Nursing on TV: More Fiction than Fact

From Nurse Jackie and Private Practice to Grey’s Anatomy and Royal Pains, medical-based television dominates the airwaves, both in first-run shows and reruns. Some of the interactions between nurses, doctors and patients are accurate – and some are not. Check out these five ways nursing is wrongly portrayed on TV:

  1. Nurses Simply Wait for a Doctor’s Instructions
    Doctors and nurses work side-by-side, as a cohesive team. Sometimes, nurses on TV are portrayed as merely assistants to the doctor, unable to act until told what to do. Yes, nurses do assist doctors, but they are also highly trained and often operate autonomously.
  2. Nurses Regularly Ignore Patient Care to Discuss Personal Business with Colleagues
    Here’s a familiar scene on a medical drama: A patient goes into cardiac arrest, but the nurses are bickering in the break room about their love triangle. More often than not, nurses are portrayed as chatty gossipers who do more socializing on the clock than actual nursing. In reality, nurses don’t have time to chat, bicker or gossip – their days are meticulously scheduled and their time is utilized for patient care.
  3. Doctors Can Do Anything That Nurses Do
    TV writers have a tendency to blend together the workplace responsibilities of all medical professionals, in an effort to have the focus remain on the drama of the storyline. In reality, doctors and nurses do have some overlapping of skills. However, both fields are independent from each other and require different training and education.
  4. Nurses Rarely Perform Lifesaving Techniques
    Many times on television, the doctor is given sole credit for saving a life. While doctors can and do save lives every day, nurses also perform lifesaving techniques. Nurses are often the first point of contact for the patient, especially when they take a turn for the worse.
  5. Only Doctors Get Accolades
    On TV, the hugs, high-fives and teary thank yous are often left to the patients, their families and the doctors. It’s not very common for a scene to revolve around thanking nurses for all they have done. Nurses do receive thanks and praise on a daily basis – maybe not enough, but they are often recognized by doctors, patients and their families as an integral part of patient care and healing.

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