35° Good Afternoon
35° Good Afternoon

Nursing's TV image could use a spin doctor

Depictions of doctors have come a long way since "General Hospital" first aired in 1963. But when it comes to nurses, too often they are relegated to tired stereotypes, say authors Sandy Summers and Harry Jacob Summers.

The pair, who penned the book "Saving Lives: Why the Media Portrayals of Nurses Put Us All at Risk," and are behind the Baltimore-based group The Truth About Nursing,have come out with a list of the best and worst portrayals of nurses of 2009.

The good ones offer compelling portrayals of nurses who go all out for the care of their patients. They also rise above one-dimensional stereotype of nurses, such as "the handmaidens, the naughty nurse, the angel and the battle ax," writes Sandy Summers, a Johns Hopkins Hospital-trained nurse.


At the top of the list is Edie Falco's "Nurse Jackie" on Showtime. She's tough as nails, with a few, um, issues - an addiction to painkillers and an affair with a co-worker, for starters - but she's human and fights for the best care for her patients, the book notes.


ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and Fox's "House" have, over the decade, given viewers the same old demeaning images - nurses mocked by doctors and nurses as "silent handmaidens to physicians who provide important care."

Negative images of nurses on TV aren't just entertainment - they affect real nurses and their patients, the authors write. Getting it right is important in an era of nursing shortages. The authors fear the shortages of nurses could get exacerbated by poor depictions in the media.

With the huge popularity of so many TV shows set in hospitals, it's an interesting argument.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.