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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Hate ‘Nurse Jackie’? Here’s What You Can Do

Published June 12, 2009 10:04 AM by Ainsley Maloney
Barring rave reviews and a record number of viewers (a cumulative 1.35 million after the premiere and encore), Showtime picked up Nurse Jackie for a second season just 1 day after its June 8 premiere.

It's likely you're either smiling or cringing.

But, regardless of whether you think Nurse Jackie's a strong, competent nurse who's finally portraying the difficult work nurses do, or a morally depleted, ethically corrupt one who's tarnishing your profession - we at ADVANCE love to give our nurses something to work with. So here goes.

If you loved Nurse Jackie, go ahead and use it as a platform to talk about the ways it positively portrays the nursing profession to your friends and family.

If you hate it, well production for the second season hasn't begun yet, (it's starting this summer for a 2010 première), so there's still time to tell those producers over at Showtime what you think - whether it's to tell them you hate the show, or suggest ways they can be more accurate, advises Tina Gerardi, MS, RN, CAE, the CEO of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).

Gerardi wrote to Showtime in May asking a disclaimer be added at the start of each episode to separate Nurse Jackie's actions from real-world nurses. (It was denied; more on that soon).

She also recalls the American Nurses Association taking action with ER back in 1998 when the show was thinking of sending nurse Carol Hathaway to medical school.

"When ER first came out, we, the American Nurses Association, wrote and talked to producers and said, ‘There's good stuff there, but there's other stuff that's not true,' Gerardi noted.

"The season when Nurse Hathaway was thinking about becoming a doctor, we said, ‘Don't do that. She's a strong nurse character. Don't negate that strong nurse character by saying you can't be fulfilled as a strong patient advocate; a strong clinician unless you're a physician. That's not true.'

"And they didn't. They didn't go there. So there have been opportunities where we have been able to influence the public image. And I don't know, perhaps Nurse Jackie will be that other opportunity. It's too early to tell."

Mary McNamara, ANA spokesperson, said then-ANA President Beverly Malone wrote the letter to NBC producers, and "whether or not we can take credit for that particular story changing is subject to interpretation, but we did view it as a positive change."

A 1998 ANA Online Journal of Issues in Nursing article touches on this triumph:

"Nurse Hathaway (like most, if not all, Registered Nurses) is frequently insulted by being asked why she's a nurse, rather than a doctor," the article reads.

"Urged by her colleagues, Nurse Hathaway takes the medical school entrance exam, receiving scores which insure [sic] her admittance to any number of schools. However, after carefully pondering her options (and several weeks of suspense), she decides nursing practice is the preferred career.

"One dramatization like this (i.e., the refusal of a young, beautiful, brainy nurse to switch to medicine) is worth a thousand press releases."

To create your own change, you can start by writing Stuart Zakim, vice president of corporate communications at Showtime, who in his response to NYSNA, denying their request for a disclaimer, said: "We feel that our discussion with NYSNA was enormously constructive, and ... we hope that our dialogue can continue as the show unfolds."

ANA is also not happy with Nurse Jackie and is urging nurses to write a letter of complaint (see sample letter here) and mail it to Showtime at:

Showtime Networks Inc. ATTN: Robert Greenblatt, President, Entertainment
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

posted by Ainsley Maloney


I never watch Nurse Jackie. I happen to watch 2 nights ago.

I was happy to see that you told the truth.

In the episode Nurse Jackie is in prison for drunk driving.

She has her nursing license suspended.

She try's to go back to work, and her manager screams, "Get out" and throws her out of the ER, humiliating Nurse Jackie in front of

her coworkers. (Acted so spot on!)

That's the "real world". There is nothing glamorizing about drug addiction.

Also you brilliantly captured how sick Nurse Jackie is by the very causal way she talks to her attorney about getting her job back.

It's as if she is asking for a hall pass.

I may watch this show again.

Thank you for having the back bone to show the awful outcomes

for "any" health care professional who chooses that path.

P.S. I hope she does time.

DeAnna Wells, LPN April 23, 2015 7:25 AM
Scarsdale NY

I'm not a nurse. Could go along with some of Jackie's addiction problems but I turned the show off tonight after she denied finding another woman's credit card. I don't plan to watch again. She doesn't have to be perfect but I no longer like her or care what happens to her.

Nan May 19, 2014 10:30 PM
Southbury CT

I love Nurse Jackie, is a fictional program......are we nurses so uptight we can't enjoy a funny, sometimes painfully realistic program? I've been a nurse for 30 years,  I remember when MASH came out as a TV sit-com.....I sat there and pointed out to anyone who would listen "we really don't do it that way" when nurse Jackie says something really off the wall, I think "Gee, I wish we really could say that" or "I'd love to have been able to do it that way".  Anyone who has been in the hospital, doctors office, nursing home, etc can tell you nurses do not behave the way nurse Jackie think somehow this show influences public opinion is moronic and very, very puritanical.....and personally I have had about enough of that!

Leslie, Insurance - LPN, Office April 8, 2011 12:07 PM
Bethlehem PA

I recently discontinued my expanded cable access so I have not yet seen the episodes of the two programs.  Nonetheless, having read the articles in Advance, I have to say that I object to the contrived "tic" of the doctor who is said to have grabbed Nurse Jackie's breast.  Perhaps she should have "knee'd" him in a reflexive movement or at least had him brought up on sexual harassment charges.  Too often sexual harassment goes on in the medical setting and to allow this on national programming would seem to encourage it.  Having been an R.N. for nearly 40 years, I have seen many instances where true sexual harassment has been blown off, or the person making the complaint is seen as a troublemaker.  I find the scripted insert on the episode of Nurse Jackie to be unnecessary and offensive.

Nancy Harrison-Werner, Nursing - Nurse Case Manager June 30, 2009 12:50 PM

I've been a nurse for 9 years and I like Nurse Jackie. I could say that it's only fiction and not representative of the profession but that's not my defense of the show.  It is indeed fiction and there were a couple of holes in the premiere's story.

But, watching it with my daughter who's been a nurse for 18 months, what we liked is that Edie's character is flawed and complicated. Her strong sense of justice, however skewed, could be expressed in ways that our jobs could never allow. Her frustration with life unfairness and medicine's inequities is something we feel almost everyday. There's so much wrong with the way that medicine works in the US and Nurse Jackie allows us to root for logic and fair play for 30 minutes a week.

Monya, Nursing - RN June 13, 2009 7:38 PM

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