Men at work: Is "Scrubs" hurting or helping male nurses?
January 30, 2003 -- The January 30 episode of the popular NBC show "Scrubs" guest starred Rick Schroeder as hunky nurse Paul Flowers, who catches the eye of physician Elliot Reed (Sarah Chalke). The episode is called "His Story."
But when Elliot discovers that Paul is a nurse and not a physician, she is mortified, as are her physician colleagues, who mock her mercilessly for seeing a "murse" who does "women's work." Some might take offense at the comic mileage the show gets out of these slurs, but the episode also shows its contempt for those who utter them. The anti-male nurse bigots are portrayed as idiots, while Paul is smart, witty, secure, and fearless, the rare "Scrubs" character without Titanic-sized flaws. In general, "Scrubs," like other current Hollywood shows, shows nursing as a low-skilled profession--focusing on things like bedpan duty, as this episode does. And it suffers from the common "Marcus Welby Syndrome", in which physicians are shown providing all meaningful health care. But the show should be applauded, at least based on this episode, for introducing a nurse character with the above attributes and addressing the issue of bias against male nurses in a generally constructive way. Schroeder is also set to appear in the February 20 episode. "Scrubs" usually airs on NBC Thursdays at 8:30/7:30 C. However, the February 20 episode is scheduled to air at 9:30/8:30C.
This episode has fueled much discussion in nursing circles, and there is some disagreement about its purpose and effects. This is not surprising given the episode's irreverent tone and its conscious use of negative stereotypes. Below are two letters to the show's executive producer that strongly object to the episode's portrayal of bias against male nurses. These letters make powerful points about how media portrayals of nurses affect the nursing shortage, which is a looming crisis in American health care. See January 30, 2003 letters: one by American Nurses Association President Barbara Blakeney and another by Darryl Roberts, MS, RN.
Consider offering encouragement to Executive Producer Bill Lawrence at Scrubs@NBC.com.
See our Scrubs review.