the story of "The Wizard of Oz" to put kids into hypnosis.

When some 8-to-13-year-old children weren't responding to traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnotherapists in Montana developed an individualized hypnotic treatment based on metaphors found in Dorothy's adventures.  To induce hypnosis the therapists suggestively told the children:

"In the Wizard of Oz, the Straw Man wanted brains, the Tin Man wanted a heart, the Lion wanted courage, and Dorothy wanted to take Toto and go home to Kansas. They wanted these things very badly. So, they went to the Wizard for help. At first the Wizard seemed bothered. He called himself the 'great and powerful Oz' and sent them away. Later, he sent them out to bring back the witch's broom. When the Straw Man, Tin Man, Lion, Dorothy, and Toto returned with the broom, they were surprised with their own success. They discovered that the Wizard was just a regular man and wasn't really a Wizard after all. They also discovered that they already had brains, a heart, and courage. Then, the Wizard gave them each something to show they were smart, loving, and brave. And Dorothy discovered she had within herself, the power to get her and Toto back to Kansas."

After hypnosis, by applying the metaphors, the children were more capable of defining their goals and realizing they already had within them some of the things they thought they were missing.

Copyright 2010- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


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Editor-in Chief:
Kirsten Nicole

Editorial Staff:
Kirsten Nicole
Stan Kenyon
Robyn Bowman
Kimberly McNabb
Lisa Gordon
Stephanie Robinson

Kirsten Nicole
Stan Kenyon
Liz Di Bernardo
Cris Lobato
Elisa Howard
Susan Cramer