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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

‘Nurse Jackie’: Your Kid Has “Issues”

Published June 30, 2009 1:51 PM by Ainsley Maloney

On Nurse Jackie we've spent many an episode watching Edie Falco snort, crush and pop prescription painkillers, yet as soon as her daughter Grace's teacher suggests the 10-year-old start a low-dose medicine for her anxiety disorder, Jackie is aghast.

"It's amazing to me. You think a kid has a problem you just make them take a pill. Nice work," she tells the panel of Grace's teacher, a psychiatrist and the school nurse.

The panel goes on to show Jackie and her husband, Kevin, Grace's black-and-white drawings and says Grace never draws a sun or adds any color at all.

"Children tend to draw optimistically," the teacher explains. "Trees are huge, skies are blue; it's how they see the world." She pauses, then asks, "Are there any problems at home?"

"No," Jackie insists, even though last episode Jackie and Kevin shared concern over Grace's worrying about such things as the bubonic plague and flu epidemic.

Grace circles her desk three times before sitting down, her teacher adds and explains she does it "so the planes don't fall out of the sky." The panel concludes Grace has a generalized anxiety disorder and suggests she be started on a low-dose, anti-anxiety medicine.

"Anxiety dis-order?" Jackie asks unable to believe the word is being used in connection with her child.

Interestingly Jackie had hinted to Dr. O'Hara last episode she was worried about Grace's anxiety, but now that "total strangers" are saying her kid has "issues," Jackie is in total denial, blaming it all on a stage Grace will probably grow out of in 6 months.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you know of a parent (whether a friend or colleague) who can so clearly recognize a problem in another child, but not in their own?

I did. My middle school guidance counselor and family friend was fantastic at recognizing kids' behavioral or learning disabilities; suggesting their parents ask the doctor about ADHD; etc. and yet she was in such denial about her own daughter's anorexia, her daughter died at the age of 23.

As a parent who is also a nurse, this adds a different twist - you assess and diagnose other people daily. Do you feel it's harder to "diagnose" your child or does your job make you even more perceptive at home?

If you have a story to share about a colleague or close personal friend who simply couldn't see a problem in their own child please share, and also let us know what you did to step in and help, if at all. It's hard to broach this very sensitive topic of telling someone else there's something "wrong" with their child, so I'm interested to hear your advice on how to handle it.

On the other hand, maybe your child had a problem you almost missed and something happened that finally made you open your eyes? Your story might help another parent.

Note: If you missed any episode of Nurse Jackie, Showtime is running a Fourth of July marathon at the following times:

Episode 1 (Pilot): 8 p.m. ET

Episode 2 "Sweet-‘N-All": 8:30 p.m. ET

Episode 3 "Chicken Soup": 9 p.m. ET

Episode 4 "School Nurse": 9:30 p.m. ET

posted by Ainsley Maloney



What a great story! Thank you for writing, and also for your honesty. Not only is it hard for parents sometimes to "see" what's wrong with their own child -- admitting they didn't see it is even harder! :) It is admirable that you can laugh at yourself, put your child in the trusted hands of your NP, and relinquish the feeling you should know it all. Your daughter will certainly be healthier because of your ability to remain clear in your judgements!

Ainsley Maloney, , Assistant Editor Advance for Nurses July 14, 2009 12:59 PM
King of Prussia PA

I have a terrific relationship with my childrens' Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.  She knows I am an ER nurse, but when it comes to my kids, she treats me like a mom.  And for this I thank her.

Once, I thought my daughter was having a skin reaction to something.  She had a fine, lacy rash all over her body.  It got worse when she was hot (after a nap or bath), but didn't appear to bother her at all.  

She happened to be visiting for a regular check up and I nonchalantly pointed it out to the NP.  She asked me to tell her everything, including any recent fevers.  And darn it...Anna did have a low grade fever a week ago.

She laughed (not at me, but with me) and explained that I was seeing Fifth's Disease, a common viral illness of childhood.

Ever since then, I tell people that I might be a nurse, but I'm an idiot when it comes to my own kids' illness.  

Lorettajo Kapinos July 13, 2009 11:56 AM
Springfield MA

This show is more truthful however Iwuold like to see nurse Jckie wuth out an addiction

FAY, MMRD - sUPERVISOR OF NSG SVCS, HCD July 10, 2009 11:59 AM

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