Changing how the world thinks about nursing

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We want -- We want your Bodies

September 29, 2005 -- Tonight BBC America will begin showing the intense U.K. drama "Bodies," which reportedly focuses on how one large hospital's staff reacts to health care errors, especially the dangerous incompetence of a powerful OB/GYN physician. Sound familiar? The show's "ripped from the headlines" quality may owe something to the recent scandals over hospitals' failure to act in the face of the alleged deadly incompetence of surgeons in Australia and Canada, despite nurses' warnings. "Bodies" has been compared to the early "ER" for its edgy refusal to hug or learn. Although its key characters seem to be physicians, the show does appear to include two--two!--nurses among its seven main characters.

The difficulties posed by powerful but incompetent physicians have rarely been addressed in U.S. prime time dramas, which have been more focused on the brilliant uber-physicians seen on "ER," "House" and "Grey's Anatomy." Such shows have at times shown physicians struggle, but it is almost always from inexperience or obvious personal problems. And they have rarely focused on issues such as the power disparity between problem physicians and the nurses who are likely to confront the results of their errors, which was reportedly a key factor in the recent cases in Australia and Canada. As for the nurses in "Bodies," ward sister Donna Rix is said to "have a talent for getting into trouble," and her "inability to understand the hospital's internal politics will have serious consequences for her career." The BBC site suggests that she sides with a "grieving family member" rather than a "colleague," creating a "rift" among the nursing staff. Meanwhile, unit nurse Maya Dutta apparently makes a mistake that puts a patient in a coma--who knew nursing was such responsible work?--and in her guilt she "pins all her hopes on an experimental new medication."

We are glad to see a television drama explore how health care professionals deal with errors and incompetence. And we are eager to see whether "Bodies" will deal fairly and accurately with nurses' place in that story.

See the show's web site and the various characters.