April 26, 2009, 7:53 am

Nurse Jackie: Drug Addicted Nurse Character Hits the Airwaves…Again

header_nursejackieThat’s Edie Falco.

You remember.  She played Carmella Soprano.

Great actress; I love her.

Too bad I won’t be watching her new character on Showtime.


“Nurse Jackie” is a new series.

I received an email from Showtime asking me if I would curate a selection of nursing experiences for an upcoming “Nurse Stories” web site that would coincide with the debut of Nurse Week and “Nurse Jackie”.


I don’t get email from Showtime every day, so this sounded pretty interesting.

I went to the website to check out the show before responding.

I made it through one video.


Nurse Jackie is a competent, hard-as-nails, take-no-prisoners ER nurse.

With a heart, of course.

One minute she’s telling a doctor he’s full of it, the next minute she tells a patient to get out of her ER (classic!).

Edie Falco is perfect as the title character.

You’ve all worked with her.

Hell, you might even be her!


My first reaction?

Oh..my..god, they did it!

They made a show with a strong nurse protagonist, and damn! if they didn’t get the ER environment down!

I had goosebumps, literally.

I was ready to (a) start getting Showtime, (b) spread the word far and wide and (c) take the job.

But then…


They started grabbing her chest.

I think in a the short video I watched (five minutes?) Nurse Jackie had her breasts fondled by three men.

Oh great.

My first thought?

Here we go again with the nurse-as-sex-object stereotype.

(Actually, my first thought is that I must be working in the wrong hospitals.)

But it got worse.


Nurse Jackie is a drug addict.

Has back pain.

Snorts crushed up Percocets.

Oh no they didn’t………


Oh yes.

They did.

Now, would somebody please tell me why, why? they had to portray this nurse as a drug addict?

Did they not see that they had the potential for one hell of a nurse character here?

Did they not see that they could break the mold of media stereotypes in nursing and pave new ground?

Did they not see that there is enough material to build a nurse character out of what happens in the ER alone without adding the oh-so-subtle touch of drug addiction?


If you’re an nurse who spends a lot of time with other people fondling you, you might like this show.

If you’re an RN and addicted to drugs, you might like this show.

In fact, why don’t you go check out the website for yourself.

Watch the video, get a feel for the character.

Tell me what you think.

Tell Showtime what you think.

And if you are really pissed, write to The Truth About Nursing.

I already did.


As for me?

I (a) am not subscribing to Showtime, (b) will not promote the show to anyone outside this blog post and (c) did not take the job.

I am so sick, and so tired, of stupid media portrayals of nurses.

Didn’t watch “ER”.  No “Grey’s Anatomy”. Won’t watch “House”.

Here goes trying to explain to my patients, again, that “no, I don’t watch that show because of the portrayal of nursing.”


You blew it, Showtime.

Of course, it’s not too late to rectify the issues, the show has not debuted yet.

But know this:

No matter how funny, how dramatic or how well written “Nurse Jackie” is, you are doing nothing to advance or promote the nursing profession. But then I guess the goal is ratings and nothing defines a “hit” like sex and drugs.


“Nurse Jackie” is described as “Saint!  Sinner!”.



Sound familiar?




  • Nurse Jackie, I presume « DUNCAN CROSS
    Nurse Jackie, I presume « DUNCAN CROSS

    June 24, 2009 at 5:38 am

    […] is the wrong person to front for health care reform. I know from my nurse-blogs that the show is deeply offensive to actual nurses, and that’s a problem even if Edie Falco herself isn’t writing it. Imagine if Kiefer […]

  • Yaya

    June 27, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    People who don’t even watch this show are being critical??? I don’t believe all priests are child molestors why would I think all nurses are drug addicts? Anyone can use drugs. It’s just TV so don’t watch it if you don’t like it. Most adults know what fiction is.

  • Nurse Jackie
    Nurse Jackie

    June 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    OMG I watched the first 3 episodes of Nurse Jackie and I LOVE IT!! I love the portrayal of nursing and her hard ass approach (esp when she told the doc stay outta my way when I tell u to order a CT order a CT!!), the drug addiction and extra-marital affair are more a reflection of her character and less a reflection of nursing..IMO. So sick of the whole nursing is a noble and honorable and warm and fuzzy profession with “special” people thats exactly why we dont get proper recognition and renumeration for skills and knowledge. I dont think I have even seen a nurse check pupil reflexes on any other show…always the good ol, do-it-all doctor. I for one will be watching. You all have HawthoRNe to critique next…stay tuned.

  • Jane Dont
    Jane Dont

    June 30, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The show isn’t about nursing. It’s about a character. Are all suburban single mothers pot dealers? No, that show is about a character, not drug dealing or parenting.

    If we wanted to watch shows about nursing, I believe there’s Discovery Health for that. Or, you could make your *own* show that meets your nursing standards.

    No fictional TV show will accurately represent reality. If it’s a good show, it shows us characters we care about and their profession is secondary.

    And I don’t believe for a second that all nurses are perfect and don’t make mistakes and some may not even do a good job.

    We’re all flawed – that’s the beauty of complex characters. They do the best they can but they’re not one-dimensional simps like most characters on network TV.

    If you can get past the high horseyness you might actually see something worthwhile in the story about this woman.

  • R. Peterson
    R. Peterson

    July 2, 2009 at 8:32 am

    The show, after watching it, is very well done. The portrayal of a sex object was assumed that this is what she was going to be, but in all reality we see a love triangle, and if anyone has worked as long as I have in the healthcare field, this is definitely going on. In fact 2 doctors have recently moved away to other practices out of state because of their involvement with nurses in the area, and they were married. As far as the drug abuse goes, on first glimpse we could say she is an addict, yet she isn’t faltering at her job, she isn’t even showing signs of an addict, she is medicating herself. How often does this happen in the healthcare field? I see it a lot, as a stint as a visiting nurse, I was horrified at the things I saw. So is everyone mad because Showtime took a character that actually lives in the real world and has portrayed her on screen? Or is it because of the potential bad name that it can give nurses? If anything it may bring people to understand and be compassionate towards nurse Jackie even with all her faults, and realize that everyone has their faults, but through the BS ultimately trying to be a good person and doing good things is what counts. Come on guys, it’s Showtime, it’s gonna be in-your-face, it will proabbaly involve drugs, and it will offend a lot of people.

  • Amy D
    Amy D

    July 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

    R.Peterson, I agree, I have said the same, but, there seems to be a lot of nurses that are blind to what goes on in their hospitals.
    Excluding the alcoholics, the other addicts are harder to pick out. It is learned survival behavior. In any case, I think that redemption is possible and it has been foreshadowed in the first episode. “Let me be good, but not yet.”

  • pamela marie
    pamela marie

    July 5, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    i guess you can work at a supermarket as an addict; but please ..
    you cannot be making multi-level,critical, high-functioning decisions for 8 hours “medicating yourself”.
    trust me.. the nurses and docs who live that life last a few weeks at best.
    i can’t make any more comments on the show since i haven’t watched anymore episodes.
    someone at work told me the redcapsules must be some speed.

  • Nurse Jackie
    Nurse Jackie

    July 6, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Wow~ I am sort of shocked at the moral indignation that so many of you in the medical field seem to have about this show. Those of you who believe that high-functioning drug addicts aren’t EVERYWHERE are exceptionally naive. They exist in every professional setting one can imagine. And those of you who believe that this show has the power to cause exemplary nurses to suddenly spiral into drug abuse are even dumber!

    It truly gets under my skin that many of you are talking about bombarding Showtime with letters and threats to get them to cancel the series. You don’t have to watch it! What gives you the right to censor a television program because you don’t like how your profession is depicted? Practically every television show on the planet depicts questionable moral behavior on some level, and sorry, but yours is not the only profession that involves saving lives and helping people. I don’t want to think that the man who’s piloting my plane is screwing a stewardess in the cockpit. I don’t want to believe that my priest is having inappropriate relationships with children. I’d rather not think that people serving on my local police force are corrupt dirtbags. However, we see all these images and then some on television every night.

    Some of you Florence Nightingales sincerely need to put your messiah complexes in check. Most of us in the work force are downtrodden, underpaid, misunderstood, underappreciated, stressed out, etc. There’s really no need to take all your years of pent-up aggression out on a silly TV show.

  • Caro P.
    Caro P.

    July 6, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    1. It is a tv show.
    2. It is not meant to portray reality.
    3. I watch ER, House, Grey’s Anatomy, Jackie. I love these shows and their stories. Stories. When I go to the hospital I am never looking to be seen by a George Clooney, dark but sweet, nor am I looking (or wanting) to be seen by a hositle, people hating great doctor, I’m not looking to be taken care of by a bunch of self-centered drs who are too interested in having sex to worry about me. And lastly, I don’t look at the nurses and wonder, who is doing drugs? Who is screwing the pharmacist?

    Do you know why?? Because I realize that these shows are merely shows for entertainment. I have all the respect in the world for nurses. My mom is one and she is wonderful. I do enjoy entertainment. I am a paralegal. If they make up a show about paralegals who are stupid, get treated like crap by lawyers, who hide billing papers in their desk and not doing billing for years, I will laugh my behind off! (although a big part of that all is true). I will not be offended because I’m better than that portrayal.
    Don’t worry about people feeling bad things about you nurses. You are the best and you know it and that is what really matters.

  • Caro P.
    Caro P.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    I forgot one more thing. Someone wrote that children don’t need to see this program and how nurses are portrayed. Uh, hello…it is on cable and after 9:00pm. Are you letting your children watch these kinds of programs? You should be monitoring their tv time better…

  • pamela marie
    pamela marie

    July 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    “high functioning drug addicts EVERYWHERE”
    uh, in your media saturated little mind,honey.
    of course there are drug addicts functioning in jobs;however,
    the oxycontin,fentanyl patch,methadone type can’t survive very long
    in a professional setting. outside of the music scene or hollywood.
    and i wouldn’t call my critique “moral indignation”;
    i would call it a reality check for those of you out in the world who may think she even could come close to a real person.

  • Melanie Greene
    Melanie Greene

    July 6, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Why can you all get over yourselves!!! Anyone that has common sense can see that this show is a pure work of FICTION!!!! I do believe that some of you nurses do suffer from some moral indignation. There are not going to be any children watching this show thinking I never want to be a nurse because children should not be up at that hour watching cable anyway. If nurses want a realistic protrayal of themselves on television why don’t they try out for a show on the Discovery channel where they can properly document nurses on the job. Until then if you do not like the show DO NOT WATCH IT! But don’t try to censor the show by getting it pulled off the air away from people that actually watch it for it’s entertainment value and not for it’s protrayal of nurses. Get over yourselves.

  • Nurse Jackie
    Nurse Jackie

    July 7, 2009 at 12:22 am

    @Pamela Marie,

    I work with chemically dependent patients every day, so it’s fallacious thinking to presume that my commentary on high-functioning drug addicts comes from the television.

    Even if drug addicts in professional settings was a purely fictitious concept (which it’s definitely not), the show does not purport to be a documentary.

    I think you and your like-minded compadres are the ones with “little minds, honey”. Case in point~many of you decided to engage in this ridiculous boycott after merely watching the TRAILER. Some of you state that you don’t even have televisions, and yet you’re trying to weigh in on the merits of a show you’ve never seen? I’ll bet Showtime is really going to feel the pain when those of you who don’t even have TVs band together to boycott their programming. WTF?

  • Mark

    July 7, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I noticed New York Times blog “Why Nurse Stereotypes Are Bad for Health” at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/nurses-helpers-angels-or-something-more/

    Via “Nurses as helpers, white cap wearers……….I think not!” at http://reconnect.typepad.com/reconnect/2009/07/nurses-as-helpers-white-cap-wearersi-think-not-.html

  • Paula Davies Scimeca, RN, MS
    Paula Davies Scimeca, RN, MS

    July 7, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    It has already been noted that anyone, even youngsters, can view episodes over the internet. In working exclusively with chemically dependent nurses since 2003, which comes on the heels of a quarter century of other nursing roles, my concern is not image – it is lives and careers. I have polled several young adults and college kids who felt the show depicted the drug-use as “acceptable”, “to be expected” and “harmless.” This is the catchment from which we are drawing new nurses. We already have thousands of nurses each year who are surrendering licenses to practice as a direct result of prescription painkiller use. I am glad most of you are clueless to the devastation and have not been impacted,yet. But if you want to be informed, all of Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis’ books were spawned after the death of her son, a nurse, at age 31. Check out excerpts from “Unbecoming A Nurse” before you decree the concerns of some are just about image rather than lives.Paula Davies Scimeca, RN, MS

  • Nurse Jackie
    Nurse Jackie

    July 7, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Since this show has only been on several times, it’s a prejudgment to state that it depicts drug use as harmless. Who knows what path the writers will take in terms of how Jackie’s drug abuse will affect her?

    If the pool of young people and could-be nurses that you’re polling actually sees drug use as “acceptable” and “harmless”, these must be some pretty stupid kids you’re interviewing. I learned in kindergarten that drugs were bad, but for a complex myriad of reasons, addiction continues to plague our society.

    I realize that nurses may be particularly vulnerable from the standpoint of access to medications, but I grew up in project housing that was literally crawling with drug dealers. At the end of the day, I still had the ultimate choice in the matter.

    If your concern is genuine, then rally for the cause of dependency issues becoming a more prominent feature of the curriculum in nursing schools, hospitals, universities, etc. A noble cause indeed. However, bombarding Showtime with letters about Nurse Jackie is essentially a waste of energy. People aren’t taking these criticisms seriously because you’re giving a television show WAY too much power.

    I certainly would hope that anyone involved in my care and well-being has the good sense to at least separate fact from fiction. Many of you are complaining that nurses are disrespected and undermined, and yet you’re not giving those in the nursing field credit for having any ability to discern right from wrong or make ethical decisions that aren’t swayed by what they see on televison.

  • […] Reality Rounds has to say… She makes some great points and so do those who comment. Check out Emergiblog as […]

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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