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Nurses Incensed At "Bimbo" Image

Nurses Incensed At "Bimbo" Image

Real-life nurses are incensed at the portrayal of their screen counterparts in the Emmy-nominated TV drama Grey's Anatomy, says the New Zealand representative for an international nursing advocacy group.

Anita Bamford, an AUT University senior lecturer and member of the US-based Center for Nursing Advocacy, says the "bimbo" image of nurses in the popular TV show is damaging to the profession.

"Nurses in this series are nothing more than a pathetic foil to the godlike doctor heroes. They are typically presented as marginally-skilled physician subordinates, usually faceless and mute like wallpaper."

Grey's Anatomy, TV2's top-rating drama series about a group of interns and doctors at the fictitious Seattle Grace Hospital, has been nominated for 11 awards, including best drama series, at the 58th Annual Emmy Awards this week (screening on Sky/Prime August 28th).

The advocacy group has launched a campaign against the producers of the TV series, calling for nurses to be rewritten as skilled autonomous professionals who play a central role in patient care.

"The show presents an inaccurate and damaging portrayal of nursing. You frequently see surgical interns performing key tasks normally done by nurses like patient monitoring and psycho-social support," says Ms Bamford.

"Mostly, the nursing characters are restricted to menial clean-up tasks."

She says research shows that entertainment television like Grey's Anatomy has a real effect on the public's health care views and actions.

The US-based Center for Nursing Advocacy is a non-profit organisation that monitors the depiction of nursing in the news and entertainment media. It has been monitoring the primetime series since it first aired on television in 2005, and Ms Bamford says the researchers have observed some shocking slurs on the nursing profession.

"In earlier episodes they portrayed nurses as fawning or vindictive losers," says Ms Bamford.

"Most offensive is when the physicians show outright contempt for nurses. A young intern called a nurse a 'shanky-syph nurse' in a recent episode."

Ms Bamford says they also monitor primetime medical dramas like House and ER, which frequently mislead the public about the real-life role of nurses. However, she praises TVNZ's Shortland Street for presenting a more realistic view of the nursing profession.

Ms Bamford has a professional doctorate in nursing and is senior lecturer in the Division of Health Care Practice. She was previously director of nursing and midwifery at Capital and Coast District Health Board.

During her time at CCDHB, Ms Bamford challenged a plan by brewery giant Lion Red to dress young women as 'Lion Red Nurses' for the rugby sevens at Westpac Stadium in 2003. Following complaints from Bamford about "transforming nurses into dolly-birds in a bid to sell more beer", Lion Red axed the promotion.


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