Letter to the Editor by Tanya M. Wilson to Ethics: The Value of Nursing Ethics. What about Nurse Jackie? by Jeanne Merkle Sorrell, PhD, RN, FAAN (July 22, 2009)
with Reply by Author
I write in response to the Ethics Column (July, 2009) by Dr. Sorrell, which I found to be very interesting. I, too, had heard some of the controversy surrounding new shows with nurse characters such as Showtime's Nurse Jackie and TNT's HawthoRNe. This column prompted me to watch an episode of Nurse Jackie. Indeed, the unethical decisions and actions of the title character were quite shocking. However, as Dr. Sorrell has suggested, it is clear that Nurse Jackie does care about the people under her care. Despite all of the character's faults (and she has many), it is obvious that she cares about her patients' health.
Dr. Sorrell's column and the show Nurse Jackie are opening up dialogue regarding very important ethical issues. I agree with Dr. Sorrell that the general public is smart enough to separate fact from fiction, and can realize that some of the outrageous situations that occur on the show are exaggerated for entertainment value. As Dr. Sorrell pointed out, even though nursing may not be portrayed the way the majority of us nurses would like it to be, at least now the profession is gaining more visibility. This visibility is making people talk about nurses, the nursing profession as a whole, and what we do as nurses.
In these tough economic times, nurses are under pressure and need to make difficult decisions. As staffing and other resources dwindle, nurses in various specialties and at varying stages of their careers are forced to make tough calls. Although Nurse Jackie makes questionable decisions in caring for her patients, in her mind she is just following the principle of patient advocacy that nurses are indeed taught to practice.
One question that should be asked is this: Why would nurses (even fictional ones) feel the need to blatantly disregard accepted ethical principles in order to give their patients the care they feel is necessary for their well-being? My guess would be that these decisions are responses to a lack of support for the nursing profession by healthcare organizations. When unfavorable outcomes occur for our patients, nurses are often assumed to be at fault. When good outcomes occur for our patients, nurses are seldom acknowledged for the important role we play in these circumstances. A nurse's work is indispensable, and it's time that healthcare organizations wake up and realize this.
Tanya M. Wilson, BSN, RN
Florida Atlantic University MSN Student