How Real is MTV's Nursing Show Scrubbing In?

NursingJanuary 12, 2014


MTV's reality nursing show Scrubbing In has caused an outrage among nursing organizations. A show about a group of traveling nurses helping out at a clinic in Orange County sounds more inspirational than controversial, but the nursing community is upset about the show's stereotypical characterization of nurses.

Clearly, this is not a new controversy. Nursing shows have upset professional organizations before. For example, Edie Falco's drug-addicted character on Showtime's Nurse Jackie is hardly a positive image. Reality shows, however, are different because they claim to depict real people and circumstances. Because of this factor, they are often criticized for enforcing stereotypes. Shahs of Sunset was blasted for showcasing Persian Americans in a bad light, and Jersey Shore upset Italian Americans for similar reasons. But most people know that reality shows pick the most controversial people in order to capture the attention of viewers, and they also are aware that these shows often have writers and scripts.

Scrubbing In, however, is different, because it claims to portray a profession, but fails to do so accurately. The problem is not so much that it shows a group of partying nurses, but that the show focuses on telling the story of these parties and the nurses' personal drama, arguments and love lives. Despite the show's name, the nurses are "scrubbed in" about 10 percent of the time, and the rest of the show is devoted to what happens after their shift is over. The use of a hospital setting seems like an excuse to capitalize on the success of hospital and nursing shows, as there is clearly no interest in showing the important work that nurses do. This is evident from the fact that the first episode focuses more on the background of the nurses' love lives than why they chose to become nurses.

The hyped-up drama in reality shows can be entertaining, otherwise these shows would not be so successful. But nurses have the opportunity to participate in the real drama of life, like comforting patients and their families when they get bad news, treating diseases and saving lives. What could be more exciting than this reality? The network has listened to the criticism and is taking the unusual step of editing the nursing show mid-season to include more time during which the nurses are scrubbed in. But prospective nurses are still better off avoiding this show, since the clinical scenes are typically unrealistic. Despite the fact that these nurses behave much younger than they are, MTV's young audience has failed to embrace Scrubbing In, as the ratings are so low that the show's air time was pushed to midnight.

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