Nurses in TV and Film

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What do you think about the portrayal of nurses in TV and film?

I’ve seen a flurry of blogs posts lately about nurses in TV and film, as well as about the portrayal of nurses in media.

Travel Nursing Blogs recently rounded up their picks for the “10 Best TV Nurses.” It’s a quality bunch from a variety of comedies and dramas alike, with some of the most loved TV nurses like China Beach’s Lt. Colleen McMurphy, Scrubs’ Carla Espinosa, Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan from M*A*S*H, and the titular character, Nurse Jackie. (This piece also briefly mentions the MTV reality show “Scrubbing In,” which followed the lives of a group of travel nurses and was quite controversial due to its racy depiction of the nursing profession. Under pressure from nursing groups, MTV made a few changes, but did not immediately cancel the show, which now appears to be on permanent hiatus.)

Fastaff recently blogged about the “10 Best Movies About Nursing” — a diverse list that included documentaries, comedies, dramas, and even made for TV movies, including The English Patient, Meet the Parents, and Nurses: If Florence Could See Us Now. The blog said that folks enjoy watching movies about nurses and that the films can provide “valuable insights into how other people view nurses.”

On that note of how nurses are viewed in media, over at NurseTogether, a blog asked “How Does the Media Portray Nurses?” The author discussed the often negative portrayal of nurses in TV, making them at times seems like stereotypes (the “naughty nurse,” for example) and also depicting nurses as subservient to physicians and sometimes as little more than errand runners. In summary, this blog says that despite less than favorable media depictions, the nursing profession is regularly ranked high in terms respect and ethics, and the best thing a nurse can do to set a good example is keep doing a great job.

Although not a super recent post, Minority Nurse has a great blog called “Lights, Camera, Accuracy: Nurses in the Media” that begins:

“Your favorite movie or TV show may feature a spunky heroine who’s smart, capable, and great at her job, but chances are she’s not a nurse. Although TV shows and movies are known to take artistic liberties with many professions — such as homicide detectives, lawyers, and politicians — the importance of what nurses do has been consistently downplayed and marginalized in mainstream media.”

The post continues through an interesting detail of nurses in TV and film, with an extra emphasis on looking at how minority nurses are portrayed. There is also some really great advice about how to manage such media portrayals, what it really means to be a nurse, and how nurses can gain more exposure and credit for everything they do as healthcare professionals.

So, wow — it’s a lot to think about! Of course, every day on the job you influence how nurses are thought of, but the media is also a very strong tool. Ideally, I think it would be great to see more strong, positive, three-dimensional, accurate portrayals of nurses in the media.

What are some of your favorite portrayals of nurses in TV and film? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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