Move Over Nurse Jackie!
Just when you thought nurses were under-represented on TV, we now have no fewer than three primetime series about the lives of nurses. Since the "nursing shortage" in primetime has all but been eliminated, the question now is: Which series most accurately depicts the "real" lives of nurses? Keep in mind that all TV is "heightened reality." No one wants to tune in and see what literally happens in the course of anyone's day. "Real" reality can be boring. That's why even "reality" shows are scripted and manipulated to a certain degree. Sorry to disappoint you, Survivor fans.
Understanding that, I have to say of three nursing shows that grace the airwaves now, I believe Mercy, which debuts tonight on NBC 8/7c, is the best choice by far. It gives those not familiar with nursing a peek into the passion and struggle of the lives of nurses that isn't so far inflated that it's a laughable fairytale. It also gives nurses a sense of validation for the challenges they face, enough suspense to not become predictable and a cast with quality writing that provides nurses with the respect they deserve.
While Showtime's ethically-challenged, Nurse Jackie features a renegade nurse who does things most nurses only wish they could do, it might provide a sense of escapism for viewers but does nothing to promote the true essence of what nursing really is. We all know the media has a terrible track record with that.
If you saw the scene from TNT's HawthoRNe where the chief nursing officer leaves her home after being paged at 4:00 a.m. to "talk down" a suicidal patient from the hospital roof ... I don't think I need to say anymore about that show. Still, both have been renewed for another season.
Mercy feels like Grey's Anatomy for nurses ... at least Grey's Anatomy when it was good. I believe the public will be entertained and educated by it while nurses get a sense of pride and vindication.
While the show is terrific, as a whole, there is one misstep. The lone male nurse character is gay. While I completely support the presence of gay characters on TV, we all know male nurses have always had an uphill battle with stereotypes in this department. When I interviewed the producers several months ago, I was told the choice was made because they really wanted the nursing focus to be based in female camaraderie and that a straight male nurse could tip this dynamic in a different direction. The possibility remained open for a male nurse later in the series, but this was the preferred way to debut Mercy. Tune in tonight and let us know what you think.