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"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.

"Grey's Anatomy" appears to be a sort of younger, more gonzo version of CBS's 2002-2003 show "Presidio Med," which also followed female physicians struggling to cope with clinical practice and personal issues. The basic set-up here seems to be how hotshot senior surgeons mold the interns into the stars of tomorrow. The show will reportedly air during "Boston Legal's" time slot for a few episodes before that show returns to finish its season. Physician training, of course, has been a huge theme in NBC's "ER," Fox's" House" and other recent television dramas. According to the ABC web site, "Grey's Anatomy" "focuses on young people struggling to be doctors and doctors struggling to stay human. It's the drama and intensity of medical training mixed with the funny, sexy, painful lives of interns who are about to discover that neither medicine nor relationships can be defined in black and white. Real life only comes in shades of grey."

We can't wait to see if nurses likewise can't be defined in black and white, but only come in shades of grey. For instance, with all the focus on the training of physicians, will there be any hint of all the informal training experienced nurses provide to junior physicians? Will there be any treatment of the long training nurses themselves receive to hone their lifesaving skills? No doubt viewers will quickly become conversant with the differences between interns, residents and attendings, and probably between different surgical specialties--will they also learn the difference between circulating nurses and scrub nurses, and get a sense of what they do? Will the surgeons perform any operations without nurses, or for that matter, without anesthesia professionals? And speaking of anesthesia professionals, will we see any nurse anesthetists, who provide the great majority of anesthesia given in the United States? Will the nurses who do appear be an integral part of the surgical team, or will they be meek, faceless servants who hand surgeons things and mutely accept commands? Will the show be the first "feminist" hospital show in recent memory to treat the predominantly female profession of nursing with respect?

We encourage everyone to tune in to find out the answers to these questions. We do have one hint: every single one of the nine characters listed on the ABC site is a surgeon. That's right--every single one. This shatters the modern record for a physician-centric television lineup set just this season by Fox's "House," which boasts only six physicians out of six characters. Needless to say, this all-physician lineup will make it virtually impossible for the show to provide a remotely realistic vision of health care, with the likely result that nursing will once again be marginalized, to the detriment of public health.

In other words, "Grey's Anatomy" seems set to be all thumbs. We hope we're wrong.

See the Grey's Anatomy web site on ABC


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