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Center rules against "Judging Amy"'s suggestions that physicians can fire nurses, provide job recommendations for them

November 11, 2003 -- Tonight's episode of the CBS drama "Judging Amy" contained inaccurate and damaging suggestions that nurses are subordinate to physicians.

In this episode, "The Long Goodbye" written by Barry O'Brien, one plotline involved Kyle McCarty, the "troubled" cousin of lead character Judge Amy Gray. The Center understands that Kyle, who is apparently now a physician at a hospital emergency department, was ordered by a senior physician to fire a nurse so that the senior physician could use the funds to pay for a computer system he wanted. We understand that the senior physician directed Kyle to fire one particular nurse, because he didn't like her voice. Kyle tried to do as he was told, but the nurse apparently misunderstood, thinking that he was actually trying to ask her out. She was not interested. When Kyle clarified that he was firing her, she said that he could not do that simply because she would not date him, and then threatened litigation. At one point, Kyle apparently tried to mollify this nurse by saying that he would write her an excellent recommendation.

This plotline holds nursing in contempt. First, nursing is an autonomous, highly skilled profession managed by nurses. Nurses do not work for physicians, and physicians cannot fire them. That a nurse would be summarily fired on this whimsical basis is unlikely, and the fact that no one seems to have challenged it--as opposed to whether she could be fired in retaliation for rejecting romantic advances--implies that nurses are insignificant and interchangeable. The notion that nurses would seek or appreciate physician references would be comical if it was not so harmful. Nursing is an independent profession with its own sphere of practice, and only nurses are in a position to professionally evaluate the work of other nurses. Physicians do not generally have deep or broad knowledge of what nurses do, and they would not generally be asked to write references for them.

Scenarios like this one reflect an apparent view that nurses are unskilled, disposable physician helpers whose day-to-day fate depends on the whims of the physicians. That view is wrong and damaging, and pushing it in a popular network drama is irresponsible, especially in light of the critical nursing shortage.

Take Action!

See below for our executive director's letter to "Judging Amy"'s executive producers Joseph Stern, Amy Brenneman, Connie Tavel, Alex Taub and Karen Hall. Please write your own letter and fax it to Amy Brenneman at 310.969.0667. Thank you.

Dear Executive Producers Joseph Stern, Amy Brenneman, Connie Tavel, Alex Taub, Karen Hall:

"Judging Amy"'s November 11, 2003 episode "The Long Goodbye" contained inaccurate and damaging suggestions that nurses are subordinate to physicians. In this episode, one plotline involved Kyle McCarty, the "troubled" cousin of lead character Judge Amy Gray. I understand that Kyle, who is apparently now a physician at a hospital emergency department, was ordered by a senior physician to fire a nurse so that the senior physician could use the funds to pay for a computer system he wanted. I understand that the senior physician directed Kyle to fire one particular nurse, because he didn't like her voice. Kyle tried to do as he was told, but the nurse apparently misunderstood, thinking that he was actually trying to ask her out. She was not interested. When Kyle clarified that he was firing her, she said that he could not do that simply because she would not date him, and then threatened litigation. At one point, Kyle apparently tried to mollify this nurse by saying that he would write her an excellent recommendation.

This plotline holds nursing in contempt. First, nursing is an autonomous, highly skilled profession managed by nurses. Nurses do not work for physicians, and physicians cannot fire them. That a nurse would be summarily fired on this whimsical basis is unlikely, and the fact that no one seems to have challenged it--as opposed to whether she could be fired in retaliation for rejecting romantic advances--implies that nurses are insignificant and interchangeable. The notion that nurses would seek or appreciate physician references would be comical if it was not so harmful. Nursing is an independent profession with its own sphere of practice, and only nurses are in a position to professionally evaluate the work of other nurses. Physicians do not generally have deep or broad knowledge of what nurses do, and they would not generally be asked to write references for them.

Scenarios like this one reflect an apparent view that nurses are unskilled, disposable physician helpers whose day-to-day fate depends on the whims of the physicians. That view is wrong and damaging, and pushing it in a popular network drama is irresponsible, especially in light of the critical nursing shortage--which has already killed thousands of people and threatens to kill many thousands more.

It is essential that "Judging Amy" consult registered nurses during the preparation of scripts which significantly involve them--or hospitals in general--so that the show can portray nursing accurately. We would be happy to suggest a suitable nurse advisor for any future episodes. Please call me as soon as possible to discuss how "Judging Amy" can avoid further damage to the nursing profession at this critical time.

Thank you for your time.

Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21212-2937
410-323-1100
ssummers@truthaboutnursing.org
www.truthaboutnursing.org


 

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