In nursing, where years of working long hours can leave us feeling at times as if the tumor always wins, finding meaning is essential to happiness. People find meaning in different ways — some through spiritual practices such as meditation, others at a church, temple, or faith center.
When I can’t make sense of life by other means, I find meaning within inspirational themes of literature and art. Sometimes that meaning surfaces by way of humor. It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe, at its finest, humor becomes a place where science, humanity, and art converge.
With humor in mind, last year, Scrubs magazine posted a list of “Top fictional nurses and docs YOU want to get trapped in an elevator with.” Getting stuck in an elevator would cause me the same escape anxiety that makes a wolf chew off its paw to escape a metal trap. However, the article did make me think about my favorite fictional nurses and doctors, and what I would say to them if I ever met them.
Here’s my list of clinicians and what I would say to each:
- Dr. Frankenstein: In light of your previous laboratory experiments, what is your position on stem cell research?
- Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, RN ( M*A*S*H, TV version ): Thank you for evolving from a rule- and sex-obsessed stereotype into a nurse comfortable with being compassionate, smart, and sexy. TV audiences would have been satisfied with just sexy.
- Alex Price, RN ( An American Werewolf in London ): Exercise caution if you’re going to date your patients.
- Phil Parma, RN ( Magnolia ): You are an unsung hero, the home health nurse. You take on the pathos of the dying and their families alone. Without judgment, and through unorthodox means, you found a way to fulfill your dying patient’s last wish. And when no one is looking, you grieve.
- Hana, RN ( The English Patient ): Make more time for self-care and fun, instead of dating guys who are as self-destructive as you.
- Gaylord Focker, RN ( Meet The Fockers ): Dude, if you were my coworker, we’d be BFFs.
- Dr. Hawkeye Pierce ( M*A*S*H ): What time is happy hour?
- Catherine Barkley, RN ( A Farewell to Arms ): Have you ever felt, like I do, that your dialogue is written in a way that sounds as if Hemingway never spoke to an actual woman?
- Jenny Fields ( The World According to Garp ): You are the fictional nurse I’d most like to meet, despite your shortcomings. Your fierce independence is both a blessing and a curse. Despite this, you are a true healer, demonstrating profound love of humanity in all its diversity, weaknesses, and beauty. You inspired me before I knew I would be a nurse. I pray to have a heart as open and generous as yours someday. I think of you often.
Which favorite fictional doctors or nurses would top your list?
Excellent list, Julianna! Wouldn’t mind meeting up with these fictionals myself!
I’d like to meet Nurse Ratchet (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) – want to know just why in heaven’s name she become a psych nurse?; also Cherry Ames – would like to take her out in NYC and have her walk on the wild side a bit; can she meet Nurse Jackie?
Ha! Shawn, most excellent suggestions! I wonder if Nurse Ratchet would become a sympathetic character if we knew her backstory? I’m of the opinion, however, that being hurt does not give one license to hurt others. She was certainly expert at inflicting pain without leaving a visible mark.
Taking Cherry Ames out in NYC is downright brilliant. I’m picturing her having cosmos with the Sex in The City women. Thanks for a fun comment!
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