I’m obsessed with our image. On a scale of 1 to Gray’s Anatomy (1 being no pain, Grey’s Anatomy being the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life), most portrayals of nurses on TV and in the movies land in the 7 region. The faces pain scale really works for this:
A few years ago PBS began airing the BBC period nursing drama Call the Midwife, a darling and coherent if sentimental portrayal of post-war era midwives working from a convent in East End London. I like this one even if later episodes did risk giving me cavities. Maybe it reads as authentic because it it drawn directly from the not fictional nursing memoirs of Jennifer Worth, who lends her stories and her name to the main character. Nursing is a real thing in this series.
I guess it was inevitable that in the wake of its success America would give nurses a stab with the new PBS series Mercy Street, about a Union Civil War Hospital set in (my hometown) Alexandria, Virginia. Oh my hopes were high! This show is, so far, unforgivable. It hurts worst. I could feign indifference when it came to the laughable accents, the absurd and awkwardly drama-less rape scene in the first half of the second episode (give me time to love the characters if you’d like to break my heart!), but the characterization of the only actual nurse as the mean and heartless foil for our two sweet and well meaning hero nurses is so disgusting that it can not stand, man.
The uptight bitch nurse is to be hated because she trained with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War and is suuuuch an expert at things like sanitation and wound care. She is so bossy about telling new nurses how to do things in a safe and evidence based way! The lady knows what she is doing professionally and seeks to better her field and improve the health outcomes and safety of the soldiers in the hospital’s care. What a B. I bet she hasn’t had sex in forever, she’s such an ice queen. Nope. In the second episode we see her sleeping with her boss, the corrupt doctor! So that’s how she got the gig.
Our two heroes are nurses who have no training or experience, but never you mind. They have the calling to serve their fellow man. To provide comfort in times of need. They have tender feminine hearts and strong womanly wills and as god as their witness they shall never let a boy die without a soft hand to hold! They will try to get some food for these soldiers too!
I said I could overlook the accents, they have nothing to do with nursing, but let me just tell you that the southern hero nurse is a native Alexandrian (a city two miles from DC) but makes sounds like her cotton plantation just caught on fire. Robert E. Lee did not sound like Blanche DuBois. Or Blanche Devereaux. But this woman does.
So. I’m sure our hero rookie nurses will use their female intuition and woman-in-a-man’s-world grit to become invaluable assistants to the doctors they work with. But I won’t be around to watch.
I’m going to watch Nurse Jackie.
PS- I tried to find the script writers on IMDB to no avail–but there were about 1200 costume consultants. The costumes are fantastic. The script? What script.