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Three Rivers episode analyses


Yes, doctor! Right away!

Pam and Andy Three RiversOctober 25, 2009 -- Tonight's episode of CBS's Three Rivers is a good example of the new hospital show's presentation of nurses as physician subordinates who are peripheral to serious care. The show follows the heroic exploits of a team of elite Pittsburgh surgeons, but it virtually ignores the central role skilled nurses play in transplantation, including in procuring organs, transplant surgeries, and the critical recovery period after surgery. Here the physicians conduct all significant treatments and patient interactions. The show's transplant coordinator character is not a nurse. Indeed, though he is well-meaning, he has no health care training, and he makes foolish errors (as in this episode), an ongoing insult to real transplant coordinators, who are usually nurses. There is one minor recurring nurse character, Pam Acosta. In this episode she is shown briefly treating a lightly injured patient, but even that is a rarity, since her role usually involves only occasional light banter with the godlike lead surgeon Andy Yablonski. Although the nursing portrayal in this episode is probably one of the show's best, the other nurse characters remain nameless handmaidens whose dialogue is mostly limited to submissive TV-nurse statements like "Yes, doctor!" and "Right away!" The episode, David Amann's "Code Green," drew 7.9 million U.S. viewers. more...

From our 2009 fall series TV preview

AndyThree Rivers seems to be a pretty standard heroic-surgeon show centered on a Pittsburgh transplant team at what the CBS site describes as "the top transplant hospital in the US." We say "team," and the show does include a character named Pam Acosta (right) who seems to be a nurse. There is also an inexperienced transplant coordinator named Ryan Abbott, who has not been identified as a nurse, though these coordinators often are nurses in real life. But there is little doubt that the show is most interested in inspiring worship for renowned transplant surgeon Andy Yablonski (Alex O'Loughlin) and the remaining three major characters, all of whom are surgeons. The CBS site describes Acosta (Justina Machado) as Yablonski's "no-nonsense operating assistant and best friend," while TV Guide says she is "Yablonski's feisty nurse and confidant." So it appears that she is a nurse, although we guess she could turn out to be a physician's assistant. But either way, available promotional material pretty clearly paints her as Yablonksi's appendage, rather than as an autonomous professional. Previews, in which the Acosta character is hard to find, suggest that even the patient interactions outside of the OR will be overwhelmingly conducted by the surgeon characters. One preview includes a clip of the actress who plays one of the physician characters noting that working on the show made her "realize how fragile we are, but also what heroes doctors are." That likely sums up Three Rivers pretty well.



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