Television has not been kind to nurses in general, although television series about health are rampant. Many shows, such as House and Grey’s Anatomy, basically ignore the nursing profession and what nurses bring to patient health care. And, in many cases, nurses are portrayed as sexy, young and limited or as ugly, violent and deadly when the reality is that many facilities and doctors or surgeons could not operate (no pun intended) without a nurse as a partner in patient healthcare.
The following ten television series about nursing, listed in alphabetical order, are either currently airing or have ceased production. In the latter case, you can find many of the shows repeated on television or online. In fact, one show is aired only online.
- ER (1994 — 2009): Since its inception in 1994, “ER” has focused on the professional development and personal lives of a shifting cast of emergency department (ED) and surgical physicians, and the personal life of one ED nurse, at County General, the main public hospital in Chicago. ER has generally portrayed nurses as competent, caring health workers and avoided the most obvious stereotypes. But the show’s physician-centric approach has led to a continuing failure to give viewers an accurate or complete picture of the vital role nursing actually plays in modern health care. NBC renewed ER for a 15th and final season in April.
- Hawthorne (2009 — 2011): The doors of Richmond Trinity have close permanently. That’s the dramatic reality that opens the second season of TNT’s medical drama, Hawthorne, told from a nurse’s point of view. This June, the hit series returns with star and executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith (The Women, The Matrix trilogy) as Christina Hawthorne, a Chief Nursing Officer ready for battle on the front lines of a war against declining patient services and hospital budget cuts.
- Janet Dean, Registered Nurse (1954 — 1955): Janet Dean (Ella Raines) is a nurse who has been recently discharged from the U.S. Air Force. She becomes a private nurse and travels around the country treating not only patients physical ailments but also their mental ailments. This series featured vignettes about the nursing profession at the end of each of the series’ 39 episodes.
- M*A*S*H* (1972 — 1983): Although this series, based upon Robert Altman’s film of the same name (1970) focused on a surgical unti near the front lines in the Korean War, one character may have offered more to the perception of nursing than almost any other character in this series. Chief Nurse Major Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit) offered authority, nursing skills, and commitment to the patients’ well being, and as the show went on she grew increasingly sympathetic.
- Nurse (1980 — 1982): The series, set in New York City, tells the dramatic story of Mary Benjamin (Michael Learned), a middle-aged widow who attempts to begin a new life by resuming her career as a head nurse at Grant Memorial Hospital. This was a short-run series based upon romance and drama.
- Nurses (1991 — 1994): Susan Harris developed and produced this sitcom as a spin-off of Empty Nest (a spin-off from Golden Girls). The show revolved around a group of nurses working at the same Miami hospital as Empty Nest’s Dr. Harry Weston. NBC canceled the show after its third season after ratings failed to improve. Stars included Stephanie Hodge as Sandy Miller, Mary Jo Keenen as Julie Milbury and Ada Maris as Gina Cuevas.
- Nurse Jackie (2009 — current): This runaway hit Showtime Original Series protrays Nurse Jackie (Edi Falco from The Sopranos) as a pill-popping super nurse who also is a wife, mother and ex-lover to the hospital pharmacist. The cast includes Eve Best as Dr. Eleanor O’Hara; Merritt Wever as Zoey; Peter Facinelli as Dr. Cooper Paul Schulze as Eddie, the pharmacist and Haaz Sleiman as a gay male nurse. The June 8, 2009 series premiere was Showtime’s most-successful premiere ever, with 1 million viewers for the premiere and over 350,000 for the repeat broadcast. The series is in its third season, and Showtime already has ordered a fourth season.
- Nurse TV (2005 — current): This is the first Web-based reality show that aims to recruit more nurses to address the nursing shortage. NTV provides nurses, healthcare professionals and consumers with an in-depth look at the real-life medical drama of a profession where every second counts. NTV debuted with the travel nursing docu-drama, 13 WEEKS, winner of the 2006 Media Award from the American Academy of Nursing. More than 3.5 million viewers have tuned in online to watch the story of six travel nurses on assignment in Southern California. Launched in the fall of 2008, NurseTV hit the small screen with its nationally-syndicated television program.
- RAN: Remote Area Nurse (2006): This TV mini-series is an Australian television program filmed entirely on Masig Island (Yorke Island) in the tropical Torres Strait north of the Cape York Peninsula, the northern-most part of Australia (State of Queensland), and the border with Papua New Guinea. First aired in early 2006 on Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) television, it follows the life of Helen Tremain (Susie Porter), the Remote Area Nurse, charged with providing medical services to the remote Torres Strait Islanders community.
- The District Nurse (1984 — 1987): This series was produced by BBC Wales and shown on BBC One between 1984 and 1987. The series was a period drama created by Julia Smith and Tony Holland and starred Nerys Hughes as Megan Roberts, the titular district nurse fighting to improve living conditions for the people living in a poverty-stricken mining town, Pencwm, in South Wales during the late 1920s. The School scenes were filmed at Pont-y-gof school in Ebbw Vale, shortly before the old school was demolished. The children and teachers at the school were involved in the first two series. The outdoor school and street scenes were filmed at a small village near Tredegar. Most of the houses used have now been demolished, however the street still remains.