Note to angry people: TV for fantasy, not education

I just came across the Center for Nursing Advocacy, which in part monitors the portrayal of nurses on TV shows and, I note, has a particular problem with Fox's "House." First, I must confess that I love "House," or at least I used to. Recently, it has become really trashy with transparent attempts to lure viewers with gross-out cadaver scenes and depictions of bisexual woman-on-woman sex. Give me a break. The show was really excellent in its first season and quite good in the second and third, though, and it can still be enjoyed occasionally for the interactions between House, Wilson, and Cuddy.

I have noted myself the poor portrayal of nurses on "House." Nurses usually just clean up the messes and answer the call bells. The doctors give injections and meds, perform entire codes on their own, and interact with the family and patients. It's not just the nurses who get short-shrift, though. Lab and diagnostic techs are never portrayed and neither are transporters, engineers, housekeepers, volunteers, social workers, etc. I understand the criticisms of this show, but I think the Center for Nursing Advocacy needs to get a grip. Television shows are for fantasy and entertainment, not education. Lots of people fantasize about being powerful doctors. Nobody fantasizes about being nurses or lab techs. People who do just become them. Anyhow, consider just the logistics:
  • The show needs get the actual characters on-screen. "House" is not about a hospital, it's about House and the other doctors. If the MDs were absent whenever the show was in the lab, they wouldn't be on the show. And if the MDs were always portrayed in the dictating rooms or the staff conferences room, it would be a pretty boring show! Having the MDs do all the work is just a dramatic device, not a slight to nursing and allied health care.
  • The show can't afford to pay all those people. Can you imagine if the cast of "House" included all the staff of a hospital--you couldn't afford to make it!
  • The show is a comedy. This gets overlooked a lot because it is a dark comedy, but all the business about having nurses clean up is supposed to be funny, not realistic.
  • The show is based on Sherlock Holmes. In the Holmes books, he and Watson and a few other supporting characters perform all the law-enforcement functions. "House" follows the same model.
I watch "House" with my dad, and I get embarassed whenever they have interactions with nurses on the show, but really it's not all about me. If my dad ever goes in the hospital, he'll see what nurses actually do. Another point of interest is that my mother had cancer and surgery, and she talks about the doctors still but never the nurses. I think the nursing professional just has to accept the fact that, by its very nature, it's going to fade into the background of people's minds. When people are sick, what's salient is what's wrong with them and what has to be done for them to get better--doctors' work.

I'd also like to point out to the Center that nurses do "do secret naughty things with big powerful male physicians." In fact, that seems to be a pretty big part of nursing as far as I can tell. Don't like it? Try passing some judgement on these people when the rumors go around instead of complaining when the public points out what everyone knows.

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