February 22, 2011 -- Although the physician handmaiden remains the main Hollywood stereotype of nursing, the unskilled female sex object is still there. This week she appeared in two popular prime time television dramas airing on successive nights. In tonight's NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), a cheerful but apparently unskilled Nurse Debbie is the subject of two leering "ready for my sponge bath!"-type comments from a wounded detective. And last night’s House (Fox) presented a nameless female nurse as a physician sex object in a fantasy scene, and later, in a “real” code scene, as a panicked lay person who needed physician rescuing. In neither episode does the nurse dress provocatively. But neither nurse objects to the sexual comments either. Debbie is not even present for the remarks, and in the House fantasy scene--a fantasy constructed by House himself--the nurse actually looks a bit intrigued by two physicians' propositions. In both shows it is a different female who does object--on NCIS: LA a detective and on House a medical student. Maybe these strong, smart other women recognize that sexual abuse even of the least of their sisters--nurses--degrades all females. On the other hand, the heroic characters who are actually responsible for the imagery--Greg House and the NCIS detective--may be more interested in tweaking these female peers than anything else. In any case, the nurse characters display no real health care expertise. And the helpless House nurse responds to her crashing patient in classic House-nurse style, as the physicians rush in to save him: "I don't know what's wrong, he was stable for a while, and then all of a sudden--!." Joseph C. Wilson wrote the NCIS: LA episode ("Personal"), and Thomas L. Moran wrote the House episode ("Two Stories").. more... and see the film clips!
A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.
March 16, 2009 -- The main patient in tonight's episode of Fox's House was a nurse who believed that a cat tended to sit with those who were about to die--including, recently, the nurse herself. That may not sound like a promising vehicle for House to improve its abysmal portrayal of nursing. But the show actually presents the nurse as someone with health knowledge. And her search for meaning in faith, for some reason in tragic events, is a real counterpoint to House's cold rationality. Indeed, despite the obvious potential for mockery in the cat angle, the mighty House treats the nurse with considerable respect--he seems to care what she thinks, or at least to find her views unnerving. Of course, the nurse plays no real clinical role in the episode, and no other nurses do either. So the episode suggests, as usual, that physicians provide all important care in hospital settings, including all meaningful psychosocial and physical care. Still, any suggestion that intelligent life resides in a nurse is a welcome departure for House (and for the episode's writer Peter Blake, who also penned a November 2005 House episode that was notable for its physician glorification and its casual contempt for other health professions). Tonight's episode, "Here Kitty," drew 13.1 million U.S. viewers. more... see the relevant film clips... and please join our letter writing campaign!
April 28, 2008 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's "House" seemed designed to placate nurses unhappy that the show has spent the last four seasons pretending nurses play no important role in hospital care. The show's isolated effort to make amends did not focus on what nurses actually do, but instead relied on a strike plotline which supposedly showed how bad things get when nurses are absent--much as "Grey's Anatomy" did in 2006. In this episode, House's team works to determine what is making the husband of one striker too nice. It includes a brief scene in which this nurse saves her husband's life by diagnosing a heart attack and performing CPR. We thank the show for this. Sadly, we never learn why the nurses are striking. And the only scene that seems to show the effects of the strike simply shows an overcrowded ED, and implies that physicians just have to work extra hard to make up for the absence of nurses--as if physicians can do everything nurses can. They can't. The strike makes no real difference in the episode, since, as House glibly says, he does not "use nurses" and does not even know what they do. It doesn't count as irony when what you say is the simple truth for the show. As always, House's smart physician crew provides virtually all bedside care. Except for the heart attack scene, the patient's wife projects the same blankness in the face of technical care that we've come to expect from the few wallpaper nurses who appear on the show to absorb physician commands. And as usual, no one rebuts House's anti-nurse slurs--because, though mean and nasty, they are portrayed as being as ruthlessly correct as his other diagnoses. The episode is "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by David Hoselton and show creator David Shore. It drew 14.5 million U.S. viewers. more... and please join our letter writing campaign!
May 15, 2007 -- Above is the complete dialogue of nurse characters in tonight's episode of Fox's "House," an episode that will be rebroadcast on September 11. These few lines reflect the hospital drama's portrayal of nurses in bedside care, a vision of physician handmaidens with little technical knowledge who perform menial assistive tasks but panic in an emergency, relying on physicians to supply all thinking, expertise, and courage. The episode reinforces this vision with a few of the House character's typical expressions of contempt for nurses and nursing, as always delivered without challenge from the other characters or the show as a whole. One priceless moment finds House informing two nurses, without irony, that a patient the nurses can see is having a pronounced full-body seizure is in fact "having a seizure." The episode, Leonard Dick's "The Jerk," drew 21.6 million U.S. viewers on May 15. more, including 8 new film clips...
February 13, 2007 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's "House" included something rare: the brief appearance of a nurse character (Wendy) who, though hardly interesting, was a bit more than just a mute servant. Of course, Wendy only enters the plot because she is the current girlfriend of House's underling physician Foreman, not because she has anything to contribute to important health care. That care, as always, is provided entirely by the physician characters. Foreman breaks up with Wendy by telling her he'll make "a few calls" and get her into an elite hospital-based nurse practitioner program in a distant city. This will likely suggest to most viewers that the most prestigious NP preparation is non-degree training in which entry can be had at the whim of physicians, rather than graduate degree programs at major universities with real admissions requirements. The rest of the episode, Matthew V. Lewis's "Insensitive," includes suggestions that nurses are sniping handmaidens or anonymous sexual diversions. And the episode invites its 26 million U.S. viewers to chuckle at that irreverent genius House's suggestion that if a physician friend would just stop annoying him, they could be "ranking nurses in order of do-ability." more...including 8 new film clips. And please join our letter-writing campaign!
November 21, 2006 -- Fox's "House" generally ignores nursing or shows physicians doing it, but recent episodes have included troubling comments on nurses' autonomy and skill. In Thomas L. Moran's November 7 "Que Sera Sera" (16 million viewers), a police officer pursues lead character Greg House for possible crimes related to his prescription drug abuse. In response to one taunt from House, the officer notes: "I think working around a bunch of nurses has given you a false sense of your ability to intimidate." Tonight, in Pamela Davis's "Whac-a-Mole" (15.2 million viewers), physician Eric Foreman prepares to take a sample of spinal fluid from a patient. When the patient's 11-year-old sister offers to help, Foreman agrees, noting that it's "quicker than calling a nurse." When Foreman instructs her to hold her brother's legs still, the girl asks: "Is this all nurses do?" Foreman responds, with a wry smile: "My boss [House] doesn't trust 'em to do anything else." The show is not explicitly endorsing these comments. But they are a fair summation of its portrayal of nursing, and it has never done a thing to rebut the attitudes they reflect. Viewers are likely to conclude that the vision the comments present of nurses as timid, unskilled physician subordinates is harsh, but essentially correct. more...
May 23, 2006 -- The season's final two episodes of Fox's popular "House" featured the usual high level of physician nursing. The show seems to care only about physician diagnosis, but that has never stopped its brilliant physician characters from providing all key bedside care. Here, one physician even helps a post-surgical patient walk around and use the toilet. On the rare occasions when nurses appear, they often seem to be summoned into existence literally out of nowhere by the physicians to silently do a simple physical task. Such "House" nurses are nothing new, and we've referred to them as "wallpaper nurses." But given the metaphysical musings of the season finale--and House's own reference in the prior episode to the number 613 as "Jewish," presumably because the Torah has 613 commandments--these nurses reminded us more of the golems of Jewish folklore. Golems are mute, brainless humanoids crafted from inanimate material for basic tasks by the wisest and holiest, notably early rabbis: assistive creations of the most godlike. Now, can we think of any characters on "House" who might be described as godlike? The May 16 episode, "Who's Your Daddy?", was written by Lawrence Kaplow and John Mankiewicz and had 22.4 million U.S. viewers. Tonight's season finale, "No Reason," was written by series creator David Shore (story by Kaplow and Shore), and it drew 25.7 million U.S. viewers. more and join our letter-writing campaign...
November 29, 2005 -- Hi kids! My name is Peter Blake. I'm a Hollywood screenwriter, and I'm going to tell you a story. My story is called "The Mistake." It is actually just part of a much longer story called "House." "House" is on television every week, on the Fox network. And millions of people watch it--like the 15 million who are watching right now. My story is about what physicians do in hospitals to make sick people better. Physicians are really smart and cool and pretty and they save people's lives every day. But they have a few flaws, and when they make a mistake, people may die! Oh, and nurses help patients get to see physicians. Nurses also move objects around for physicians, and do secret naughty things with big powerful male physicians. See how it works? Let's begin! Please click here to read more and join our letter writing campaign...
November 15, 2005 -- Both Fox's "House" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" have shown utter contempt for nursing. But the two new prime time hits have taken somewhat different approaches. "House" is addicted to physician nursing. Its six physician characters are constantly doing key care tasks that nurses do in real life. The rare nurse characters are silent, barely visible clerks, like wallpaper that assumes human form to move or hold objects. "Grey's Anatomy," with nine physician characters, has at times had nurses utter a minor substantive line. However, it has often insulted nursing directly. Its interns regard the word "nurse" as a slur, and the nurses who do appear tend to be bitter or fawning losers, whose lives revolve around the godlike physicians. But two recent episodes of "House" (Thomas L. Moran's "Daddy's Boy," aired on Nov. 8, 14 million viewers, and Sara Hess's "Spin," aired on Nov. 15, 13 million viewers) prove that the Fox show is more than capable of its own specific anti-nurse slurs. In these, "House"'s brilliant physician heroes suggest that they consider nurses unskilled clean-up staff, "nurse-maids" who are good for handling stool and patients who have fallen down. The money quote? Über-diagnostician and wit Greg House has just temporarily relieved a patient's thymoma with a Tensilon injection, and gone off on a "playing God" riff. When the drug wears off, as expected, the patient falls to the floor. House says this is "exactly why I created nurses," then calls out into the hallway, "clean-up on aisle three!" click here to read more and join our letter-writing campaign!
May 24, 2005 -- The season's last two episodes of Fox's hit House, culminating in tonight's finale (19.7 million viewers), continued the show's grossly inaccurate depiction of nurses as uneducated, peripheral subordinates and physicians as the brilliant providers of all meaningful health care. Both episodes mostly ignore nurses, showing physicians doing important work that nurses really do, notably monitoring patients, providing emotional support, giving medications, and doing defibrillation. But one short scene in the May 17 episode, show creator David Shore's "Three Stories" (17.7 million viewers), is a small masterpiece of anti-nurse distortions. It deserves close attention in an era in which the mass media plays a major role in driving the nursing shortage that threatens lives worldwide. more...
November 16, 2004 -- Tonight's series premiere of Fox's "House," written by David Shore, takes a firm stand against one thing: lying. Specifically, the lies patients tell physicians, but also the lies of physicians themselves. In fact, "everybody lies." Only one physician tells it like it is: the brilliant, caustic Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a master diagnostician who tries to avoid patients, even as he guides his diverse "CSI"-like team of "genius doctors" toward the elusive truths of life-threatening mystery diseases at a Princeton hospital. Unfortunately, the show's key premise is itself a damaging lie: that a team composed entirely of physicians would rove the hospital providing all significant care to desperately ill patients, as the few nurses and other professionals stand silently in the background or simply disappear. In fact, in a kind of extreme irony, the mystery disease that nearly eludes all the genius physicians and kills the first episode's main patient (tapeworm) could have been discovered by a skilled nurse's standard evaluation of the patient's stool--yes, the bedpan. With six out of six major characters as physicians, this may be the most physician-centric new TV show of the last decade. There is talent, wit and intelligent (if reactionary) life in "House," but the show's early promise only underlines the disservice it does to nursing. more...
June 26, 2005 -- Today the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg (Virginia) ran an interesting op-ed by primary care physician Patrick Neustatter questioning whether a "curmudgeon doctor," like the lead character on Fox's hot new television drama "House," is really what patients want. The piece uses "House" as a vehicle to explore how the media distorts the reality of health care, with potentially serious real world results, including the unjustified glorification of certain types of physicians. To this end the op-ed relies in part on the Truth's own analysis of the physician-centric show. more...
Snail mail addresses for the show:
Executive producer, "House"
Twentieth Century Fox Television
10201 W. Pico Blvd; Bld89 Rm 230
Los Angeles 90035
Paul Attanasio and Katie Jacobs
Executive producers, "House"
Heel & Toe Films
Santa Monica, CA 90404-2910
Jeff Zucker, CEO
NBC Universal Television
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1002
PO Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900