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Open letter to "ER" September 28, 2006

Dear "ER" producers:

I urge you to improve the portrayal of nursing on "ER." Although the show is certainly better than some other network shows for nursing, it still falls well short of adequate, especially since poor public understanding of the profession is a factor in the global nursing crisis.

The September 28, 2006, episode presents the NICU as a physician-intensive care unit. Smart, caring physician characters do everything that matters, including key psychosocial care that nurses generally do in real life. The two NICU nurses who actually get a few lines are utterly incompetent. The lactation consultant's comments are idiotic and insensitive. The other nurse dismisses the concerns of Abby Lockhart's mother Maggie about a critical heart monitor alarm. Maggie has to virtually yell at her to get the physicians--you know, the people that you portray as the real life-savers.

I realize "ER" has at times shown physician incompetence. But it's rarely if ever this extreme, it's usually the result of inexperience, and there are always plenty of counterexamples to balance it. That's not the case for nursing in this episode. Sam Taggart and Haleh Adams are far from idiots, but their brief clinical appearances here have little impact.

There is much that you could do to remedy the handmaiden-oriented overall portrayal of nursing on "ER." The fact that only one of your 8-10 major characters is a nurse is arguably the greatest single barrier to the show presenting a fair and accurate vision of the real nursing role. This makes it virtually inevitable that the physician characters will be seen doing a good deal of the important, dramatic work that nurses do in real life. A nurse manager, new nurse, or nursing student would be a good addition. "ER" routinely uses new physicians and medical students to educate the public about medicine. It could do something similar for nursing if it would depict varying levels of nurses. Hiring nurses to consult on scripts would also be very helpful.

Please be part of the solution to the nursing shortage. Help us improve public understanding of the profession at this critical time.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

 

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