In the Media: Nursing Organizations Protest Nurse Reality Show

Nov 12, 2013, 1:00 PM

This is part of the November 2013 issue of Sharing Nursing's Knowledge.

Skinny-dipping. Random sexual hook-ups. Crying in the workplace.

These are not the kinds of images commonly associated with the nursing profession. But they are everyday scenes in “Scrubbing In,” a new reality show on MTV about a group of young travel nurses in California.

The show has incensed nursing groups, which have long called for more positive portrayals of nurses on television. The program, “Scrubbing In,” goes far in the other direction, they say, arguing that it trivializes the works nurses do and reinforces negative stereotypes about them.

MTV says it “has the utmost respect for the life-saving work that nurses do every day” and that the show “is not meant to be representative of all nurses or their experiences.”

But nursing organizations, including the American Nurses Association, National Nurses United, the Emergency Nurses Association, and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, say that is not enough. Some want the show cancelled, while others are calling for a boycott.

“Our message to the millions of nurses and nursing students in the U.S. and the millions more people who they influence is: Do  not patronize media channels, companies, and sponsors who persist in disrespecting the most respected profession,” Karen Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association, wrote in a letter to MTV President Stephen Friedman.

Negative portrayals of nurses, she said, undermine efforts to recruit new nurses and may exacerbate a shortage of nurses. More importantly, they erode the trust patients place in nurses. “This show is neither ‘reality’ nor entertainment,” Daley wrote. “It’s harmful and irresponsible.”

Have you watched “Scrubbing In” on MTV? If so, what did you think? Do reality show portrayals of nurses have any impact? Register and leave a comment.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.