Hospital Dramas Shift Focus to Nurses

By Christine Cupaiuolo — May 21, 2009

A recent post on the end of “ER” sparked a discussion about medical accuracy and the portrayal of nurses. Two new television series premiering next month are likely to add to the debate.

Edie Falco (Carmela on “The Sopranos”) stars in Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie.” She plays a nurse at a New York City hospital who manages her work and domestic chaos with prescription pain medication. The series debuts Monday, June 8. Here’s a look at the trailer:

Showtime is also playing up wacky hospital stories told by nurses.

The second series is “Hawthorne,” which debuts June 16 on TNT. Jada Pinkett Smith plays a nurse (Christina Hawthorne) who would likely bust nurse Jackie and turn her in for misconduct.

Smith’s chacter is described as “a hero who acts out of good intentions, even if she occasionally violates hospital policy or protocol in the process. But being there for her patients means she isn’t always there for herself and her daughter. She is trying to move on after her husband’s death, but she hasn’t really had time to grieve because of her work duties.”

Instead of featuring nurses telling their most outrageous stories, TNT is taking a feel-good approach, inviting viewers to nominate their nurse heroes and offering the chance to win a trip to visit the L.A. set of “Hawthorne” — nurses only may enter to win.

The network is also playing up “Hawthorne” as the latest in a string of TNT series featuring “strong, complex female characters” — the others being “The Closer,” starring Kyra Sedgwick as a deputy police chief, and “Saving Grace,” which stars Holly Hunter as a police detective.

Hospitals, police dramas … the characters may change, but the themes remain the same.

3 responses to “Hospital Dramas Shift Focus to Nurses”

  1. Now, I haven’t seen any of these shows — so this is pure speculation.

    But doesn’t it seem that representations of nurses tend to fall into a fairly consistent binary (something like the virgin/whore binary that objectified representations of women have long fallen into)? I’d call it the underdog/weirdo binary.

    Nurses are either the underappreciated, underpaid, underdog moral bastion in the male-dominated cesspool of medicine. Or they are the strange and wacky sidekicks.

    “ER” is one of the few shows to go in-depth into the lives of nurses — so applaud them for that.

  2. I agree that on ER, nurses were involved in the work. If you watch something like Grey’s Anatomy, you might not know that nurses are involved in health care.

    If you would like to see a series that intertwines professional and personal lives well and shows the problems of hospital staffing, get the BBC series William and Mary from netflix. It is about a midwife and undertaker, people at the opposite ends of life, meeting and falling in love. I am a maternity nurse and loved the births and scenarios shown, the tensions between midwives and doctors and love the way pregnancy is treated.

  3. I quit watching medical dramas years ago- it irked me to death to see the way nurses were portrayed- or completely ignored.

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