Lessons Real Nurses Can Learn from Fictional Ones

National Nurses Week affords our nation’s nurses some much-deserved recognition. After all, considering everything nurses do in terms of patient care, administrative work, and generally acting as the gears that make our medical system run, they rarely get the credit they earn day in and day out. On the other hand, fictional movie and TV nurses often successfully capture viewers’ hearts and imaginations, at times shaping public perception of real-life nurses and what they do. So perhaps there are a few things nurses can learn from their large and small screen counterparts that will make their patients and the general population more appreciative of their hard work? To find out which of those lessons might be most relevant, let’s take a look at a random sampling of famous fictional nurses to see what positive attributes you as a non-fictional nurse can absorb from them – and which negative ones you should seek to avoid.

Carla Espinosa (Scrubs)

What you should emulate: The head nurse at Scrubs’ Sacred Heart Hospital is as tough and no-nonsense when butting heads with the hospital’s penny-pinching bureaucracy and she is big-hearted, knowledgeable, and able to maintain a sense of humor when treating her patients. In one Season 2 episode, she passed up an opportunity to attend nurse practitioner school, along with the bigger paycheck and greater administrative freedom that would have come with it, because it would leave her less time for the part she loved most about her job: caring for her patients. That’s a level of compassion every nurse should aspire to.

What you shouldn’t: Remember when Carla melted Zach Braff’s face with her mind? Granted, it occurred during a fantasy sequence, but that’s still no way to treat your colleagues.

Nurse Joy (Pokémon)

What you should emulate: Nurse Joy not only possesses the sweetest, kindest, and most caring countenance in all of Kanto – she also might be a medical genius. In the old Pokémon Game Boy games, she demonstrates the ability to routinely nurse battle-scarred and unconscious Pokémon back to perfect health in mere seconds.

What you shouldn’t: As far as we can tell, her miraculous healing powers only work on Pokémon. So you’re generally going to have to put forth a little more effort that she does to get your patients back to “fighting fit.”

Greg Focker (Meet the Parents)

What you should emulate: In Meet the Parents’ opening scene, Ben Stiller’s neurotic, eager-to-please goof demonstrates an admirable knack for connecting with his patients on a personal level, enlisting one’s admittedly captive ear to practice his planned proposal spiel. Taking the time to initiate meaningful moments like these can be a great way of fostering good relationships with your patients, increasing trust and making the treatment process smoother for everyone involved.

What you shouldn’t: First, Greg is embarrassed by his profession, as he clearly buys into the patriarchal stereotype that nursing is strictly a women’s profession. In reality, somewhere in the vicinity of 10% of American nurses are men, and male nurses should feel nothing but pride in the work they do. Second, he makes the fatal mistake of irritating Robert DeNiro. If the last few decades of cinema have taught us anything, it’s that if you ever happen to encounter Robert DeNiro, in a nursing capacity or otherwise, it might behoove you to not aggravate him.

Jackie Payton (Nurse Jackie)

What you should emulate: Edie Falco’s controversial character is fantastic at her job (at least when she’s not high), and also exudes the kind of tough, strong-willed attitude that nurses often need to succeed in their always tough, at times trying jobs.

What you shouldn’t: Well, there’s the whole painkiller addiction thing, for one. Jackie’s continual bouts with flagrantly unethical behavior on the job, mostly stemming from said addiction, earned the ire of the New York State Nurses Association, which went so far as to propose that Showtime air a disclaimer before each episode in the interest protecting real nurses’ reputations. So maybe she’s not the best role model.

Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

What you should emulate: The proficient administration of electro-shock therapy?

What you shouldn’t: Being sadistic and evil.

Nurses Week is all about celebrating YOU! We’re giving you the chance to win a $100 Visa gift card by finding out what motivates you as a nurse. What gets you ready to seize the work day? Share your answers by commenting below for your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card.

10 responses to “Lessons Real Nurses Can Learn from Fictional Ones”

  1. Jessica McCraine says:

    What continues to motivate me as a nurse is knowing that I touch the lives that I serve. On my last assignment, I didn’t realize until signing out the last morning how much we nurses impact lives, and how others impact us. On every job, whether it be the patients or co-workers, we have the amazing opportunity to meet others and share experiences. Some of the people that I have met while traveling, I will never forget. That is what keeps me motivated as a nurse.

  2. Ann Smith says:

    I feel good when I identify and meet my patient and family needs. I feel good when I create an environment where they aren’t intimidated and feel free to ask me anything; tell me anything; let me educate them and draw pictures or demonstrate (on myself i.e.: how to self inject or dress a wound etc) procedures, disease entities, etc. , and make referrals to community resources using s team approach. I feel good when they call for advice. Most of all; I am thrilled when I see my patients in public and they bring people to me and say ‘This is Ann. My nurse.”. Nursing is a calling not a job. I love my career even after 34 years! Ann Smith BSN MEd

  3. sheliah G Lester says:

    My motivation comes from eating well to give me the energy I need to do a great job helping others who are need my service , the pride of a job well done every day ,every time, every patient.

  4. sheliah G Lester says:

    My motivation comes from eating well to give me the energy I need to do a great job helping others who are need my service , the pride of a job well done every day ,every time, every patient.Sheliah Rn

  5. Anna Stephens says:

    The motivation to go into the fray each day as a nurse comes from the heart of a nurse. A nurse’s heart is always looking for ways to improve the life of our patients through our skills and knowledge. To share what makes us nurses in order for our patients to experience healing and return to their lives. We give our all, every day so that they can have another day.

  6. Rebecca Risner says:

    When you work in LTC, as I do, your patients become your family. Motivation is really not a strong enough word, you have a NEED to care for them. I have worked with geriatric patients since I was fourteen years old and that area of care is exactly why I wanted to become a Nurse. I absolutely love what I do and it’s not just a job for me. I think that when you let nursing become “just a job/for the money” that’s when you need a change in career. You have to love it.

  7. Shumaila says:

    I am working in pakistan as a nurse I always feel pain in my heart for people when I see them in trouble.this field motivates me to do more better day by day . I always do my work with heart.I take care of people like my family.I feel proud that I am a nurse.

  8. Lisa says:

    What motivates me as a nurse is the recovery of the precious little lives I care for in the nicu. To have a former patient and their parents visit for years down the road makes my job worthwhile. Knowing that in that time of their lives I helped in them getting better and helped their parents cope with all that was going on. I love being a nurse!

  9. Tracy Koblinski says:

    My motivation exist because I enjoy what I do, I don’t wine and cry to go to work, I love making a difference in a person’s life, encouraging healthy habits and good thoughts, having a patient stop me and tell me that “hey I wanted to let you know that you asking me how I was doing last night and listening to me made all the difference, I was down and having all kind of crazy thoughts in my head but hearing your voice throughout the night inside my head and words of encouragement gave me hope for another day. You know that God sends us messengers like angels and I believed he used you to help me.” I thanked the patient as my heart melted some and told him I enjoyed what I do everyday. Appreciation and improvement in patients everyday life is my motivation. Happy Nurses week to my fellow colleagues.

  10. anuj says:

    Very motivational thought.

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