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NBC's "Passions" solves nursing shortage: monkeys can do the job!

September 12, 2003 -- Starting in March 2003 and at least as recently as spring 2004, NBC's campy, supernatural daytime soap opera "Passions" has featured an orangutan named Precious in the role of the private duty nurse of one of its characters--a bold step backwards in the already slow...evolution...of the media's treatment of nurses. In March, the desperate character Beth Wallace hired Precious to replace Beth's invalid mother's previous nurse Mildred in order to prevent any nurse-related disclosure of Beth's nasty secrets, many of which relate to her ongoing efforts to get back with former sweetheart Luis and to get rid of the beautiful Sheridan, with whom Luis is really in love. Got it?

NBC's helpful web site features a photo of Precious and a detailed, tongue-in-cheek rundown of her key attributes. In addition to not blabbing Beth's secrets, the "dutiful caretaker" Precious changes Mrs. Wallace's diapers, wears "a modern version of a nurse's uniform, complete with cap" (though she has evidently at some point "shed her all-work-no-play garb"), likes "[h]andsome Latino men, bananas, fruit smoothies, shopping, food fights, gin and tonics," and wants "to do the best job possible as Mrs. Wallace's nurse...and to have some fun at the same time!"

Although this depiction of nursing is so bizarre and outrageous that it virtually defies criticism, it's our job to try. Obviously, "Passions" is mainly out to give the viewer a good time, and no one expects it to offer a remotely accurate depiction of anything, with the possible exception of witchcraft. The problem with the monkey nurse brainstorm is that it fits too conveniently with harmful stereotypes about nursing that have long held the profession back, and have contributed to the nursing shortage that is now one of the world's most urgent health crises. Even in the kooky dream world of "Passions," the notion that nursing could be done by an orangutan because it consists mainly of changing diapers, taking off "all-work-no-play garb" and other hijinks is too close to what much of the media and our society has long suggested nurses really do. In fact, professional nurses are college educated, highly skilled, working on the front lines of modern health care, coordinating work by a range of other health professionals, and saving or improving millions of lives through constant assessment and intervention for their patients.

We're sure it's just by chance that the show has never suggested that a fun-loving monkey with a cutesy name could do the work of physicians. "Passions"' NBC web site describes another character, "Dr. Eve Russell," as the "beautiful and compassionate town doctor," and until recently noted that she "enjoys a successful career as a doctor."

In any case, "Passions" may actually be ahead of its time in one respect. By having Precious wear a "modern version of a nursing uniform, complete with cap," and in view of the fact that most U.S. nurses have not dressed this way in decades, the show's producers may well be making a sly prediction about the future of the nursing uniform.

See the New York Post article on the "Passions" campaign. See our write-up of a TV Guide article on the "Passions" campaign from their February 7, 2004 issue.

See our December 16, 2003 press release on the campaign.

Action Update

Over 170 nurses and nursing supporters sent "Passions" letters on this campaign to the contacts below. Precious the monkey is off the air as of March 24, 2005. Please click here for more details.

See our executive director's letter and many of the others letters to the creators of "Passions"" Nurse Precious on our bulletin board thread.

Contacts for "Passions" soap opera and its main sponsors.

Lisa de Cazotte
Executive Producer
"Passions"
4024 Radford Ave.
Studio City, CA 91604
Tel.: 818-655-5454
Fax: 818-655-8375

SPONSORS

Johnathan Coon
President and CEO
1-800-Contacts, Inc.
66 E. Wadsworth Park Dr., 3rd Fl.
Draper, UT 84020
801-924-9800
801-924-9905 (fax)

 

Markus Hankammer, CEO
BRITA Products, Inc.
Heinrich-Hertz-Str. 4
65232 Taunusstein, Germany
+49-0-6128-746-0
+49-0-6128-746-355 (fax)

 

Thomas Kunz
President and CEO
The Dannon Company, Inc.
120 White Plains Rd.
Tarrytown, NY 10591-5536
914-366-9700
914-366-2805 (fax)

 

Raymond V. Gilmartin
Chair, President and CEO
Merck & Co., Inc.
1 Merck Dr.
Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889-0100
908-423-1000
908-735-1253 (fax)

 

Jack L. Stahl
President, Chair and CEO
Revlon, Inc.
625 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10022
212-527-4000
212-527-4995 (fax)

 

John P. Walters, Director
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849–6000
800–666–3332
301–519–5212 (fax)
ondcp@ncjrs.org

Paul Toback
President, Chair and CEO
Bally Total Fitness Corp.
8700 West Bryn Mawr Ave.
Chicago, IL 60631
773-380-3000
773-693-2982 (fax)

 

Douglas N. Daft
Chair and CEO
The Coca-Cola Company
1 Coca-Cola Plaza
Atlanta, GA 30313
404-676-2121
404-676-6792 (fax)

 

Olza M. Nicely
President and CEO
GEICO
5260 Western Ave.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
301-986-3000
301-986-2888 (fax)

 

James E. Burke, Chair
Partnership For A Drug-Free America, Inc.
405 Lexington Ave., Ste. 1601
New York, NY 10174
212-922-1560
212-922-1570 (fax)

 

Alan J. Lacy
Chair, President and CEO
Sears, Roebuck and Co.
3333 Beverly Rd.
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179
847-286-2500
847-286-7829 (fax)

 

 

 

 

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