Call the Midwife episode reviews
See individual episode analyses of Call the Midwife below:
"Call the Midwife" returns to PBS tonight
March 29, 2015 -- Tonight the BBC drama Call the Midwife begins airing its fourth season on PBS, as the show enters the 1960s. Last year's third season featured more great scenes of nursing autonomy and skill, and it's worth reviewing those. The show's nurse characters continued to deliver babies and provide a range of effective care in their London neighborhood. Several plotlines in the third season find the midwives struggling mightily to help pregnant women who are in desperate straits, even by the standards of their poor community.They include prison inmates, unwed mothers, and women who face severe mental challenges. This season is the last one for lead character Jenny Lee, who will move on to hospice care. But new major character Patsy Mount is a highly competent and tenacious midwife. In fact, in the sixth episode, Patsy goes well beyond the call of duty to diagnose and treat a case of roundworm that has lain dormant in a World War II veteran for 16 years.And in the season premiere Sister Monica Joan, a veteran midwife with some symptoms of dementia, diagnoses a case of cystic fibrosis that had everyone else stumped. Sometimes, in order to ensure the health of a new baby, the midwives must address critical health issues in family members--which are great examples of nursing's holistic focus. In the seventh episode, Sister Julienne and Cynthia Miller care for a new mother with a post-natal psychosis that makes her paranoid and increasingly unstable. The midwives manage to save the baby from harm, and while the mother ends up in an institution where she gets electroshock therapy, that seems to moves her closer to being reunited with her baby and husband. The season also includes some very dated examples of nurses deferring to physicians--as well as a lot of tobacco smoking by health workers in clinical settings--but we like to think the show is simply presenting those elements as signs of the time rather than endorsing them. We thank show creator Heidi Thomas and her colleagues. more...
The BBC's Call the Midwife offers more great care from 1950s nurse midwives
December 29, 2013 -- The second season of the BBC drama Call the Midwife, capped off by the Christmas special that aired tonight in the United States, featured more portrayals of skilled, autonomous nurse midwives caring for a poor community in late 1950's London. The 8-episode regular season was broadcast in the U.S. on PBS between March and May 2013. It included several notable examples of the nurses' work, which ranged from skilled birthing to managing community-wide issues, with a good deal of spirited patient advocacy. In one April episode, the midwives cared effectively for a pregnant woman whose twin sister favored traditional remedies and was very hostile to the midwives' modern health practice for most of the episode. In that same episode, nurse Jenny Lee was temporarily assigned to an understaffed local hospital, where a bullying surgeon showed disdain for her operating room skills. Yet Jenny caught a nearly fatal error by that same surgeon, who had failed to run a test that would have enabled proper diagnosis of a patient. And Jenny later informed her receptive nurse manager that the surgeon might have neurological issues, which seemed to be confirmed after the surgeon apparently removed himself from practice. In an early May episode, Sister Bernadette joined physician colleague Patrick Turner in advocating persuasively before a local health authority for X-ray equipment for much-needed community tuberculosis screenings. And in the May season finale, nurse Chummy astutely diagnosed preeclampsia in a woman who was not even her patient, allowing a healthy birth. The show's nurse characters occasionally display undue deference to physicians, but we have no reason to doubt the accuracy of those scenes given the time period involved. In fact, the show probably has the best overall portrayal of nursing autonomy of any major health-related series shown in the United States in recent years. So far, Call the Midwife has avoided suggestions that the nurses report to physicians. Instead, the junior nurses report to senior ones, and for the most part, they provide skilled care on their own in the community. The show was created by Heidi Thomas, who wrote some of this season's episodes, and based on a memoir by Jennifer Worth. more...
October 21, 2012 -- The remarkable new BBC series Call the Midwife, now airing in the United States on PBS, offers a dramatic look at the exploits of Anglican and lay nurse-midwives caring for poor women and babies in London's East End in the late 1950's. In the first three episodes, the series presents the midwives as skilled, autonomous health workers whose ability varies in accord with their relevant experience, as tough, expert senior midwives guide the nervous newer ones. In one early scene, after police try ineffectively to stop a raucous street fight between two women, a sharp question from one of these commanding senior midwives brings the altercation to a halt. The nurses visit pregnant women to monitor their progress, deliver the babies under awful conditions, and advise the new mothers, all in an endvironment without birth control where women seem to function as baby factories and one-person day care centers. One woman has 24 children. The midwives also provide community health services. Physicians do appear occasionally when their special skills are needed. But for the most part the focus is on the nurses who provide the vast majority of the care, and physicians are marginal, in what amounts to a reversal of the standard Hollywood model. Indeed, the show is remarkably free of stereotypes. It's not free of sentiment and generic uplift, some of the scenes are too pretty for the supposedly gritty setting, and central character Jenny Lee seems a bit unformed. The show is not quite on Nurse Jackie's level, and of course the setting differs greatly. But like Jackie, Call the Midwife is an often powerful, funny, and nuanced look at skilled nurses saving and improving lives in world whose concern for the health of the poor is open to question. Where Jackie offers regular critiques of the U.S. health care financing system, Call the Midwife includes advertisements for the U.K.'s National Health Service, which was new in the 1950's. Based on a memoir by midwife Jennifer Worth (nee Lee) and written by Heidi Thomas, the six-episode BBC series was a big ratings success in the U.K. and a second season is on order. In the United States, it seems to be doing well for a PBS show. We thank those responsible for Call the Midwife, and urge all nurses to watch and support it. more...
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