A Real Nurse Rates the TV Fakes

A nurse rates the portrayal of nurses on TV shows like 'Nurse Jackie,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'House'

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'Nurse Jackie'

returning to Showtime April 8

 “Nurse Jackie is easily the best depiction of nursing on tele-vision. Edie Falco’s Jackie expertly assesses patients and takes bold, innovative action, from pushing for the right treatments to reversing an insurance-coverage denial. She also breaks rules and abuses drugs, but her issues aren’t nursing stereotypes. Jackie’s nurses are presented as bright, complex health professionals who push back against physician error.”




“On House, the entire health care universe revolves around one brilliant, prickly diagnostician. House has a team of physicians to help him solve each week’s medical mystery—but somehow those MDs handle the skilled nursing as well, providing virtually all intensive care, advocacy and patient education. Nurses are portrayed as lackeys whose job is to push gurneys and absorb mockery from House while obsequiously saying, ‘Yes, doctor!’ ”


'Private Practice'


“This show glorifies its physicians but not its only regular nurse character, Dell Parker [Chris Lowell, pictured]. He worked as the clinic receptionist, which I doubt inspired anyone to spend four hard years getting a nursing degree. Dell eventually became a nurse-midwife and occasionally displayed some aptitude. When the show killed him off in 2010, the writers upped the emotion by revealing he’d just been admitted to medical school, thus reinforcing the wannabe-physician stereotype.”


'Grey's Anatomy'


“At Seattle Grace, surgery is what God would do if she were smart and cute enough. The show’s physicians [including Patrick Dempsey’s Dr. Shepherd, above] save lives while working out how many sexual combinations 12 people can create. It often presents nurses as bitter or fawning losers who rely entirely on direction from doctors. On Grey’s, physicians are the diamonds, and nurses the black velvet on which they reside.”


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Originally published in the April 2012 issue

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