May 21, 2010
Response by Krissy R. Macke to “Ethics: The Value of Nursing Ethics. What about Nurse Jackie?” by Dr. Jeanne Sorrell (July 22, 2009).
With Reply by Author
This letter is a response to Dr. Sorrell’s Ethics Column about the new television series, Nurse Jackie. This show portrays a registered nurse working in a busy New York emergency room. Nurse Jackie is the main character of the show. She advocates for her patients, challenges ethical issues, and exhibits leadership in a manner that most nurses wish they could do themselves.
I agree that the show does include a number of ethically questionable behaviors, including substance abuse, an affair, disregard for authority, and forgery of paperwork. It also presents to the general public an inaccurate portrayal of some aspects of nursing. These behaviors might discourage some students from entering nursing. Yet doctors watch Grey’s Anatomy and House, so why not Nurse Jackie for nurses. It is interesting to note that the American Nurses Association conducted a poll that found only 53% of the responders felt Nurse Jackie was negative and harmful to the profession.
I believe that in-spite-of the ethically questionable behaviors, which are actually presented in a comical manner, the show has benefits for nursing. For example, the nurse is now the main character of the show, unlike the medical shows which leave nursing in the background. Nurse Jackie is portrayed as a compassionate, caring nurse who maintains a personal and family life. I agree with Dr. Sorrell that Nurse Jackie can serve as role model and leader and that the show promotes avenues for communication. I think the show is a great way for nurses to address ethical issues, and in doing so to share the issues that nurses face. Because people are indeed watching Nurse Jackie, the show provides a new way for nurses to tell others what nursing really is about and what it is able to do for patients and their families. My recommendation would be to strengthen the show’s potential to promote healthcare communication by encouraging the show writers and producers to provide education and health promotion topics throughout the show.
Television continues to be a great resource. With shows like Nurse Jackie it can be a new avenue by which nursing can reach the community. We, as a profession, need to promote this show because it raises public awareness that nurses are knowledgeable and skillful, that nurses truly make a difference, and that nurses save patient’s lives.
Krissy R. Macke, RN, BSN, EMT-P
Student, Wright State University Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program