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Grey's Anatomy analyses and action

Contact information for the show

Nursing rating

1/2 star

Grey's Anatomy single episiode analyses

Jump to specific seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Season 16

Because stereotypes

Grey's Anatomy offers a good nursing portrayal...for 30 seconds


Grey's AnatomyThe ABC hospital drama has aired 350 episodes telling the world that only surgeons matter and nurses are clinical clutter, as we show in our new analyses of seasons 12-15. But one brief scene in the 16th season, which aired in November 2019, actually had a nurse provide expert advice to a patient. We urge the show to do more! more...or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Season 15

A quiet place

Nurses remain silent and submissive on 15th straight season of Grey's Anatomy

Grey's AnatomyThe ABC drama continued to offer a vision of hospital care in which surgeons did everything that mattered, at one point even providing all care for a sexual assault victim. There was a brief appearance by the assertive senior nurse Frankie, but she was mostly there to die tragically in childbirth, despite the heroics of the more...or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Season 14

She's too good for you

Grey's AnatomyGrey's Anatomy is a little bit sorry about that "skanky syph nurse" thing 

In the ABC show's 14th season, Nurse Olivia returned with some verbal payback for surgeon Alex Karev. But the hospital drama continued to focus on heroic physicians providing all the care that mattered, while nurses were low-skilled serfs who could, at most, alert the physicians to problems that the physicians alone could more...or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Season 13

This is scut

On Grey's Anatomy, only a few handmaidens can hope to reach battle-axe status

Grey's AnatomyNurses in the show's 13th season were mostly meek servants taking physician orders, when they appeared at all. One episode did portray a nurse managing a primary care clinic. But he was a quasi-battle-axe, a petty bureaucrat obsessed with protecting his turf and resenting physicians, not helping more...or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Season 12

Wondering how long

More physician nursing in season 12 of Grey's Anatomy

Grey's AnatomyThe season was especially physician-centric, with surgeons doing everything that mattered in the hospital: triaging, diagnosing, treating, monitoring, intervening, advocating, educating. Nurses were absent or peripheral, appearing on occasion to hold things, get commands, or tell one physician about the needs or location of another more...or go straight to our letter-writing campaign!

Season 11

Grey's Anatomy"Respect the nurses"

Grey's Anatomy qualifies for the dramatic irony Olympics

On Grey's Anatomy, surgeons are still gods and nurses are still low-skilled lackeys. But that didn't stop one surgeon character from delivering a mind-boggling speech declaring that a key rule for successful surgeons is to listen to and respect nurses. more...

Season 10

Another 24 episodes of misinformation about what nurses do

May 2014 – The tenth season of ABC's Grey's Anatomy followed the show's by-now-familiar model, clinically speaking:  Surgeons gave all important hospital care and nurses were generally limited to background roles, fetching things and absorbing commands, occasionally with an obsequious "yes, doctor!" In an April 2014 episode, surgeon Meredith Grey directed a nurse to go and remind Meredith's husband Derek, also a surgeon, to pick up their kids. The nurse happily complied. There are still no nurse characters to complement the show's surgeon stars, who now number more than a dozen. Not surprisingly, the show's physician nursing continued, with physician characters regularly handling things that nurses do in real life, including all patient interactions. In a couple plotlines, working nurses did briefly emerge from the background. In both cases, their main role seemed to be to present obstacles to the bright but arrogant resident Shane Ross. In one short scene, a nurse from the show's early years named Tyler reappeared, now supposedly "in charge" of the CCU. That part was all right. But he was just as disagreeable, smug, and unconcerned about patients as ever; basically, a battle-axe. In that plotline, the bright young surgeons also had to provide nursing care, and since that seemed to amount to changing diapers, was it ever disgusting and a waste of their precious time! Oh wait, a knowledgeable, autonomous, and decent nurse character did appear in one episode—but as we have seen before on shows like this, she was a patient's family member. We guess having the surgeons collaborate clinically with a nurse like that might be too disruptive of the Grey's world view. On the whole, the season was another 24 episodes of misinformation about what nurses more...

Season 9

"You're the surgeon, hon -- you tell us!"

May 16, 2013 -- Tonight's finale of the ninth season of ABC's Grey's Anatomy capped another season of the all-surgeons-all-the-time drama, which has become of one of the most popular hospital shows in U.S. television history. The show has also been one of the most damaging to nursing, and this ninth season was no exception. As usual, clinical plotlines wrongly told viewers that surgeons do virtually everything that matters in the hospital, including all the skilled monitoring, critical interventions, patient education, and patient advocacy--things that nurses do in real life. A December 2012 episode did briefly feature an apparently knowledgeable nurse cajoling a nervous surgical intern into managing an infant patient in crisis. The scene suggested the nurse was training the surgeon to assume command, like a drill sergeant, but that nurses cannot act without physician direction. In the end, the nurse came off as an anonymous testing device for the surgeon, whose experience dominated the scene. A March 2013 episode included a fleeting suggestion that nurses were actually required for the hospital to do surgeries! But the rest of the season included apparently nurse-free surgeries. And the show otherwise presented nurses as obsequious servants, doing mundane physical tasks and absorbing commands with a standard "yes, doctor!" or without comment. In tonight's season finale, a major storm threatened the hospital, in a plotline seemingly based on what happened at NYU Langone Medical Center during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In real life, NYU nurses transported critical NICU patients to safety. But here, Grey's surgeons appeared to staff the NICU pretty much by themselves, ventilating the babies and providing emotional support to distressed parents. And late in the episode, the show offered a classic Grey's insult. Attending surgeon Miranda Bailey, too upset by a bad patient outcome to perform surgery, is seen ferrying blood to the OR. Surgeon Richard Webber, not recognizing Bailey at first, says "Thank you, nurse," then, seeing his mistake, apologizes. This underlines just how far Bailey has fallen, that she could be mistaken for a nurse. Soon Bailey is operating again, and the responsibility for carrying objects from point A to point B is back where it belongs. more...

Season 8

Grey's Anatomy: Who's the man?

Eli and Bailey on Grey'sOctober 13, 2011 -- Episodes in the seventh and eighth seasons of ABC's Grey's Anatomy include the forceful "Nurse Eli," the sort-of boyfriend of star surgeon Miranda Bailey and perhaps the best nurse character the show has ever had. Yet even this extended plot arc ultimately decayed into a reinforcement of the idea that nurses are physician subordinates unworthy of being treated as equals, professionally or personally. Eli appeared in eight episodes aired over a 10-month period, ending tonight. On a few occasions he played a more robust patient care role than any other Grey's nurse has, displaying some health care skill and some spirited patient advocacy, standing up to physicians several times. But Eli was more of an intuitive traditional healer than a modern science professional. Physicians still provided virtually all important care in his episodes, and Eli eventually seemed to concede that the senior physicians were in charge. Some of his advocacy was absurdly shrill (nursing advocacy seen from a physician perspective, perhaps). And if "Nurse Eli" ever got a surname, we didn't catch it. Before long, Eli became little more than a hunky romantic / sexual interest for Bailey. Ultimately she ended the "it's complicated"-type relationship with Eli and, although the show allowed him some dignity in that process, it also implied that there was no real future for the two of them because Eli was just a nurse. Over the years, we have been somewhat torn about what to seek from Grey's. In theory, we would like the show to introduce nurse characters to reduce its wildly unbalanced vision of health care, in which physicians do everything that matters. Yet when the show does include a nurse, and even when it shows some empathy for the nurse, the plotline still ends up being overwhelmed by the producers' biases--and arguably does more damage than if the show had simply continued to pretend that nurses don't do anything but say "yes, doctor." So it was with Eli. more...and see our many film clips...

The doctor who cured fistulas

The doctor-nurse protocol

You see all these people around you? They're doctors!

Season 7

Right away, Doctor!

OR nurse on phoneNovember 2010 -- Three episodes of ABC's Grey's Anatomy airing this month include plotlines that illustrate the show's occasionally sympathetic but mostly contemptuous portrayal of nursing. The November 18 episode includes a limited but fairly good portrayal of a nurse--as a patient's mother. This nurse is knowledgeable and a strong advocate for her critically ill son. Surprisingly, the skilled surgical resident Meredith Grey treats the nurse's views with respect. Popular hospital shows seem willing to present nurses as family members who know and do more than the average person, as in a comparable April 2008 episode of Fox's House in which a patient's wife (a nurse) resuscitated him. But perhaps having expert nurses act as clinical colleagues of the physician characters on a regular basis would be a threat to the natural order. The most popular shows, like Grey's, generally limit nurse characters to holding and fetching objects and saying "yes, doctor!" Meanwhile, the dominant physician characters spend a lot of time doing nursing work. In the November 18 Grey's episode, cupcakes for the nurse who couldn't keep her knees togetherMeredith and fellow resident Alex Karev appear to be the only hospital workers who provide any significant care to the nurse's son--no practicing nurse appears. The episodes airing November 4 and 11 likewise showcase physician nursing, as residents Cristina Yang and Jackson Avery provide skilled monitoring of patients. The obvious effect is that physicians get credit for the work of nurses. And the November 4 episode includes another of the show's occasional naughty nurse insults. In that episode, attending Mark Sloane says that his friend Callie deserves better than "off-brand crap" cupcakes for her bon voyage party because it's not just a "baby shower for some nurse who couldn't keep her knees together." Grey's Anatomy's fleeting efforts to present nurses as sentient beings are admirable, but they are overwhelmed by the show's relentless indications that nurses are low-skilled physician helpers. more...and see the film clips!

Season 6

Have fun playing nurse!

Lexie and AveryAugust 2010 -- Five episodes from the sixth season of ABC's Grey's Anatomy (2009-2010) illustrate the two main stereotypes that the hit show continues to reinforce:  that nurses are physician handmaidens, and that they are low-skilled workers worthy only of contempt. As always, the show's 12 main characters--all surgeons--provide all the health care that matters, including vital care that nurses do in real life. In one episode, after senior surgeon Derek Shepherd asks female surgical resident Lexie Grey to monitor his own health during a marathon surgery, a male resident mocks Lexie by telling her that it sounds like she will be Shepherd's "bitch" and urging her to "have fun playing nurse." Lexie will have her revenge on her Seattle Grace colleague, but the show makes no effort to defend nursing. Another episode flashes back to 1982 to show surgical pioneer Ellis Grey (Meredith Grey's mother) as a resident fighting off a male colleague's claim that she is just a "nurse" who has no business defibrillating, though even in 1982, nurses did plenty of defibrillation. Again, there is no defense of nursing. Two other episodes include brief but damaging appearances by nurse Tyler, a bitter lackey who could not care less about patients and views his role as doing as little as possible to help the physicians who actually provide expert care. And still another episode features a rare prime time mention of nurse practitioners. Not surprisingly, it is an insult, as Shepherd suggests that another surgeon is wasting her time doing after-care since a "nurse practitioner can do this." Grey's seems to have made little progress since the anti-nurse insults of its first episodes five long years ago e.g., "Did you just call me a nurse?" "You're the pig who called Meredith a nurse!". As in the early days, the show wants us to feel the pain of brilliant female physicians who must fight to avoid being mistaken for nurses, members of the backwards servant class of health care. We urge the show to consider if it could pursue its apparent mission of deifying physicians without attacking nurses quite so directly. See the film clips from 5 notable episodes!

Season 5

Apologies. We skipped writing up Season 5.

Season 4


Nurse RoseNurse Rose doesn't like hearing about that "boring science stuff"

May 22, 2008 -- On the season 4 finale of Grey's Anatomy, the female physicians’ priority is not to understand nurses but to distinguish themselves from what they see as an uneducated servant class. As on previous episodes where nurses’ work is equated with grotesque bodily functions, in this episode nurse Rose tells neurosurgeon Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd that she preferred him talking about “boring science stuff” to brooding about a clinical trial. We guess that nutty science stuff is just for smart physician girls like Meredith! See the clip...

Looking for Mr. McSteamy

"And yet nowhere in that newspaper article does my name appear. I am the unseen hand to his brilliance."

-- Cristina Yang, having quit surgery for nursing, protesting the media's tendency to credit physicians for the important work of nurses

May 8, 2008 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy was a tour de force of physician nursing and portrayed nurses as so desperate for physicians' romantic attention that they would stop work and call in their union if they failed to get it. In the episode, Seattle Grace's surgical nurses boycotted all surgeries of plastic surgeon Mark Sloane because he had loved and left too many of them. The boycott lasted until resident Miranda Bailey gave the mute ninnies a public lecture on romantic maturity and how their hurt feelings were probably a little less important than the lives that could be saved by, um, actually doing the surgeries. The producers probably thought they could not be accused of promoting the "naughty nurse" because Sloane was, as Bailey stressed, the real "whore." But the plotline suggested that nurses were too dumb to realize what Sloan was all about despite his reputation, and that they were after more of his attention than they could have, underlining the sense that they are slutty serfs grasping at any available hunky physician. Meanwhile, the episode relentlessly showed the surgeons doing important work that nurses actually do: running the surgical board; providing all psychosocial care to distraught patients and families; giving IV medications; doing all patient monitoring, including of a patient's intracranial pressure; and doing a clinical trial essentially by themselves. Finally, resident Cristina Yang gave a bitter speech about ex-flame Preston Burke winning a prestigious medical award without crediting her help--an astonishing echo of the show's own crediting of physicians for work nurses really do. The episode was Tony Phelan and Joan Rater's "The Becoming"--drawn from a Nine Inch Nails song, because if any TV show is in sync with Trent Reznor's fiercely bleak view of modern life, it's definitely "Grey's." The episode drew 15.6 million U.S. viewers. more...

Season 3

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

January 25, 2007 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy includes a short scene in which attending physician Mark Sloane praises nurses as "helpful," "smart," and "already good at their jobs." We give the show credit for trying. But the scene presents Sloane as inflicting seemingly grotesque, trivial nursing tasks on interns Meredith Grey and Alex Karev as a punishment, with no hint that the tasks might be important to patient outcomes--a "Grey's" scenario that is sadly familiar (see examples 1, 2, 3, 4). So the scene suggests that physicians do nursing work, that nurses are helpful physician helpers, that nursing tasks are unpleasant and insignificant, and that nurses are all already good at their jobs because there isn't much to their jobs, in contrast to real professions like medicine, in which people must practice for years to achieve proficiency. The "smart" comment will have little effect given these problems, and given that "Grey's" has spent the last two years telling the world that nurses are disagreeable twits. Indeed, that comment may be the biggest insult of all, because it suggests the show thinks nurses can be mollified with such an unpersuasive pat on the head. The episode, Eric Buchman's "Great Expectations," was seen by 21.5 million viewers in its initial U.S. airing. more...


In response to our item about the January 25, 2007 episode of Grey's Anatomy, entitled "Great Expectations," a nurse has submitted a great script idea. Our analysis focused on a scene in which attending Mark Sloane punishes two surgical interns by giving them what is presented as the trivial, grotesque task of treating bedsores, suggesting that he's not asking the nurses who would normally do it because he likes them. Please see below for a powerful idea for the scene written by Mandy Mayling, RN. Ms. Mayling envisions what might have happened if Seattle Grace actually had nurse managers. Click here to see the script...

Digging through crap

November 9, 2006 -- Tonight ABC's Grey's Anatomy included a plotline in which the "nurse's job" of "dig[ging] through crap" was used relentlessly as a symbol of professional disaster for the show's smart, ambitious surgical interns. Intern Cristina Yang spends most of the episode sifting through the stool of a boy who has swallowed Monopoly pieces. This is presented as a brutal punishment from Cristina's chief resident. Intern Izzie Stevens joins Cristina, in a desperate effort to avoid her own mandatory peer counseling. The plotline equates nursing with disgusting, trivial work that no educated, ambitious person would ever want to do (ewww!). Later, nurse Moe pages Cristina when the boy starts vomiting. Cristina quickly diagnoses a perforated bowel and directs the clueless Moe to page the chief resident. Thus, nurses do alert physicians to obvious changes in patient conditions, so the physicians can give life-saving care. Physicians also provide all other important care on the show, though nurses may be present at the edge of the main action, silently doing some little nurse thing. The episode, Mark Wilding's "Where the Boys Are," was seen by 20.6 million viewers in its initial U.S. airing. more...

"We're all 17 years old"

September 28, 2006 -- This season's first two episodes of Grey's Anatomy included handmaiden portrayals and physician nursing that flowed naturally from the show's comically superficial approach to health care. In the September 21 premiere, written by Shonda Rhimes and seen by 25 million U.S. viewers, experienced nurse Olivia confronts a sick newborn much as a deer faces headlights. Intern Alex orders Olivia to get him IV materials as he whisks the baby out of the flu-stricken ED. At first Olivia can only babble "How old's that baby?", and sputter that she's just been sent down from the floor to handle the flu overflow. But she does recover enough to snap that the infant has to be admitted to the hospital--which Alex of course ignores, since he's all about saving lives. In tonight's episode, written by Krista Vernoff and seen by 23.3 million, nurse Tyler informs intern Cristina that he was part of a team that just saved a life in a code. But we get no specifics. And Tyler tells Cristina only to justify his failure to earn the $20 she paid him to act as a lookout, so she could have sex with her boyfriend, an ailing attending surgeon, in his hospital bed. Tyler seems to get the last laugh, but he's still a lackey who accepts $20 tips for tasks other than his real job. Later, we see what Tyler really does for patients. He pages intern George to tell him that a pre-op lung cancer patient has been shoplifting and is planning to leave without having her operation. Then Tyler steps back to let George handle the important health care issues. Seriously? Seriously. more...

Season 2

An Inconvenient Truth

May 15, 2006 -- Tonight's two-hour season finale of ABC's Grey's Anatomy featured a remarkable level of physician nursing, even by the no-nurse standard the show has maintained since its two January 2006 nursing strike episodes. Those episodes now seem like a token effort to get nurses off the show's back, so it could go on with its inaccurate and damaging portrayal, regardless of the central role nurses actually play in hospital care--a reality that seems to be no more than a minor inconvenience to the show. In the finale's main care-related subplots, physician characters do everything that matters, with no nurses in sight. And an enormous amount of what they do would have been done by nurses in real life. Physician characters do all patient monitoring, all patient emotional support, all family relations, all patient advocacy, and virtually all supportive and therapeutic care. When nurse Olivia does briefly appear, she is presented as a timid physician lackey whom senior resident Bailey drags in to take over heart-pumping for intern Izzie, who has lost her heart to transplant patient Denny, and her mind to the show's producers. As in other post-January episodes, no one here directly suggests that nurses are sluts or losers, and perhaps nurses' protests have at least achieved that. The first episode, "Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response," was written by Joan Rater and Tony Phelan; the second, "Losing My Religion," was written by series creator Shonda Rhimes. This initial airing drew an estimated 22.5 million U.S. viewers. more...

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

January 29, 2006 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's hit Grey's Anatomy featured the conclusion of the nursing strike plotline begun last week. "Break on Through," written by Zoanne Clack, MD, seemed to be an effort to show nurses some respect, and we give the show credit for that. The episode did manage to convey that the nurses' complaints about short-staffing and forced overtime had merit, that nurse staffing had been sacrificed to short-sighted cost-cutting, and that the hospital needed the nurses in order to run efficiently. Ultimately, the hospital agreed to hire more nurses and the strike ended. Unfortunately, the episode wrongly presented the chief of surgery as managing all the nurses. More broadly, the episode continued the show's tradition of damaging misinformation and unrebutted anti-nurse slurs. Nurses were seen as focused on administration and care tasks that the episode's 18.5 million viewers are likely to find trivial, like changing bedpans, handing things to physicians, minor handholding, and tracking little patient quirks. Physicians were depicted as saving lives, and handling exciting work that nurses do in real life, including all key patient relations, all monitoring, all significant clinical interventions--and of course, managing the nurses. Indeed, since physician characters on the show do all the nursing that matters anyway, the strike made virtually no difference in the episode's clinical scenes. more...

Sweet Little Lies

A lie is the worst thing in the world. Art is the ability to tell the truth, especially about oneself.

-- Richard Pryor

January 22, 2006 - Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy included a surprising (if minor) subplot in which nurse characters complained about short-staffing, began a sick-out, and even threatened to strike--which will actually occur in the Jan. 29 episode. In the Jan. 22 episode, the nurses try desperately to cope, while the hospital ignores their concerns. We haven't seen these issues addressed in any significant way on a U.S. prime time show since a January 2002 episode of Lifetime's "Strong Medicine." We give Grey's Anatomy credit for trying. But we also note that: (1) in this episode, the nurses' jobs seemed to consist of managing hospital room occupancies and paperwork, with no hint that they play any important role in direct care; (2) the show's 10 physician stars continued to provide all significant care, including much that nurses do in real life; (3) the episode wrongly told its 21.3 million U.S. viewers that the disgruntled nurses report to the chief of surgery, and nurse managers remained nonexistent; and (4) the episode continued the show's association of the few, unpleasant nurses who do occasionally appear with problems (bureaucracy, infidelity, STDs, failure, strikes, and so on). The show seems to be saying that the nurses are bitter serfs, but if physicians ignore or abuse them enough, they will strike back. The well-named episode, "Tell Me Sweet Little Lies," was written by Joan Rater and Tony Phelan. more...

Nurses strike Seattle Grace Hospital? What nurses?

January 23, 2006 -- The Jan. 22 episode of ABC's hit Grey's Anatomy (analysis pending) actually had a minor subplot in which nurses expressed frustration with short-staffing (!). And the episode set to air on Jan. 29 will evidently feature a nursing strike, with a focus on the struggle of the show's 10 physician characters to cope without nurses. Of course, since these physicians already provide virtually all the nursing on the show, including key procedures, monitoring, and patient relations that nurses do in real life, you might well ask just what additional things the physicians are going to do in this episode. If the Jan. 22 episode is any guide, we'll see the pretty intern stars trying to do their important jobs as well as what the show will likely present as the nurses' annoying administrative and grunt work. In the Jan. 22 episode, the nurses' jobs seemed to consist of managing room occupancies and paperwork. The show's few, generally nameless nurses are often associated with problems (bureaucracy, petulance, infidelity, STDs, porn, failure, strikes, we could go on), but not with important patient care. And while we appreciate the show's nod at the short-staffing that now threatens many nurses' practice, the Jan. 22 episode wrongly told viewers that the disgruntled nurses reported to the chief of surgery--a damaging inaccuracy for an autonomous profession in the midst of what may be the worst shortage in its history. By the way, none other than TV Guide noted in its preview for the Jan. 29 episode (Jan. 23-29 issue) that it had "hardly even noticed there were nurses on this show. (Except for the syph-giving one...)" Right. Anyway, we urge all to watch the episode, and let the show creators know whether it gives a good sense of what happens to patients when nurses are not there. more...

Plot devices in scrubs

December 11, 2005 -- The last two episodes of ABC's Grey's Anatomy are notable for more of the show's now-familiar explicit expressions of contempt for nurses (e.g., "skanky syph nurse"). But they also illustrate how nurse characters serve as convenient plot devices for the show. Nurses are vehicles through which the show's pretty physician heroes confront failure, fate, infidelity, class differences, and, for the women, latent fears about female subservience and their own sexual virtue. In fairness, several scenes in the December 4 episode, Mark Wilding's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (20.75 million viewers), make a stab at "ER"-style handmaiden portrayals, which would actually be a step up. In these, nurses are minimally skilled subordinates who may detect basic changes in patient conditions, and in one case even predict that a specific treatment will not work. But they are helpless to address serious problems, and they look to the physicians--interns, no less--for all care decisions that matter. And with tonight's episode, Krista Vernoff's "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," it's back to the physician nursing, as the physician characters do all monitoring, all patient interactions, and all key procedures, including defibrillation. The nurses do seem up to catching vomit, though, so that's something. more...

The Drunk and the Ugly

November 6, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, seen by 19 million people, featured yet another anti-nurse slur from one of the show's pretty physician heroes. Hotshot intern Cristina Yang dismissed a veteran nurse from a patient's room with a comment that the physicians would let her know if a bedpan needed changing. Rather than objecting to this, the nurse took revenge by paging Yang to do a series of grotesque bodily fluid tasks. We realize that this fantasy about workplace roles was likely intended as a token effort to show nurses respect. But it still associates nursing with icky tasks that seem menial, wrongly suggests that physicians help with them, reinforces battleaxe stereotypes, and does nothing to show what nursing is really about. On the contrary, it is fully consistent with the show's vision of nurses as fawning or vindictive losers whose lives revolve the physician characters who provide all meaningful care, including key tasks that nurses do in real life. The episode suggests that the problem with anti-nurse slurs is not that they're inaccurate, or ultimately a threat to public health. It's just, as one resident notes, "stupid" to "piss[] off the nurses"-- the petty little clean-up crew of health care. The episode, "Something to Talk About," was written by Stacy McKee. The medical consultant was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. more...

Grey's Anatomy doesn't care about nurse people

October 23, 2005 -- I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a nurse, it says, "she's naughty." You see a physician, it says, "she's saving lives." Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy marked an unwelcome return to series creator Shonda Rhimes' own writing about nurses. The popular series debuted earlier this year with Rhimes-penned episodes that featured female surgical interns furious that one of them had been compared to a nurse. Now Rhimes is back with more faux-feminist contempt. Tonight's episode, seen by 18.4 million people, suggested that naughty nurse video p*ornography was a viable pain management tool. It even featured tough intern Cristina Yang reluctantly composing a verbal naughty nurse scenario for an afflicted man when a storm knocked out the hospital's television system. Regardless of whether such female-focused p*orn is misogynous, as Yang suggests at one point, naughty nurse imagery like that this episode offers up mainly for laughs continues to be a factor in the devaluation of nursing. Indeed, in this season Grey's Anatomy nurses seem to pop up mainly as degraded tools in the show's ongoing sex farce (fulfilling sex stereotypes, spreading STD's, getting dumped for more attractive physicians), while the heroic, brilliant physicians provide all important care. In this episode, we did not see a nurse character utter a single line. more...

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We, the AMA, are controlling transmission.

September 2005 -- Late this month, Slate posted a piece by two Boston medical residents (and clinical fellows at Harvard) entitled "Paging Dr. Welby: The medical sins of Grey's Anatomy." Authors Ingrid Katz and Alexi Wright make some good points about the ABC hit's medical inaccuracies and distortions. But their main theme seems to be that things would be better if the American Medical Association had never lost its tight control over how physicians and presumably all health care events are portrayed, which has supposedly led to unsavory depictions of physicians as deeply flawed humans, rather than the godlike Welbys of yesteryear. This, along with medical inaccuracies generally, assertedly works to undermine vital public trust in physicians. Evidently, the authors would entrust public understanding of health care errors, health financing, scope of practice, access to care, and health policy generally to a lobbying organization representing a small minority of powerful health workers who lack expertise in many key areas of modern health care. The authors also overlook the media's ongoing portrayal of physicians as the heroic (if human) providers of all important health care. And they ignore the enormous influence individual physicians--like them--continue to wield over such depictions, influence that has, sadly, been a significant factor in the ongoing representation of nurses as peripheral subordinates who make no meaningful contribution to health care. more...

Season 1

If Tomorrow Never Knows

May 1, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, written by Krista Vernoff, included an extraordinary scene in which a veteran nurse character guided one of the interns through treatment of a life-threatening cardiac tamponade. This is the kind of informal teaching of new physicians that experienced nurses commonly do but that Hollywood almost never shows, and we give the show credit for showing it. Unfortunately (you knew this was coming) the episode still manages to suggest that the intern alone saved the patient's life. It presents the unnamed and unrecognized nurse as a kind of humanoid how-to card, rather than a skilled professional whose expertise was the most critical factor in the patient's survival. When the episode isn't crediting physicians for work that nurses really do, it portrays them as physician helpers. The medical consultant was Karen Lisa Pike, MD.. more...

The scrubbed nurse

April 17, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy actually presented a significant nurse character, dying pancreatic cancer patient Elizabeth Fallon. We have to give the show credit for a nurse character who was not a huge problem at first glance. Indeed, the bedridden Fallon was formidable and savvy, and the show suggested that she was an excellent nurse, though it has never offered viewers any hint as to what excellent nursing might consist of. The bad news is that Fallon was also seen as a career physician appendage, and her main professional focus seemed to be gruffly charting the progress of the physicians around her. Otherwise, the show's physician nursing continued unabated. Surgeon characters provided all monitoring, emotional support and advocacy for patients, practiced hospice nursing, and even handled deceptively difficult nursing tasks like enemas and colostomies. The episode was written by James Parriott, and the medical advisor was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. more...


ABC's Touchstone sends a response to nurses' concerns on Grey's Anatomy

April 14, 2005 -- Today Charissa Gilmore, the Vice President responsible for Media Relations at ABC's Touchstone Television, sent us a letter in response to the outpouring of letters from nursing supporters on "Grey's Anatomy." Ms. Gilmore's letter expressed appreciation for nurses and appeared to take their concerns fairly seriously. But it stressed that a nurse advisor was involved in the show's production and that diverse nurse characters did appear on screen, noting that the episode scheduled to air Sunday April 17 would feature a "much loved former nurse" returning to the hospital as a patient. In response, we sent a letter explaining that its concern was with what viewers actually saw on screen, and that so far the show had been full of anti-nurse slurs and physician characters performing tasks that nurses do in real life, while nurses were wrongly seen as peripheral subordinates, when they appeared at all. Please read Ms. Gilmore's letter, see our response. Thank you.


"You should reprimand him...make him change bedpans."

April 10, 2005 -- Tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy featured rampant physician nursing, as the show's surgical interns did many important things that nurses do in real life, while nurses themselves were portrayed as peripheral subordinates. At the same time, the show doesn't seem able to get through an episode without at least one specific expression of contempt for nursing--in this case, a playful remark that associates a certain well-known nursing task with punishment for a junior staff member. Once again, show creator Shonda Rhimes wrote the episode, and the medical advisor was Karen Lisa Pike. ABC is already calling Grey's Anatomy one of the biggest new hits of the season, and this episode had a reported 18 million viewers. more...


"You're the pig who called Meredith a nurse...I hate you on principle."

April 3, 2005 -- Proving that its series premiere was no fluke, tonight's episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy offered 18.2 million viewers more of its surgical intern characters' explicit contempt for nursing. But perhaps the episode's most notable feature was its relentless portrayal of physician nursing, as the physicians basically handled all meaningful patient care by themselves. Show creator Shonda Rhimes wrote the episode. The show's attractive lead actors and yearning guitar pop soundtrack seem to be persuading viewers to overlook some bogus writing and less than credible plotting, and it is shaping up to be a major new force in fostering inaccurate attitudes toward nursing. more...


ABC's Grey's Anatomy: so chunky with Hollywood's contempt for nursing, you'll be tempted to use a fork. But use a scalpel!

March 27, 2005 -- Tonight ABC drew 16.3 million viewers to the series premiere of Grey's Anatomy, a drama about surgical interns, especially attractive young female ones. Projecting edge but hedging with melodrama, the all-physician show combines elements of recent hospital shows like "ER" with overtones of "Sex and the City"--and "G.I. Jane." Show creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes wrote the episode, and the "medical consultant" was Karen Lisa Pike, MD. We figured the show might be something like "House," which ignores nursing except to show physicians doing it, wrongly suggesting that they provide all meaningful care. Grey's Anatomy does that, but the premiere also embodies feminism's blind contempt for nursing, stressing that smart, tough, attractive women do not do the bedpan servant thing. Given the media's proven influence on the public, this widely seen premiere's regressive attack on nursing will likely do its part to exacerbate the nursing crisis that is taking lives worldwide. more...

Grey's Anatomy: New ABC show boasts nine physician characters, no nurses

March 2005 -- On Sunday, March 27, at 10 p.m. (9c), ABC will broadcast the premiere of Grey's Anatomy, a new television drama about the experiences of a group of physician interns, especially women, struggling to cope in a tough Seattle surgical program. We're trying to keep an open mind, but with a staggering nine out of nine recurring characters apparently surgeons, the show seems poised to offer millions of viewers yet another regressive, physican-centric drama in a season that has been crammed full of them. Because of the demonstrated influence of network dramas on the public's health-related views and actions, we hope all nurses--but especially OR nurses--will watch and let the show's producers know what they think. more...


Grey's Anatomy mailing addresses

Snail mail information for the show:

Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Rob Corn
Executive Producers, Grey's Anatomy
4151 Prospect Ave. 4th Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90027 USA

Mark Gordon
Executive Producer, Grey's Anatomy
The Mark Gordon Company
12200 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste 250
Los Angeles, CA 90064 USA

Amber Brockman, Public Relations
Touchstone Television
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521 USA

Michaela Zukowski, Public Relations

Robert Nunez, Director, Communications Entertainment

Richard Horrmann, Vice President, Communications Entertainment

Janet Daily, VP, Communications, Entertainment

Holli Fisk, Senior Broadcast Publicity Manager, Entertainment

Last updated December 13, 2019

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