Give Nurse Jackie a Chance

Since Nurse Jackie’s first episode aired on Showtime this week, a backlash has developed against the show.  Why?  Because nurses are confusing documentaries with TV entertainment.  Some nursing organizations, ones which I actually admire, are asking the show to put a disclaimer on that Nurse Jackie doesn’t represent the profession.  I think this is a mistake.  Of course, she doesn’t.  Neither does House, and his cast of ridiculous M.D.s .  Neither does Grey’s Anatomy, whose docs function in an almost nurseless institution.  But the American Medical Association and other medical organizations don’t ask for disclaimers on TV doctor shows.  Frankly, I think asking for things like disclaimers from TV producers is not a good strategy.  It suggests that nurses are naive.  That they are excessively  thin skinned and don’t understand the realities of the TV drama medium.  Time would be better spent doing hundreds of op-eds and letters to the editor explaining why Nurse Jackie has the problem she has.  Why is she working so much voluntary overtime?  It’s undoubtedly because her hospital doesn’t have enough nurses and so routinely staffs by asking nurses to stay late.  Why is she in so much pain?  Is it because her hospital doesn’t install lift equipment and so she, like so many other nurses, suffered an unnecessary back, neck or shoulder injury?  Why is she under so much stress?  Is it because she lacks authority on the job?  Look at the dispute she got into with the doc on the first episode.  What that shows is how docs treat nurses.  Marshall the studies by Rosenstein to show how much of a pattern this really is.  Don’t get hung up on the outrageous details.  Remember, this is TV.  It’s entertainment.  Keep your eye on the prize, which is that Jackie is smart, feisty, compassionate.  Yes, she violates ethics and this that and the other thing.  In real life nurses hopefully don’t do this (although, let’s not forget that the system asks them to violate patient safety every time a unit is short staffed or nurses are allowed to work too long, either voluntarily or because they are required to do so).  Let’s see how Nurse Jackie develops.  Give her a chance.

Showing 4 comments
  • Lorettajo Kapinos

    I am very excited this show has started. It’s creating a lot of discussion that we nurses need to have. I am hoping that Nurse Jackie inspires us to brag more about who we are and what we do.

    Also, I’m thrilled to find this blog via your comment on Advance for Nurses POV. Your name was ever prevalent while I was in nursing school, something that stayed with me all these years. But business of life, work and family forced me to pay attention to other things. Now, I have the time to follow you and read your books.

    Thank you for being such a great role model!

    Loretta Kapinos, RN

  • ana albuquerque queiroz

    Dear Susan

    is so great to read your so inteligent, usefull, and realy helpull for nurses to think about this new program.
    I have saw the 1 and 2 episod /my youngest doughter make me a surprise downloading the episodes and send to me saying : mom tell me if you like thise nurse?” and when I saw it i was balanced and give my daughter the opinion like this, let us see how se develops, i am curiouse from american nurses…

    I am having last year and probably nest one a wondrfull experience teaching nursing in Cap Vert

    many times you and Bernice are in my leactures

    best and warm regards
    ana albuquerque queiroz

  • Lawrence Fisher

    I believe the public is smart enough to recognize fiction. Smart, savvy, albeit flawed, women are all the rage. The character Jackie simply reflects that trend. She is a fictional character who just happens to be a nurse.

    Other characterizations include the white, male doofuses (or is the plural doofae?): Dr Fitch Cooper, the pharmacist (Eddie) and the husband. Middle-aged married men are now always portrayed to be Homer Simpson like.

    If everyone became outraged when their ilk is presented as less than perfect, it would all just be vanilla and boring. We, nurses, need to remember that it’s not about “us” and all about creating characters that appeal to audience demographics.

  • Marianne Gerace

    I agree that asking for a disclaimer would not be useful. It seems that everytime there is a nurse portrayed in a TV series there is an outcry from nursing groups and maybe that is why we don’t have much presence. I can’t imagine that lawyers sit around and are thrilled with some of the portrayals of their profession either. I saw the first episode and quite honestly there wasn’t anyone on the show that would be a role model. But at least there is now a chance for discussions, we can say “yes that part is true”, “no, that part is for effect”, etc. There are so many other avenues we need to use to identify ourselves and what we do. Let’s work on getting on the news programs when they ask about health issues and leave entertainment as entertainment.

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