The medical world and Hollywood have never been far apart. This partnership has spawned some of the most memorable moments in entertainment — from long-running hits like ER to primetime shows like House to reality shows like NurseTV. And you have to admit that, while Hollywood seldom gets the medical know-how and jargon right, it does make for fascinating TV.
However, many medical dramas give the prestige to doctors, and leave nurses in the dust. Only recently have television audiences been exposed to shows that focus on nursing life, in shows like Nurse Jackie, Mercy, and HawthoRNe. With storylines centered around strong, ambitious characters, these shows give the audience a glimpse of what the nursing profession is really like.
Hollywood’s love affair with medical shows gets a lot wrong, and a little right. And that’s no exception when it comes to nurses on the small screen. Take a look at some of television’s amazing nurses.
Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco)
Nurse Jackie Payton is an ER nurse in New York City with an attitude. She has an addiction to Vicodin and Adderall along with a questionable sense of justice, much like Dr. Gregory House of House. Jackie doesn’t back down; she’ll argue with doctors and advocate for her patients, often without a regard for the consequences. While her shaky ethics may not be up to par for the realities of nursing, her savvy personality and take-no-prisoners attitude is a refreshing change for nurses in television.
Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney)
Carol Hathaway (Julianna Marguiles)
Sam Taggart (Linda Cardellini)
The hit NBC show ER ran for 15 seasons, exploring the life of doctors, nurses, and medical staff in the emergency room. Amid all the medical miracles, GSWs, and badly-performed CPRs, the career of nurse Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) riled real-life nurses everywhere. Abby first made her appearance on the show in season 6 and went from head nurse to medical student to earning her MD and leaving nursing for doctor-dom. Abby’s career arc suggested that earning an MD and switching over to the “dark side” is a natural course for nurses everywhere. Doctor status really doesn’t need to be every nurse’s highest ambition, but becoming a better nurse and aiming for advanced degrees and certifications is the way to do it.
Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith)
In HawthoRNe, Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a chief nursing officer navigating the tricky field of health care while fighting for her patients. She’s a workaholic with a headstrong personality, always standing up for patients and those who cannot do so themselves. Christina is a nurse completely dedicated to patient care, often at the expense of her personal life and family.