This post was originally published on RNFM Radio‘s blog October 2013
I’m one of those nurses other people hate watching TV medical dramas with. I shout out: “Intubate her now!” or congratulate myself on guessing a diagnosis from a minimal amount of script information. People watching these programs with me say, “It’s just a TV show.”
But the truth is, it’s not.
When the same nurse characters are recreated over and over for public consumption by the entertainment industry they become woven into public awareness, and accepted as fact. I wrote about this in a previous post for RNFM Radio.
After my appearance on RNFM Radio earlier this year, I realized I want to create nurse characters closer to the truth, struggling with feelings of social isolation caused by intimate association to the trauma of others, and the accountability to act on it.
Nurses do not only witness the suffering of others, nor do we only hold the hands of patients in pain, or their hair out of their faces while they puke. We assess their needs, get them the treatment needed to alleviate their symptoms, and administer it. Other times, we cover their profuse bleeding with our gloved hands, yell for help, and initiate the ministrations designed to help them hang on.
Except on TV. On TV, physicians do all of this work. In real life, I have had the pleasure of working with doctors who actually did hold the basin while a patient puked, and I’ve even had one assist with cleaning a code brown. These are special people, performing outside of the work doctors are usually expected to do, not because doctors wouldn’t necessarily do so, so much as because doctors are not usually present when these things happen, and nurses usually are.
Anyway, in The Adventures of Nurse Niki, nurses do the work of nurses. Physician characters appear proportionately to how they normally do in real hospital units: during rounds, when summoned from the call room, during codes, procedures, and for admissions and discharges. Doctors are not constantly at the hospital coordinating and administering patient care, because that is not their job. It’s the job of nurses.
None of this information is new to either nurses or anyone who has spent a lengthy time hospitalized, but it appears to be new information for producers and TV writers who continue to populate TV hospitals with doctors doing patient care, while the nurses stand by waiting to, or asking for, help. Some TV nurse characters enter medical school, I suspect, so they too can get a starring role.
The Adventures of Nurse Niki is an attempt to make a 3-dimensional main character whose life is interesting because she is a nurse, not because she works in the proximity of doctors.