All the Emmy Awards buzz earlier this week got me thinking about nurses on TV. Whether drama or comedy, it’s definitely hard to capture just exactly what makes nurses so special. But when shows get it right, it can be very cool to watch.
Last year Travel Nursing Blogs covered the MTV reality show “Scrubbing In,” which followed Travel Nurses at work and at play. We even got the chance to speak with Nurse Tyrice, and whether you loved or hated the show, it was definitely something to see …
That said, we decided to exclude reality stars from our 10 Best TV Nurses list. Check it out, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments!
In no particular order, here are Travel Nursing Blogs’ 10 Best TV Nurses:
Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), “Scrubs”
Her eye-roll is so on point! It’s obviously perfected from years of suffering through her husband, Turk, and his best friend J.D.’s wacky antics. Reyes’ sister, a real-life licensed RN, is said to have inspired her performance, particularly Nurse Espinoza’s sass and devotion to her patients.
Nurse Epiphany Johnson (Sonya Eddy), “General Hospital”
Originally almost too stereotypically tough-as-nails, Head Nurse Johnson has softened over the years. She’s still not one to mince words, but she’s now portrayed with more humanity, and whoa boy can she sing — as evidenced by her Nurses Ball performances.
Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), “Heroes”
A hospice nurse turned hero, Nurse Peter Petrelli, is sensitive, compassionate, and able to take on the powers of others. Like so many nurses, he has superpowers and is truly a hero.
Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan (Loretta Swit), “M*A*S*H”
Literally born in an Army hospital, Nurse Houlihan is as brash and by-the-book as she is skilled at nursing — not to mention her knack for speaking out against sexism amid a sea of squirrely male colleagues. Over the show’s 11-year run, Swit was able to create a more multi-dimensional character. Actress Sally Kellerman played Houlihan in the film version.
Lieutenant Colleen McMurphy (Dana Delaney), “China Beach”
Growing up with five brothers primed Lt. Colleen McMurphy for the boys club that was serving in the Vietnam War, however her background as a Kennedy-era Camelot Catholic from Kansas also made the atrocities of war a rude awakening. Delaney won two Emmys for her portrayal of McMurphy, a composite based on several real-life Vietnam War nurses who displayed everything that noncombatant personnel face, and the unending grace and courage they must display.
Carol Hathaway (Juliana Margulies), “ER”
Nurse Manager Hathaway once told an arrogant surgeon, “… if you would step off your pedestal maybe you would realize it’s the nurses that make this place run and not you.” Bam! We’d also be remiss not to mention two other incredible “ER” nurses: Sam Taggart (Linda Cardellini) and Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney).
Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), “Nurse Jackie”
Nurse Jackie is a fan-favorite with, um, other habits besides great patient care … But, while Jackie’s personal life may be a mess of pills and infidelity, she’s devoted to providing great patient care in the ER. While the character has been criticized for her violation of nursing’s code of ethics, she also showcases how deftly nurses navigate chaos and juggle everything on their plates.
Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles), “St. Elsewhere”
Embodying the popular trope of the blunt, no-nonsense Head Nurse, Helen Rosenthal kept things afloat through various crises — from staffing shortages to a chronically whack computer system. She famously called doctors by their first names, was married four times, and, after a breast cancer diagnosis and dramatic accompanying storyline, Rosenthal had a mastectomy, which was TV first in its time.
Julia Baker (Diahann Carroll), “Julia”
Premiering in the late 1960s, Julia centered on a young, widowed, single mother and nurse. After losing her husband to the Vietnam War, Julia works to maintain her career and raise her son, Corey. While not without some critical derision, the show is credited as the first weekly series in which an African American lead female character was portrayed in a non-stereotypical role.
Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), “Parks and Recreation”
It’s hard to think of her without hearing Rob Lowe perkily and incessantly repeat her full name. Nurse Ann Perkins acts as an excellent comedic straight (wo)man to best friend Leslie Knope. From Galentine’s Day to “ovaries before brovaries” and beyond, the duo’s sweet, hilarious, best friendship is everything.
Honorable Mentions: Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith in “Hawthorne”), (Mercy), Kitty Forman (“That ‘70s Show)”, Dell Parker (“Private Practice”), Rory Williams (“Doctor Who”)
So, what do you think about our choices for the 10 Best TV Nurses? Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.