Prime-time television shows seldom present occupations accurately and the nursing profession is no exception. Shows like “Nurse Jackie” and “Grey’s Anatomy” create popular portrayals of nurses as dramatic, emotional, and somehow seemingly being able to avoid the many hours of paperwork and charting that real-life Registered Nurses do on a daily basis.
Nurses outside of the cameras have very different jobs than they do on screen. Perhaps the most inaccurate portrayal of nursing on even well-meaning shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Angels in America” leave out the foundation of communication between nursing and the other medial specialties. Charting, whether by handwritten records or the newer computerized charting systems, puts onto paper all pertinent information concerning a patient. Every treatment, examination, dispersal of medicine, contact, bath, and instruction is recorded in the records. This written communication assists other health care professionals as they diagnose and treat patients. Television nurses may dramatically interact with medical personnel and patients on an ongoing basis but never lift a pen. Nothing could be more inaccurate a portrayal of a day in the life of a Registered Nurse.
A second inaccuracy that television shows present on a regular basis is that nurses are able to concentrate almost exclusively on one, two, or a small number of patients. Reality is significantly different. The average nurse is actively responsible for as many as 30 to 40 patients. Hospitals try to keep these numbers down to manageable levels but the cost of patient care often dictates a less advantageous nurse-to-patient ratio. In specialized care hospital units it’s possible to have nurses caring for just a handful of people but these are critically ill or injured patients and not in the general hospital population.
Time management difficulties are part of the daily routine. There’s seldom time to “get it all done” in real life. TV nursing personalities have time to relate freely to anyone they want without their duties getting in the way.
There are similarities between real-life Registered Nurses and the television show version of health care providers.
Nurses in both situations are generally caring and passionate about their jobs. They’re in nursing because they’re caring people. They want to facilitate healing and work in rewarding and people-oriented careers that help others. Nurses do cry sometimes. A jaded attitude tends to develop over tender hearts but is usually only onion-skin thin. Health care providers become attached to patients with whom they have a natural affinity or who they get to know over a period of time. Do nurses love their jobs? The answer is yes.
Actresses, actors, and nurses share a flair for the dramatic in some situations. TV over-presents this distinctly human trait and highlights conflict, passion, and romance. Nurses experience the highs and lows of life and it does spill over into work at times. There are both inaccurate representations of nursing and fairly accurate portrayals of this helping profession on the popular TV shows. Just ask a real Registered Nurse.
Ready to bridge to your RN?