Nurse Jackie: A New Spin on Nursing

Most nurses are ethical, right minded, and honest, but not Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie.” All of these qualities were disregarded. In the new show, nurses are instead portrayed in a negative light – something Showtime tried to capitalize on by screening it to an audience of nurses.

The pilot episode that aired on June 8 featured serial misconduct by Nurse Jackie, played by Edie Falco. She forged an organ donor card, flushed a patient's ear down the toilet, and then stole his wallet to give to a pregnant women. Jackie also snorted pills that she received from a pharmacist with whom she’d had sex in the lab room. But at the end of the episode Jackie went home to two daughters and a husband, only slipping her wedding band on after arriving home.

On the June 15th episode, “Chicken Soup,” Jackie continued her affair with the pharmacist and her addiction to painkillers.

Is this really how nurses deserve to be portrayed by the media?

In 2006, the Business and Media Institute examined how the media portrays businessmen in the workplace and discovered that they were presented negatively, often being depicting on popular television shows as criminals, villains, or Romeos who used the workplace solely for dating purposes. “Nurse Jackie” is doing the same for the nursing profession and the hospitals that employ them.

Showtime even screened the pilot to nurses. On the Showtime website, nurses gushed about the show. One nurse stated, “‘Nurse Jackie’ is well overdue for nurses.” Another nurse raved, “I thought it was great.” One nurse even said, “She portrayed a nurse as we really see how nurses are.” Maybe these were the same nurses who rallied beside Michael Moore in 2007 pushing for universal healthcare.

To them, “Nurse Jackie” accurately depicted nurses, but not according to Barbara Crane, a nurse in the intensive care unit at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, New York and president of the National Federation of Nurses. Crane stated, “I have no clue what the screening was supposed to be about. They couldn't think that those of us in the most ethical profession – and we are the most ethical profession – that we could possibly find that entertaining.”

Showtime, however, probably doesn’t care whether nurses find it entertaining – just as long as they generate buzz and help the network stoke controversy.