Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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This is the pilot of a proposed nurse-friendly dramatic TV series created by Harry and Sandy Summers. We believe it is an example of how nurse-friendly themes could work in serial television.

Please let us know what you think of it. If you like it, please help us bring it to the attention of people who can get it or something similar produced.

HUMAN 1

An Original One Hour Television Pilot 2

© Harry and Sandy Summers 2002-2014

Registered WGAw

EXT--DOWNTOWN BALTIMORE, MD--DAY

Dawn in downtown Baltimore. Not far from the business district, a cluster of large, interconnected institutional buildings occupies roughly 15 square blocks. The buildings are a mix of urban architectural styles of the last century. Together they are the Brookings University Medical Center and related health care schools. Brookings Hospital is the most highly regarded hospital in the United States, and its schools are at a similar level.

Change of shift at Brookings Hospital. HOSPITAL WORKERS in scrubs and lab coats walk in different directions. Vehicle traffic moves through the city streets within the health care campus. A gleaming new luxury SUV with a vanity license plate reading


makes its way through the vehicle and pedestrian traffic, stopping at a traffic light. Behind the SUV, a small, shabby older car approaches, slowing down. At the wheel of this car an exhausted MEDICAL RESIDENT seems to be on the verge of falling asleep. The older car plows SLOWLY into the back of the stopped SUV.

Uniformed private security officers are stationed at strategic points around the health care campus. Despite its prestige, the Medical Center is surrounded by a poor, burned out-looking neighborhood with boarded up row houses and run down grocery stores, liquor stores, and bars.

One of these bars has one small window in its drab stone exterior wall. In this window a neon sign reads: The Burning Ember.

INT--THE BURNING EMBER, BALTIMORE, MD--DAY

The bar is fairly dark. We slide down the long main bar (moving just on top of it) at which sit an assortment of scruffy RETIREES smoking and drinking.

As we approach one clearly drunk RETIREE, he COLLAPSES onto the main bar in our path, almost striking us as we swerve around him and continue toward the back of the bar. Nearby RETIREES remark on the FIRST RETIREE's collapse.

SECOND RETIREE

Hey, Mickey. I tol' you, watch out f'that...that...

THIRD RETIREE

Bar?

FOURTH RETIREE

Pension check?

At the back of the bar there are a few small tables. Only one is occupied, by five NURSES. They look tired and a little shell-shocked. All have drinks, mostly beer. JAMILA SMITH has coffee. The NURSES are recent graduates of the Brookings School of Nursing who live together in a row house in another part of the city. They are:

(1) ANASTASIA DAY* 3, a white woman in her mid-twenties from Vermont;

(2) JAMILA SMITH*, an African-American from Maryland who is around 30 years old;

(3) BETH NGUYEN*, a Vietnamese American in her early 20's from Minnesota;

(4) TRENT DUPREE*, a gay white man in his late 20's from Louisiana; and

(5) JACK MENDEZ*, a straight Latino in his mid-20's from California.

All the NURSES wear white ID's except for SMITH, whose ID is pink.

DUPREE

I still don't get what's wrong with pink ID's. They have to be some color.

MENDEZ

Pink's a female color.

DUPREE

(Not too seriously.)
Pink's a caring color. It is a nursing school.

MENDEZ

(Grinning.)
Looks good on you, man, it's just--

DAY

The ID's shouldn't be a color that's associated with one gender.

DUPREE

So would y'all have a problem if the ID's were blue for boys?

SMITH

Last time I looked, boys weren't an oppressed class.

DUPREE

So?

SMITH

So if people associate nursing with a disempowered group--like women--they don't respect it.

DUPREE

I don't think you understand the power of pink.

MENDEZ

What're we gonna do about it anyway? We're not at the school anymore.

SMITH

I am. I'll talk to Conway about it.

DAY

(Looking at her Brookings Hospital ID.)
While we're at it--ever wonder why we work at a "medical center?" As if medicine's all that happens there.

DUPREE

Or even most of what happens there.

MENDEZ

So you're saying...the "Brookings University Health Center?"

DUPREE

Why stop there? Let's declare independence: when in the course of health care events, it becomes necessary for nurses to dissolve the bands which have connected them to physicians--

DAY

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all health care workers are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights... 4

SMITH

I have a dream today: that our little children's nurses will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their ID's, but by the content of their character 5.

MENDEZ

But no one's stringing nurses up in trees. And we don't report to physicians; we're already independent.

DAY

More like co-dependent.

SMITH

No, he's right, it's not about breaking away, just getting respect.

They notice NGUYEN is not talking.

DAY

(To NGUYEN.)
You OK, Beth?

NGUYEN manages a crooked smile.

NGUYEN

I don't know. It's my third straight night shift...maybe I'm still getting used to the hours.

INT--LABOR & DELIVERY UNIT, BROOKINGS HOSPITAL, BALTIMORE, MD--NIGHT

NGUYEN walks down a hallway with KAREN WILLIAMS, a veteran nurse. NGUYEN wears a small CROSS around her neck.

WILLIAMS

(Noticing the CROSS.)
Is it true there're a lot of Christians in Vietnam?

NGUYEN

Um...sure. More Buddhists, though.

WILLIAMS

My husband said there were Christians. And when you think about that, and the war...well, it's just a shame.

NGUYEN

Uh...yeah.

WILLIAMS

(Leading NGUYEN into a delivery room and gesturing at a large cabinet.)
They always put enough for a month in here and none anywhere else, that's why you don't have any.
(Pointing into the room's adjoining bathroom at a Jacuzzi-like tub.)
Seen the birthing pool?

NGUYEN

Yeah, I got oriented on days.
(Taking some MacGill forceps from the cabinet WILLIAMS has shown her.)
Thanks a lot.

WILLIAMS

(Leading NGUYEN back out into the hall and walking back the way they came.)
The midwives like the pool. Moms love it. But doctors don't. Say it's too hard to manage the birth. I think they're afraid the babies'll drown.

NGUYEN

Well, sure, if you cut the cord and leave them underwater.

WILLIAMS

Don't ask me where they get their ideas.

Down the hall well past NGUYEN and WILLIAMS, a very pregnant WOMAN and a MAN carrying several soft bags approach the nurses' station.

WILLIAMS

(To NGUYEN, as they continue walking.)
Did you see my baby up here in Room 6? Little boy, doing great--really cute. (Pointing to a room they have reached.)
Could you help me for a minute?

At the nurses' station, the PREGNANT WOMAN and MAN--who are MARGARET and JOHN BENTLEY--are talking to nurse KATHY CLINE.

CLINE

How far apart are the contractions, Ms. Bentley?

MARGARET BENTLEY

About five minutes.

CLINE

And this'll be your first child?

JOHN BENTLEY

Yes!

CLINE

Did your water break?

MARGARET BENTLEY

No. That's OK, right?

CLINE

Of course. How many weeks?

MARGARET BENTLEY

She's 42 and a half weeks.

CLINE

All right. Let's get you set up. Follow me, please.

CLINE leads the BENTLEYS down the hall to an empty delivery room close to the room WILLIAMS and NGUYEN just entered. CLINE gives MARGARET BENTLEY a gown.

JOHN BENTLEY

(Gesturing to a chair.)
OK if I put the baby's bag here?

CLINE

As long as we can get to Ms. Bentley.
(To MARGARET BENTLEY.)
Would you like more pillows? Never seem to be enough of those.

JOHN BENTLEY

Oh, no thanks, I'll be fine.

CLINE

(Smiling.)
Ms. Bentley?

MARGARET BENTLEY

Yes, please.

CLINE

(Handing her a GOWN.)
This opens in the back. Beth Nguyen will be your nurse. She'll be right back. We'll page your OB/GYN's group. And I'll be back to help Beth get you settled.

CLINE leaves.

INT--LABOR & DELIVERY UNIT, BROOKINGS HOSPITAL, BALTIMORE, MD--NIGHT

Some minutes later, NGUYEN and CLINE are in the BENTLEYS' room. MARGARET BENTLEY is in the bed. CLINE prepares to strap a heartbeat monitor to MARGARET's belly, while NGUYEN finishes taking her vital signs.

NGUYEN

Have you thought about breastfeeding, Ms. Bentley?

MARGARET

Oh yes. I already bought a pump.

NGUYEN

Great. You have a name ready?

MARGARET

Christine.

CLINE

(Coming to the bedside with the heartbeat monitor.)
Let's just take a listen, see what Christine's up to in there.

MARGARET

I...ah...there hasn't been a lot of movement the last few hours.

CLINE

(Putting the monitor against MARGARET's belly and starting to move it around, looking for BABY CHRISTINE'S heartbeat.)
Well, it's pretty cramped in there now. And it can be hard to tell toward the end, with the contractions.
Let's just...

CLINE continues to move the monitor around MARGARET's belly.

CLINE

Let's just...

CLINE continues moving the monitor around.

Silence.

CAROLYN MASON, a physician from MARGARET's OB/GYN group, enters.

MASON

(To MARGARET, with a nod to the NURSES.)
Hello, I'm Dr. Mason. I think I saw you once at the office?

CLINE

(To MASON.)
We're having a little trouble with the heartbeat, Carolyn. Maybe you'd like Beth to help you with the ultrasound?

MASON

(Nodding.)
Yes. Beth?

MASON and NGUYEN leave quickly. The BENTLEYS stare at CLINE.

CLINE

(Turning back to MARGARET.)
They'll get the ultrasound and we'll see--

INT--LABOR & DELIVERY UNIT, BROOKINGS HOSPITAL, BALTIMORE, MD--NIGHT

NGUYEN and MASON push a heavy ULTRASOUND MACHINE down the hall and into MARGARET BENTLEY'S room as quickly as they can. CLINE, still searching for a heartbeat as they enter, stops and helps them set up the ultrasound. MARGARET looks slightly more hopeful in the midst of all the professional activity. Working quickly, MASON searches for BABY CHRISTINE'S heart.

MASON

(Pointing to the ultrasound screen.)
There it is.

On the SCREEN, the HEART is STILL, and CHRISTINE is not moving. EVERYONE stares at the screen.

An unbearable SILENCE.

CLINE

(Taking MARGARET's hand.)
Ms. Bentley, I am so sorry.

INT--LABOR & DELIVERY UNIT, BROOKINGS HOSPITAL, BALTIMORE, MD--NIGHT

Some minutes later. The BENTLEYS' room is marked by a piece of dark purple paper, cut and illustrated with black ink to resemble a leaf, which is taped to the outside of the door. Inside, CLINE, NGUYEN and JOHN BENTLEY surround MARGARET BENTLEY's bed. JOHN holds MARGARET's hand.

MARGARET

This is not real. She made it to 42 and a half weeks. Three days ago she had a strong heart beat. We measured the amniotic fluid. She was kicking yesterday!

A moment passes.

JOHN

You don't deserve this.

MARGARET

I killed her! I had to have a natural birth! The doctor wanted to induce last week, but no, we knew we could wait... We wouldn't do it for the doctor's convenience, we'd let nature take its course. We didn't need medical interventions...

JOHN

Honey, we all made the decision based on--

MARGARET

We got our natural birth, John!

CLINE

Ms. Bentley. It is not your fault. Many parents feel they should have known--that's understandable. But that's with hindsight. You couldn't have known what would happen.

BENTLEY

We could have listened to the doctor.

CLINE

Many doctors do push to induce post-term. But it's considered acceptable practice to wait until 43 weeks, as long as you monitor, which you did. And induction carries other risks.

MARGARET

I want those. I'll go for the harder delivery, instead of the dead baby--OK?

No answer.

MARGARET

(To CLINE.)
What do you think happened?

CLINE

It's hard to say at this point--

MARGARET

Well, what could it have been?

CLINE hesitates.

MARGARET

Tell me.

CLINE

Could have been an umbilical cord injury.
(Camera shoots inside a WOMB and illustrates how that could happen to a FETUS as CLINE explains.)
The baby twists around, and the cord can get wrapped around her neck. Or the cord itself gets knotted, and the oxygen flow through it can be cut.

MARGARET

Or?

CLINE

It could have been placental decay, which actually starts at 37 weeks.
(Camera shows time lapse DECAY of PLACENTA as CLINE explains.)
That's why part of the monitoring you did was the level of placental fluid. Unfortunately, it can decline quickly. It could also have been a congenital problem. Or something else. There are 26,000 stillbirths every year in the U.S., and I'm afraid...a lot of them are not fully understood.

JOHN

Well, how can we try to find out?

CLINE

Some parents request autopsies. We may also know more after delivery.

MARGARET

Delivery?

INT--THE BURNING EMBER, BALTIMORE, MD--DAY

The five NURSES remain at the table at the back of the bar.

MENDEZ

That's harsh.

DAY

Sounds like the karma police were at the donut shop last night.

DUPREE

Any idea what happened?

NGUYEN

Not really, there was nothing obvious. Baby looked good, considering...which almost seemed to make it harder. Mom started talking about taking her home. Keeping her in the refrigerator.
(NGUYEN takes a sip of her drink.)
You know, waiting for a natural birth, it has real benefits--like fewer C-sections, lower rates of fetal distress. But when it gets that late, the risk of stillbirth is higher too.

DUPREE

Beware the fourth trimester, huh?

NGUYEN

Actually, the best part was after she delivered.

INT--LABOR & DELIVERY UNIT, BROOKINGS HOSPITAL, BALTIMORE, MD--NIGHT

NGUYEN enters the BENTLEYS' room. MARGARET is in the bed. JOHN is slumped in a chair nearby. It is clear delivery occurred some time ago.

NGUYEN

Pastoral care said someone's on the way. And they're getting a room ready for you upstairs; should be ready in a couple hours. We found one with an empty second bed for Mr. Bentley.

MARGARET

Thank you. Do you think...I'd like to see Christine again. I'm sorry, I know you just took her a little while ago...

NGUYEN

Of course, Ma'am. It's good to take the time you need with her. Let me go find out how that works.

NGUYEN leaves and encounters a harassed-looking WILLIAMS outside the door.

NGUYEN

Ms. Bentley's asking to see her baby again. How do I--

WILLIAMS

We just took her down. We can't be--let me talk to her.

WILLIAMS and NGUYEN enter the BENTLEYS' room.

WILLIAMS

(To MARGARET.)
Ma'am, we're all very sorry for your loss. But we just took your baby down to the morgue. We're very busy and we can't be bringing her back and forth all night. Believe me, she's not going to look any better. You're just going to have to remember her by what she looked like when she first came out.

INT--THE BURNING EMBER, BALTIMORE, MD--DAY

The five NURSES digest the scene NGUYEN has just related.

DUPREE

My God. Make it go away.

MENDEZ

What's up with that? Burnout?

A couple seconds pass.

DAY

Well, I met someone interesting.


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