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Hollywood Symposia Project

Time's up…for poor depictions of nursing. Be part of our Hollywood writers symposium!

Have you noticed how Hollywood portays nurses? Ever wanted to do something about it? Now is your chance! Join us in hosting the first-ever symposium for Hollywood writers that is devoted to encouraging accurate portrayals of nursing!

The problem: Inaccurate depictions of nursing

On the rare occasions when nurse characters appear in Hollywood hospital shows, it is usually to wallpaper the dramatic background. Or perhaps they appear to absorb commands and fetch things for physician characters, then disappear just as quickly. Meanwhile, physician characters perform dramatic work that nurses do in real life. That confirms longstanding stereotypes that nurses do nothing meaningful and that physicians are the only health care professionals who deserve funding for their clinical practice, education, and research. And public health research has long made clear that the popular media affects how people behave in real life.

Hollywood doesn't know what nurses do because they don't seek out nurses for expert advice or really listen to them. Hollywood writers learn about nursing from their physician advisors or through depictions of nurses on other Hollywood shows. Neither of those sources provides accurate information about nursing. Insiders might point out that nurses have had some effect on Hollywood—some show writers have sought nurses out for interesting clinical anecdotes and trends, and nurses regularly serve as on-set technical advisors. But this input is filtered through the writers' life-long biases. Nursing anecdotes and trends become physician-dominated narratives and innovations, like the plotlines we've seen in which surgeons model skin-to-skin care. And the on-set advisors end up showing the actors playing physicians how to do exciting things that nurses do in real life!


So how do we get accurate information about nursing into television and films? Go directly to the source.

Hollywood writers do seek to learn about cutting-edge health treatments and innovations so that they can have fresh material for their shows. We know at least one prominent nursing scholar who gave a show such input at producers' request. But then the show then declined to use the information to portray the nursing expertise it reflected. Physician characters only please!

But we can fulfill Hollywood's needs and those of nurses to be understood at a first-ever symposium for writers! At this event, expert nurses will present cutting-edge innovations that improve health, through recent advances in research or clinical practice. The symposium would prioritize innovations that are unique, interesting, and could be woven into dramatic plotlines. And yes, striking anecdotes would be welcome as well, as long as we can emphasize the critical role nurses play in such scenarios. If Hollywood writers see strong, articulate nurses working on the leading edge of health care, they will be more likely to show their audience the real nursing role.

Through this symposium, which we would like to host annually in Los Angeles, we can also create an expanding database of nursing experts, so writers can call on nurses for guidance whenever they need it. That way we can shape Hollywood portrayals going forward!

When media creators learn that nurses have exciting, cutting-edge information about health care because nurses are actually leaders in that care, they will be far more likely to show viewers the real nursing role. That's how we can increase understanding of nursing and transform how the public and decision-makers see the profession.

The result? A stronger nursing profession. And better public health. Join with us today to help host this symposium! Please contact our executive director Sandy Summers at Thank you!

Last updated February 26, 2020

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