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The 2013 Truth About Nursing Awards

The Truth About Nursing announces our 11th annual list of the best and worst media portrayals of nurses! The year 2013 featured the BBC/PBS television series Call the Midwife, with its skilled, autonomous nurses caring for the poor in 1950's London. Other highlights included an excellent New York Times column with expert advice on cancer from nurse Julia Bucher; news reports showcasing U.K. nursing innovations; pieces on the importance of beleaguered U.S. school nurses; another season of Showtime's Nurse Jackie with strong elements; and even a fine episode of NBC's Parks & Recreation, in which nurse Ann Perkins persuaded a difficult colleague to make a lifestyle change! On the downside, many popular Hollywood television shows presented a dismal vision of nursing to viewers around the world. Notable examples included ABC's Grey's Anatomy, with its brilliant surgeons doing everything important and its nurses virtually nothing of interest; Fox's The Mindy Project, with its quirky but skilled OB-GYN physicians and their three stooge-nurses; A&E's The Glades, with its wannabe-physician nurse character; damaging episodes of ABC's Modern Family and Fox's Glee; and of course, MTV's notorious travel nurse reality show Scrubbing In, which reinforced unskilled and naughty nurse stereotypes but also sparked a huge, partially successful protest by nurses in Canada and the U.S. Despite all the problems, we thank those responsible for the best media and encourage others to keep trying. See the full awards below.

Ten Best Portrayals

Most Improved

Ten Worst Portrayals

Ten Best Media Portrayals of Nursing 2013



Call the Midwife
Created by Heidi Thomas, from a memoir by Jennifer Worth; Heidi Thomas and Pippa Harris, executive producers

Call the Midwife Jenny and Trixie
    The second season of this U.K. drama again portrayed skilled, autonomous nurse-midwives caring and advocating strongly for the poor in late 1950's London.

Julia Bucher
The New York Times
"Ask an Expert: Advice for Relatives with Cancer"
July 3
Julia Bucher award
    In this long column, nursing professor and advanced practice nurse Bucher gave practical, sensitive advice about many aspects of coping with cancer.

Parks & Recreation, "Animal Control"
Megan Amram, writer; Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, creators
April 11
Ann Perkins Parks & Rec award
    Nurse Ann Perkins convinced a difficult colleague to seek care; then, working autonomously, she reviewed his health and persuaded him to make positive changes.
4. U.K. news reports on autonomous nursing innovations
    The Southern Reporter
"Borders General take starring role on Danish TV"
December 31
Ronnie Dornan and colleagues
      This report discussed a pioneering program hospital nurses had developed to promote early recognition of at-risk patients.

Adam Brimelow
BBC News
"Dutch district nurses rediscover ‘complete care' role"
May 27

District nurse
      The growing nurse-run firm Buurtzorg provides a model of comprehensive and cost-effective home care by district nurses.

Dave Blackhurst
Stoke Sentinel
"Nurses allowed to discharge patients at University Hospital of North Staffordshire"
August 7

Ward nurses
      Under a new program, senior nurses may discharge patients from a large hospital.

Laura Yuen
Minnesota Public Radio

"Runaway girls focus of Minn. fight to curb sex trafficking"; "How one St. Paul nurse is helping runaways heal"
January 11
Runaway girl
    A package of reporting told how a nurse practitioner had started an effective intervention program and taken other measures to help runaway girls.
6. Physician-created profiles of nurses
    Richard Gunderman
The Atlantic
"Midwives for the Dying"
December 16
Richard Gunderman
      A thoughtful interview with NP and palliative care nurse Peg Nelson.
    Barron Lerner
The New York Times
"A Nurse Gains Fame in the Days of Polio"
December 26
Barron Lerner
      A look at Naomi Rogers's new book on polio and bedside care pioneer Elizabeth Kenny.
7. Reports on the importance of school nurses
    Carolyn Thompson
The Associated Press
"School nurses have come a long way since 1902" August 20
School nurse early 1900s
      A good overview of the importance and varied duties of modern school nurses.
    Jeff Bryant
"‘School nurse cuts killed my daughter': Laporshia Massey died because our priorities are wrong" October 18
Laporshia Massey
      A strong argument that cutting school nurses threatens the nation's wellbeing.

Ari Bloomekatz, writer, Mel Melcon, photographer
The Los Angeles Times
"A nurse who is healing patients and himself"
October 9

David Fuentes
    A strong profile of a recent UCLA nursing graduate revealed nursing expertise and highlighted ongoing issues for men in nursing.


Nurse Jackie
Created by Evan Dunsky and Liz Brixius & Linda Wallem; executive producers Richie Jackson, Caryn Mandabach, Clyde Phillips, Tom Straw
Nurse Jackie
    Flawed nurse Jackie Peyton remained a creative, life-saving force for patients in the emergency department, despite some more suggestions that nurses report to physicians.

WTVR Channel 6, Anne Poehnert, Victoria Lushbaugh  
"Nurse busts top 5 flu myths"
January 16
Anne Poehnert
    The Richmond CBS affiliate consulted articulate CVS Minute Clinic nurse Poehnert on key issues related to the flu.
Most Improved Portrayals of Nursing 2013

Network agreed to limit damage from its reality show Scrubbing In, including by working with the Truth to convey accurate information about nursing on MTV website.

Dallas Mavericks Cheerleaders
Dallas Mavericks Bad Case of Loving You

Recovered from "Bad Case of Loving You" dance featuring naughty nurse outfits.

Hooters Hooky Day

Ended its use of naughty nurse image in "Hooky Day" basketball promotion.

Ten Worst Media Portrayals of Nursing 2013

Grey's Anatomy
Created by Shonda Rhimes
6 Grey's Anatomy physicians

Surgeon characters continued to do virtually everything that matters, including skilled patient monitoring, education, and advocacy--things nurses do in real life.


The Mindy Project
Created by Mindy Kaling
3 nurses The Mindy Project, Beverly, Morgan and Tamra

Quirky but smart OB-GYN physicians provided skilled health care, while their three stooge-nurse assistants supplied inane diversions.


Modern Family, "The Big Game"
Megan Ganz, writer; Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, creators
December 4
Dylan "nurse" Modern Family

Big news, the dimwitted Dylan character was suddenly attending nursing school.


Glee, "Tina in the Sky with Diamonds"
Ian Brennan, writer; Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, creators
October 3
Penny Glee "nurse"

Another comically inept high school "nurse" character endangered students' lives, this time with needles.


The Glades
Created by Clifton Campbell
Callie Cargill The Glades

Able nurse character was dying to continue medical school, and her crusty mentor said she'd be a "hell of a doctor," but cancellation of the show tragically crushed this dream.


Gina Kolata, Jeré Longman, and Mary Pilon
The New York Times
"Doctors Saved Lives, if Not Legs, in Boston"
April 17
Boston bombing

This comprehensive account of the care given to the Boston Marathon bombing victims suggested that physicians did or directed everything important.


Scrubbing In
Mark Cronin, David Osper, Joel Rodgers, Shannon Fitzgerald, executive producers
Lab Rats

Notorious reality show about young travel nurses in California featured little nursing, but did manage to reinforce unskilled and naughty nurse stereotypes.


Lab Rats, "Bionic Showdown"
Disney XD

Bryan Moore and Chris Peterson, writers and creators
August 5
Lab Rats

A brilliant inventor character mocked his evil brother for flunking out of medical school by calling him a nurse practitioner.

9. American Family Care Monday Mornings cast

A large company's television ads told viewers to visit its urgent care clinics because they would see "a doctor, not a nurse." Yet the firm's job listings sought nurse practitioners.


Monday Mornings
Created by David E. Kelley and Sanjay Gupta, based on Gupta's novel
Monday Mornings cast

Brilliant surgeons did everything, especially in dramatic morbidity & mortality conferences, while nurses were absent, anonymous, or annoying.



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