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The Truth About Nursing Decade Awards

Best and Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing 2010-2019

Updated January 17, 2020

Press release

Statement on diversity issues in the awards

The Best


Best series

Newcomer award

Best nurse to superheroes


Feature films



Articles and short features

Long-form features

Coverage of nurse innovators

Placement of major media pieces to promote a book on nursing

Public health advocacy by nurses

Activities that promote better understanding of nursing

Radio shows

Kids' books

Most Improved


The Worst


Scripted Series

Documentary Series

Game Shows



Attacks on School Nurses

Naughty Nurse Stereotyping

Special Awards

Glaring Failure to Recognize Nursing Autonomy

Abuse of the Founder of Modern Nursing's Name

Worst Nurses Week Tribute

Exalting Physicians at the Expense of Nurses

Explaining Why Nurses Don't Need College Educations

All Out Warfare on Nurses Award

  • Best Media Portrayals of Nursing 2010-2019

  • Best Portrayal of Nursing in a Television Series 2010-2019
  • Call the Midwife (2012-present)

    Created by Heidi Thomas, from a memoir by Jennifer Worth; Heidi Thomas and Pippa Harris, executive producers; BBC and PBS.

    For a long-running drama that portrayed skilled, autonomous nurse-midwives delivering babies and providing a wide range of effective care to poor patients in 1950s and 1960s London.

  • Call the Midwife
  • Nurse Jackie (2009-2015)

    Created by Evan Dunsky and Liz Brixius & Linda Wallem; executive producers Linda Wallem, Liz Brixius, Christine Zander, Mark Hudis, Caryn Mandabach, Richie Jackson, Clyde Phillips, Tom Straw, Liz Flahive; Showtime.

    For a dark comedy featuring substance-abusing emergency nurse Jackie Peyton and her protégé Zoey Barkow as fierce and resourceful patient advocates, providing expert holistic care to patients in New York City.

  • Nurse Jackie
  • Mercy (2009-2010)

    Created by Liz Heldens; executive producers Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun, Liz Heldens, Gretchen Berg, and Aaron Harberts; NBC.

    For a drama with nurse Veronica Callahan, a troubled Iraq War veteran, ably leading a crew of Jersey City hospital nurses who displayed strong psychosocial skills and fought for patients in innovative ways.

  • Veronica on Mercy


    Promising Newcomer Award 2010-2019

    • Bob and AbisholaBob Hearts Abishola (2019-present)

      Created and executive produced by Eddie Gorodetsky, Alan J. Higgins, Chuck Lorre, and Gina Yashere; CBS.

      For a new sitcom featuring the skilled, no-nonsense nurse Abishola, originally from Nigeria, who receives romantic attention from an earnest compression sock company owner named Bob after he has a heart attack.


    Best Nurse to the Superheroes 2010-2019

    • Claire TempleClaire Temple (2015-2018), Marvel Studios

      The Temple character appeared in the Marvel Television shows Luke Cage, Daredevil, The Defenders, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones, created by Cheo Hodari Coker, Dave Goddard, Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez, Scott Buck, and Melissa Rosenberg; Executive Producers Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, Jim Chory, Alan Fine, Joe Quesada, Alison Engel, Dan Buckley, Allie Goss, Kris Henigman, and Cindy Holland; Netflix.

      For featuring nurse Claire Temple, a tough problem-solver who operated with autonomy and no apparent fear in providing skilled care to Marvel heroes in highly stressful situations.


  • Best Portrayal of Nursing in Film 2010-2019
    • BayMaxBig Hero 6 (2014)

      Written by Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams; Disney.

      For an animated adventure, a kind of Guardians of Silicon Valley, that featured a heroic robot "nurse" with diverse problem-solving skills, a vast knowledge of health care, and a persistent holistic focus. 


    Best Portrayal of Nursing in a Documentary 2010-2019

    • Carolyn JonesThe American Nurse (2014)

      Carolyn Jones, director and executive producer, Lisa Frank, executive producer; Diginext Films.

      For a fine feature-length documentary, based on the director's 2012 book of portraits, that profiled five nurses in practice settings including home health, a prison hospice, outpatient care of military veterans, and hospital labor and delivery.


  • Best Reporting on Nursing 2010-2019
  • Best news articles and short features about nursing 2010-2019

  • Allana Akhtar, Business Insider, 2019

    For numerous helpful stories about the challenges nursing faces today, including articles in 2019 with the following dates and subjects:
    Dec 5 — worst states to be an NP;
    Nov 26 — nursing expertise that patients should know about;
    Oct 31 — naughty nurse costumes;
    Sep 20 — a strike by nurses in four states;
    Sep 16 — appointment of a dentist as interim director of the National Institute of Nursing Research;
    Aug 21 — a day in the life of a nurse;
    Aug 20 — nurse suicides;
    July 15 — the best part of being a nurse;
    May 24 — the toughest part of being a nurse;
    May 15 — calling all nurses: talk to me!
    Note to nurses: Pitch reporter Allana Akhtar stories — she is interested in nursing!

  • Allan Akhtar
  • Tina Rosenberg, The New York Times

    For articles explaining the value of the work of advanced practice registered nurses: "The Family Doctor, Minus the M.D.," October 24, 2012, and "In Delivery Rooms, Reducing Births of Convenience," May 7, 2014, New York Times.

  • Tina Rosenberg
  • Julia Bucher, "Advice for Caregivers of Relatives With Cancer," The New York Times, July 3, 2013

    For an "Ask an Expert" column, a long piece in which the nursing professor and advanced practice nurse gave practical, sensitive advice about many aspects of coping with cancer.

  • Julia Bucher
  • Jeneen Interlandi, "Nurses Know the Human Costs of Care. That's Why Many Want 'Medicare for All,'" New York Times, May 27, 2019

    For an op-ed explaining why many nurses support efforts to expand Medicare coverage.

  • Jeneed Interlandi
  • Rebecca Tan, "Why nurses, America's most trusted professionals, are demanding 'climate justice,'" Washington Post, September 20, 2019

    For her op-ed explaining how nurses are addressing problems with the Earth, as it is in a "multi-system failure."

  • Rebecca Tan


    Best long-form journalism on nursing 2010-2019

  • Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker, "The Threshold," July 11 & 18, 2016.

    For a compelling report describing the work of hospice nurse Heather Meyerend, who provides expert physical and psychosocial care to patients and family members in South Brooklyn.

  • Larissa MacFarquhar
  • Emily Bobrow, "A Midwife in the North Country," The New Yorker, December 22, 2019.

    For an engaging article on the efforts of nurse midwife Sunday Smith to bring effective, holistic obstetric care to underserved populations in upper New York State.

  • Emily Bobrow


    Best coverage of nurse innovators 2010-2019

  • Stephen Key, "How Three Women Beat the Odds to Become Award-Winning Inventors," Forbes, August 29, 2018.

    For an article which spotlighted nurse Rachel Walker, who has created impressive inventions for cancer patients, and who also addressed the barriers nurses and patients face—including how to overcome them.

  • Stephen Key
  • Blake Farmer, "Nurses In Tennessee Preach 'Diabetes Reversal,'" National Public Radio, July 22, 2019.

    For a piece which highlighted the community-based, holistic work of two nurses to reduce the harmful effects of diabetes.

  • Blake Farmer
  • Richard Knox, "Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care," National Public Radio, January 27, 2014.

    For a story on nurses' efforts to address the alarm fatigue that takes hundreds of lives every year in the clinical setting.

  • Richard Knox
  • Stacey Burling, "More nurses, less death," The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 20, 2010.

    For and article that addresses disputes about nurse staffing, including proposed legislative measures and research on how understaffing affects the quality of care.

  • Stacey Burling
  • Jane Elliott, "Bringing music medicine to the NHS," BBC News, January 1, 2010.

    For reporting that the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery in London has appointed its first "composer in residence."

  • BBC News logo

    Best placement of major media pieces to promote a book on nursing 2010-2019

  • Alexandra Robbins

    For a wave of pieces on different aspects of her book The Nurses (2015), from "Nurse Confessions: Don't Get Sick in July" (Politico) to "Doctors Throw Fits" (Slate) to "Mean Girls of the ER: The Alarming Nurse Culture of Bullying and Hazing" (Marie Claire) and "We Need More Nurses" (New York Times).

  • Alexandra Robbins


  • Best Public Health Advocacy by Nurses 2010-2019
  • Kaci Hickox

    For her courage in advocating for humane, science-based policies regarding health workers who treat Ebola, reducing public fear and improving the treatment of those workers, including through "Her story: UTA grad isolated at New Jersey hospital in Ebola quarantine," Houston Chronicle, October 25, 2014, and "Stop calling me 'The Ebola nurse'" The Guardian, November 17, 2014.

  • Kaci Hickox
  • Three nurses for their first-person accounts of Ebola care in The Guardian piece "'A teenage girl bled to death over two days': Ebola nurses describe life and death on the frontline," October 13, 2014.

  • Bridget Mulrooney

    For explaining what it is like to be at the forefront of Ebola care;

    Sue Ellen Kovack

    For a detailed account of what nurses do in treating Ebola, including the daunting infection control procedures, as well as the experiences of Ebola patients;

    Anine Kongelf

    For explaining the highs and lows of nurses caring for Ebola patients, emphasizing the joy when there are survivors.

    Anine Kongelf
  • Pam Cipriano

    For op-eds she wrote as president of the American Nurses Association on public health issues: "Let nurses do the ethical thing" in support of the Navy nurse who refused to force-feed prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, May 22, 2015, The Washington Post; "Antidote to Fear: Identify, Isolate and Inform" to quell the hysteria around the emerging Ebola crisis, January 12, 2015, The Huffington Post; and others 1, 2, 3).

  • Pam Cipriano
  • Theresa Brown

    For her op-eds promoting better health care policies: "Choosing How We Die," "Abortion wasn't always taboo in America," and "Ebola will elevate respect for nurses."

  • Thersa Brown
  • Mona Shattell

    For her op-ed on trucker health "Long-haul sweatshops," New York Times, March 9, 2016, and for her piece on the naughty nurse stereotype: "Hooters opens nursing school," Huffington Post, May 8, 2013. (Dr. Shattell is a member of The Truth About Nursing's advisory panel.)

  • Mona Shattell
  • Jason Jaewan Lee, "Criminalizing health care professionals' mistakes dodges the real problem," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 21, 2019.

    For his op-ed arguing that filing criminal charges against health workers for mistakes not only imposes undue punishment but also "lets health-care systems off the hook."

  • Jason Jaewan Lee
  • Jocelyn Anderson, "This important state policy change on sexual assault care is long overdue," Pennsylvania Capital-Star, April 25, 2019

    For her op-ed advocating for the reversal of a Pennsylvania state policy that deprives patients of access to Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) nurses.

  • Jocelyn Anderson
  • Anonymous, "A&E nurse: am I on the road to burnout and destruction?", The Guardian, January 14, 2015

    For a harrowing account of understaffing and other challenges of emergency nursing, including the accompanying moral distress.  

  • Anonymous
  • Nurse members of National Nurses United

    For advocating in the media for the health of migrants near the southern border of the United States, including efforts to help children who are separated from their families, as reflected in a piece by ABC El Paso, June 19, 2018.

  • Martese Chism and National Nurses United logo
  • Nurse members of the Service Employees International Union

    For advocating in the media for the health of migrants near the southern border of the United States, including efforts to give them flu vaccines, as reflected in articles by NBC San Diego and MSNBC, October 30, 2019.

  • Franklin Barias and SEIU logo
  • Registered Nurses Association of Ontario

    For advocating for Ontario police officers to start carrying naloxone with them to prevent opioid deaths, as highlighted in "Ontario nurses group launches petition to get Windsor police to carry naloxone," Windsor Star, November 30, 2019.

  • Doris Grinspun
  • American Nurses Association

    For Huffington Post and Hill items portraying the ANA as a policy force for opposing not just nurse participation in capital punishment but the death penalty itself; and for opposing an effort to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Both articles presented nurses as serious health policy advocates.

  • American Nurses Associaiton


  • Best Activities by Nurses that Promote Better Understanding of Nursing in the Media 2010-2019
  • MarySue Heilemann

    For organizing the 2011 and 2012 conferences at UCLA to bring Hollywood and nursing together; for speaking on nursing in the media at a United Nations' forum on women and at the director's lecture at NINR; and for research on how media on nursing affects public health, including the creation of "Catalina: Confronting My Emotions," a multi-media webisode with psychotherapeutic bonus videos featuring a Latina nurse character who guides viewers to mental health resources. (Dr. Heilemann is a member of The Truth About Nursing's advisory panel.)

  • MarySue Heilemann
  • Diana Mason, Barbara Glickstein, and Kristi Westphaln

    For undertaking important research on the extent to which nurses are featured or quoted in the news media, as well as the reasons for nurses' infrequent appearances in that media, in the Woodhull Study Revisited.

  • Diana Mason, Barbara Glickstein, Krist Westphaln
  • Rodrigo Cardoso

    For his research published in books and articles, most of which are in Portuguese, but see "The exposure of the nursing profession in online and print media." (Dr. Cardoso is a member of The Truth About Nursing's advisory panel.)

  • Rodrigo Cardoso
  • Peggy Chinn and Adeline Falk-Rafael

    For their blog feature "Inspiration for Activism," which highlights the work of nurse activists, and for hosting the 2018 nursing activism conference, which inspired nurses to work together to amplify their voices.

  • Peggy Chinn, Adeline Falk-Rafael


  • Best Radio Shows for Nursing 2010-2019
  • For nurses who are brave and articulate enough to speak on air about health care, and in doing so show society that nurses are college-educated science professionals who know what they are talking about — and who deserve respect.

  • Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein Healthcetera (WIOX) and formerly HealthStyles (WBAI) (New York).
  • Diana Mason, Barbara Glickstein
  • Diane Reed Nurses Rock! (Florida) (Dr. Reed is a member of The Truth About Nursing's advisory panel).
  • Diane Reed
  • Joyce Batcheller All About Nursing (Texas).
  • Joyce Batcheller
  • Maureen McGrath Sunday Night Health Show (formerly the Sunday Night Sex Show) (Vancouver, Canada).
  • Maureen McGrath
  • Josiah Jackson-Okesola Nurses on Air (Lagos, Nigeria).
  • Josiah Jackson-Okesola
  • Leanne Meier Once a Nurse, Always a Nurse (Minnesota).
  • Leane Meier
  • Casey Hobbs and Shayne Mason Nurses Talk (California).
  • Casey Hobbs and Shayne Mason


  • Best Kids' Book for Nursing 2010-2019
  • You Wouldn't Want to Live Without Nurses cover


  • Best Efforts to Make Amends Under Pressure Awards 2010-2019
  • Paul Krugman

    For publicly apologizing after calling nursing "menial" work in a 2017 New York Times blog post.

  • Paul Krugman
  • The Dr. Oz Show

    For publicly apologizing after depicting "nurses" as naughty physician playthings in a 2010 episode.

  • Dr. Oz
  • The View, ABC, 2015

    For publicly apologizing after suggesting in an episode that nurses have no business using stethoscopes.

  • Lab Rats, Disney, August 5, 2013

    For removing a line of dialogue telling viewers that nurse practitioners are inferior to physicians.

  • Lab Rats
  • Scrubbing In, MTV, 2013

    For taking several steps to make amends for a "reality" show suggesting that nurses are frivolous partiers with little professional commitment.

  • Scrubbin In
  • Hooters, 2011

    For discontinuing the "It's the Cure, Baby" college basketball ad campaign in which a naughty nurse prescribed food.

  • Hooters
  • The Dallas Mavericks cheerleaders, 2012

    For discontining the use of naughty nurse outfits in a dance routine performed with the song "Bad Case of Loving You."


  • Worst Portrayals of Nursing in the Media 2010-2019

  • Worst Television
  • Worst Portrayal of Nursing in a Television Series 2010-2019

  • Shows of Shonda Rhimes

    For the globally popular Grey's Anatomy (2005-present) and spinoff Private Practice (2007-2013) featuring heroic physicians provided all important care, including tasks that nurses do in real life, while nurses were at best low-skilled helpers.

  • Grey's Anatomy / Private Practice logos
  • Shows of David Shore 

    For the globally popular House (2004-2012) and The Good Doctor (2017-present) featuring hospitals staffed almost entirely by brilliant physicians, with rare appearances by nurses as anonymous lackeys.

  • House and The Good Doctor
  • The Mindy Project (2012-2017) — created by Mindy Kaling; Fox / Hulu.

    For a sitcom in which the lead character and her OB-GYN physician colleagues were quirky but expert, while the nurse characters tended to be bizarre, ignorant stooges.

  • The Mindy Project with three nurses

    Worst Portrayal of Nursing in a Documentary Series 2010-2019

  • Terence Wrong, for New York Med (2012 and 2014), Boston Med (2010), ABC

    For documentary series on major urban hospitals that focused overwhelmingly on physicians, presenting them as the brilliant providers of all meaningful health care, while nurses were largely ignored or marginalized.

  • Terence Wrong

    Worst Portrayal of Nursing in a Game Show 2010-2019

    Family Feud
  • Family Feud

    For many survey questions, especially in shows airing 2014-2018, that sexualize nurses and associate them with intimate threats, reinforcing naughty nurse and battle-axe stereotypes.


  • Worst Portrayal of Nursing in Film 2010-2019
  • Nurse 3D (2014)

    Written by Douglas Aarniokoski; directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, David Loughery; Lionsgate.

    An erotic thriller in which an uninhibited but vengeful nurse targets apparently deceitful men for severe punishment, reinforcing the naughty-axe stereotype.

  • Nurse 3D
  • Cloud Atlas (2012)

    Written by David Mitchell, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski; directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski; Warner Bros.

  • For a film that sought transcendence but also featured Nurse Noakes, a violent battle-axe who confined elderly patients and was even worse than Nurse Ratched, in part because the movie seemed to link her malevolence to her gender ambiguity.

  • Nurse Noakes, Cloud Atlas


  • Worst Reporting on Nursing 2010-2019
  • Gina Kolata, New York Times

    For "At These Hospitals, Recovery Is Rare, but Comfort Is Not," June 23, 2014; and "Doctors Saved Lives, if Not Legs, in Boston," April 16, 2013 — health reporting that ignored nurses even when they were central to the story.

  • Gina Kolata
  • Lourdes ("Lulu") Garcia-Navarro, "How to Fight Zika When Your Country Is in Trouble: Improvise,"National Public Radio, April 7, 2016

    For a long Morning Edition report that features a barrage of statements by the reporter and Morning Edition host Renee Montagne falsely suggesting that physicians are the only health professionals in Brazil dealing with the mosquito-borne virus.

  • Lourdes Lulu Garcia-Navarro


  • Most Ignorant Attacks on School Nurses 2010-2019
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central, October 24, 2012

    For insisting that military medics with a few weeks of health care training were overqualified to do school nursing, which Stewart mocked as being about "kickball," "bruising," and "tummy aches."

  • Jon Stewart
  • Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, Netflix, December 15, 2019

    For suggesting that school nurses are not actually nurses, and that they would treat a broken hip with "apple juice and crackers."

  • Hasan Minhaj
  • Glee, Fox, October 3, 2013

    For an episode of Ryan Murphy's show with "Nurse Penny," who had not yet gone to nursing school and who injected a student with urine instead of flu vaccine, using a needle she contaminated by practicing injection technique on a sausage.

  • Ryan Murphy


  • Worst Naughty Nurse Stereotyping 2010-2019
  • For "naughty nurse" imagery in various media worldwide, but especially these notable examples:

  • Mariah Carey

    For the 2010 "Up Out My Face" music video in which she and Nikki Minaj dressed in naughty nurse costumes.

  • Mariah Carey
  • Cardi B

    For a 2019 Halloween concert in which she dressed as a naughty nurse.

  • Cardi B
  • Klondike Kandy Bars, Unilever

    For a television ad featuring a sexy candy bar "nurse" whose seduction of a Klondike ice cream bar "patient" ostensibly led to the birth of the new product.

  • Klondike
  • Subway

    For a 2014 television ad encouraging customers to dine at the sandwich chain so as to be able to fit into sexy Halloween costumes, including a naughty nurse outfit.

  • Subway naughty nurse
  • Lionsgate, Jigsaw (2017) blood drive posters

    For continuing its tradition of promoting releases in its Saw horror film franchise through blood drive posters exploiting the naughty and battle-axe stereotypes of nursing.

  • Lionsgate Jigsaw blood drive poster

    Special Awards


  • Most Glaring Failure to Recognize Nursing Autonomy 2010-2019
    • Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, 2019

      For appointing a dentist as interim director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, and then, after thousands of nurses protested, appointing a biologist to replace the dentist as interim director.

    Francis Collins


  • Worst Abuse of the Founder of Modern Nursing's Name 2010-2019
  • Google / Ascension – "Project Nightingale," 2019.

    For using the name of Florence Nightingale—a pioneer in the beneficial use of health data—for an artificial intelligence (A.I.) / machine learning project that reportedly used the health data of some 50 million patients, without their knowledge, raising serious privacy concerns.

  • Google Ascension Project Nightingale
  • Nuance — "Florence," 2017.

    For naming its electronic scheduler for physicians "Florence," as if Nightingale was all about helping with physician schedules, when in fact her focus was on autonomous nursing care and spirited patient advocacy -- often in the face of opposition from physicians.

  • Google Ascension Project Nightingale


  • Worst Nurses Week Tribute 2010-2019
  • Kaiser Permanente, May 2011 radio ads

    For an extreme presentation of unskilled angel imagery, focusing on nurses' "colossal" "capacity to care," their "superhuman" "sympathy," their "love," and their "gargantuan heart all squishy with compassion thumping away"—none of which will earn nurses the respect or resources they need to save lives.

  • Kaiser Permanente


  • Worst Efforts To Exalt Physicians at the Expense of Nurses 2010-2019
  • Sandeep JauharThe New York Times

    For this physician's op-eds "Nurses Are Not Doctors," April 29, 2014, and "Shouldn't Doctors Control Hospital Care?," October 10, 2017, arguing that physicians should control all health care and that NPs can't provide high-quality, cost-effective primary care on their own — despite the vast body of research showing otherwise.

  • Sandeep Jauhar


  • Worst Effort to Explain Why Nurses Don't Need College Educations 2010-2019
  • Matthew Walther


  • All Out Warfare on Nurses Award 2010-2019
    • Inside Amy Schumer, "The Nurses," Comedy Central, May 20, 2014

      For a segment parodying The Doctors that viciously reinforced most major anti-nurse stereotypes, including the ignorant physician handmaiden, the petty battle-axe, and the naughty nurse.

    Amy Schumer

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