Famous TV and Movie Nurses: Good, Bad, and In-Between

famous tv nurses With “Scrubbing In”—a new reality series featuring travel nurses—premiering on MTV tomorrow, we recently explored the near-constant presence of medical dramas in television history.

And today, we’re going to take a look at the individual portrayals of some of our favorite fictional nurses.

Jackie Peyton, “Nurse Jackie” (Showtime, 2009-present)

In this comedy-drama series, which enjoyed the most successful series premiere ever on its network, Edie Falco plays New York City ER nurse Jackie Peyton.

The Good: She epitomizes compassion for her patients and serves as their fiercest advocate.

The Bad: Though the character is now sober, in the first few seasons she was addicted to prescription meds obtained through a questionable relationship with a pharmacist. The New York State Nurses Association criticized her character for “repeatedly violating the nursing Code of Ethics.”

Nurse William “Dell” Parker, “Private Practice” (ABC, 2007-2013)

Played by Chris Lowell, Dell is in training to be a rare male nurse-midwife on this spin-off of “Grey’s Anatomy,” which is also set in Seattle.

The Good: Dell fights for respect, he’s shown to be caring and competent, and he has overcome a bad childhood.

The Bad: Co-workers’ ridicule based on gender stereotypes (he’s made to wear pink scrubs, for instance) is initially played for laughs. Also, the character’s love life is a mess.

Christina Hawthorne, “HawthoRNe” (TNT, 2009-2011) 

Played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Hawthorne is introduced as the Chief Nursing Officer at a fictional Virginia hospital, later obtaining the position of COO and President at a second facility.

The Good: She’s passionate about her work and has risen to a respected leadership position in a competitive environment.

The Bad: Christina is prone to lots of self-created personal drama, and the series itself suffered from criticism for creative predictability and an inability to succeed as either a drama or comedy.

Nurse Carol Hathaway, “ER” (NBC 1994-2009)

Carol Hathaway is the emergency room nurse manager in a Chicago county hospital. Originally slated to die in the pilot, the popular character was kept on for six seasons and even returned for a cameo in the final season.

The Good: She holds a master’s degree in nursing. She considers medical school based on high MCAT scores, but decides to stick with nursing upon the realization that it has proven to be a valued, successful and fulfilling career.

The Bad: Introduced to the series through a failed suicide attempt. Also, Carol could never seem to resist problematic romantic involvements with various hospital physicians and medical staff.

Nurse Carla Espinosa, “Scrubs” (NBC/ABC 2001-2010)

Played by Judy Reyes, Carla is the head nurse in this comedy series set at a teaching hospital.

The Good: She’s respected by everyone–from the notoriously bitter and sarcastic Dr. Cox, to the cantankerous janitor. She’s abundantly competent and outspoken. Carla also embodies the struggle of balancing marriage/parenthood and career, and she’s proud of her Latina roots (she’s Dominican) without being portrayed as an ethnic stereotype.

The Bad: She’s bossy and can be a busybody. She expresses some insecurity about her career choice and degree of education versus her surgeon husband and physician best friends.  

RTG Medical nurses, what do you think about your fictional counterparts? Who are your favorites? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

Photo credit: Examiner.com

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