Nurse Jackie: First Impressions

Over the summer I took full advantage of Netflix DVD rentals (that’s how you entertain yourself with no Internet, apparently). And one show that finally succeeded in getting me hooked was Nurse JackieThe cast is FAB.U.LOUS (I especially love Merritt Weaver as Zoey the student nurse), the moments of comic relief are brilliant, and it’s just a really damn good show.

Despite its entertainment value, however, as a nurse I have some mixed feelings. And I wouldn’t be Nurse Teeny without overanalyzing yet another medical show. 😉

Reasons I Love the Show:

  • It shows nurses BEING NURSES. No jokes from McSteamy about nurses not keeping their legs closed. No portrayals of doctors doing the work we all know nurses actually do (see every other medical show on TV). Nurse Jackie portrays nurses as the autonomous, independent, intelligent professionals that we are.
  • It portrays health care providers as human beings. Complex, messy, sometimes uncertain human beings. Doctors don’t know it all. Nurses (and nursing students) make med errors and have near-misses. Despite what some of us would have you believe, we are not all-knowing, omnipotent gurus who can fix you/eliminate your pain/cure your cancer.
  • It doesn’t shy away from the tough issues. In Season One alone, it has addressed organ donation, addiction, assisted suicide, “treat ’em and street ’em” ethics, and child abandonment. While I may not always agree with the characters’ choices, I’m glad they’re making them. Because it makes us all think a little harder about how we might handle a similar situation.

Reasons I Struggle with the Show:

  • Did they have to make Jackie a drug addict? I mean, I love that she is flawed (see above). But it’s sad to me that the only show out there that portrays a strong professional nurse also portrays such a deep, potentially tragic struggle. (Note: I’m aware this is a TV drama and hence it has to be … dramatic. I know it’s not real. Doesn’t mean it can’t frustrate me.) Maybe the solution is more shows that don’t portray nurses as handmaidens/playthings/Ratcheds.
  • The same tough issues that I’m so glad they’re addressing make me want to scream sometimes. I mean, who forges an organ donor’s signature or goes over a doctor’s head to certify brain death? I’m all for organ donation but I’m also for respecting patient wishes at the end of their life.
  • The portrayal of Ms. Akalitus (ER Administrator) may be comical, but it also reinforces the stereotype that bedside nurses and administrators are inevitably at odds. It also reinforces the stereotype that administrators don’t know jack (nor do they care, nor do they have brains apparently). I hope they flesh out her character a little more…they started to with the abandoned baby she discovered, but that story line came to an abrupt (and ridiculous) end.

Will I keep watching? You bet I will. Despite its flaws and my frustrations, it is the first and only time I have watched a health care-oriented drama without wanting to throw something at the television. It’s the first time I’ve seen a nurse actually be a nurse.

I’m looking forward to catching the next few seasons and exploring whether my respect for Nurse Jackie holds up.

Have you watched Nurse Jackie? What did you think? 

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