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10 nurse depictions we wish would go away

Image: Ocean Illustration | Veer

What would a Halloween party be without a naughty nurse? What porn movie isn’t complete without the rather large-chested and always available nurse? And then, of course, there are the soap operas (and seemingly legit evening medical dramas) with the pouty-lipped nurses who are out to nab Dr. Right. Is it any wonder why nurses are fed up with how we’re portrayed in the media?

It’s not as if nurses don’t have a sense of humor. Heck, you have to be able to laugh to do what we do, right? But there’s a line—and it’s not that fine a line—between laughing with nurses and laughing at them. And when people are laughing at them, you can bet there’s less respect for the profession. Nursing isn’t the only profession that has stereotypes – librarians and policewomen are just two examples.

We nurses have to do our part to educate people about what the profession is really about. We certainly have our work cut out for us! Take a look at this list, then roll up your sleeves!

Here are 10 nurse depictions (with some horrifying examples!) we wish would go away:

1. Naughty Halloween Nurse
2. Addicted Nurse
3. Sex Object Nurse
4. Celebrities as Hot Nurses
5. Fetish Nurses
6. Nurse Ratched
7. Sexy (and Usually Gay) Male Nurse
8. Servant Nurse
9. Soap Opera Nurse
10. Bimbo/Helpless Nurse

FIRST: We’ve NEVER dressed like that.

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Marijke Durning

Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.

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16 Responses to 10 nurse depictions we wish would go away

  1. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    So true on all levels.

  2. sara b

    the “nurse” in the GH youtube clip is not a nurse. she is a doctor on the show.

  3. Marijke

    I’m sorry Sara! I could have sworn she was as nurse. I’ll have to find a better clip.

  4. Lisa

    I think we should maintain a sense of humor about it. Shows like Nurse Jackie show some of the realities of our jobs around the story of a fictional flawed character. If she was normal and well adjusted, then I probably wouldn’t want to watch it!

  5. Suzanne

    The only nurse media stereotype I truely wish would go away is the one where the nurses hardly exist. I recognize that doctors are (maybe) more interesting to write stories about but it’s like if they throw in a nurse or two they’re sort of like a token character in the story. And generally, if there’s a doctor on the case he or she is doing everything – watching monitors, hanging meds, drawing labs, sitting with the patient, changing bed pans/dressings/etc, starting IVs. I’m like – yeah….riiiiiight.

    • RNjune2006 RN

      Totally agree wish TV shows would depict nurses more as they are. I don’t know many doctors who really know wound care at all, nevermind how to put in an IV.

  6. Lizzy

    @Suzanne, I know! I always think that. They show the doctors doing all this stuff, and it’s totally all stuff that the nurses do! Where are the doctors in real life who dress wounds or set up IVs?!

  7. lynn

    Don’t get me started on the subject of “Nurse” Jackie…

  8. Ellen Algava

    This is what bothers me about Nurse Jackie. But this is a reality in most hospitals nationwide, and it’s not just nurses.

  9. Granny RN RN

    I kind of always thought that Nurse Ratched got a ‘bum rap’ until, of course, the last part of the movie when she starts berating ‘Billy’ by playing the ‘what will your mother think’ card.
    Back in ‘the day’ in psych wards there were no counselors who held the group therapy sessions over which Nurse Ratched presided. ‘Shock therapy’ was the usual treatment for extreme depression, suicide attempts, psychoses, neuroses, etc. The antipsychotic and antidepressants which we now take for granted did not exist. The depiction was from an era before most ‘modern’ nurses were even BORN.
    A ‘lesser’ nurse could not have dealt with a unit ‘instigator’ like Jack Nicholson’s character. Ratched was strong enough to calmly but firmly keep her all-male unit on a schedule (something that certain psych diagnoses need), collaborated with the MD and expected her staff to DO THEIR JOBS!

  10. Granny RN RN

    I actually read a post from some nurse once who wanted to know ‘the best place to work so I can find a doctor to marry’. These chicks go to college to get an MRS. degree!
    Where I have seen ‘doctor stalkers’ who were successful enough to ‘snag’ one, the first thing that they do is to get pregnant. Then, she has him and/or his money for LIFE!
    And the poor schmuck NEVER seems to see it coming!

  11. candy mccroskey RN

    I really hate when a patient says to me as I’m ready to draw blood or start and IV. ” you really enjoy hurting people don’t you?” Sure, I’d rather be doing this, when I could be on a tropical island sipping a margarita!

  12. Belasko RN

    I’ve seen most of these in real life, other than the more extreme examples of the sexy nurse. Saying that they don’t exist and therefore a tv show or movie depicting them is wrong for doing so is ignoring it. Personally I don’t mind the sexy nurse stereotypes at halloween, after all I’m a guy. The drug addict nurse I do have an issue with and pretending it’s not there is truly a disservice. This one is probably the one that needs a direct, “nurse ratched” approach to dealing with it, not asking others to not portray it.

  13. therealcie LPN

    I think the “slutty nurse” stereotype is the one that bothers me the most.

  14. bassnurse13

    I’m not homophobic by any means but another stereotype is that all male nurses are gay and in many television programs and some movies, they go along with this stereotype.

  15. swansboo6

    @bassnurse13= (coming from a male nurse)=THANK YOU!!!