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.

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