"Private Practice": The TV Show Where Nurses Are Receptionists

NursingMay 26, 2014

Why would a nurse work as a receptionist? That is one of many puzzling questions you may have if you watch "Private Practice", which aired on ABC from 2007 to 2013. The show included one of the worst portrayals of nursing on TV: Dell Parker. Despite having a nursing degree, Dell works as a receptionist at the clinic that is the center of the show. This is not because he lost interest in nursing after graduation — in fact, he is studying to become a midwife.

Inaccuracies Abound

There has been a very high demand for nurses over the course of the past several years. The likelihood that a recent nursing graduate in a metropolitan area like LA wouldn't be able to find a job in the field is quite low — unless the nurse is as clumsy and clueless as Dell.

The Lone Nurse

You may remember feeling out of place at your first real job; to some degree, it is understandable that Dell has much to learn. In fact, the portrayal of Dell wouldn't be so offensive if there were other, more competent nurses in the clinic. Unfortunately, Dell is one of the few "nurse" characters that has a speaking part on this show.

Village Idiot

Once in a while, Dell gets to practice nursing (usually at the mercy of Dr. Addison Montgomery — the main character on "Private Practice") on the clinic's patients. This comes off as forced and perverse, since nursing isn't an extra task you squeeze in between paper work and answering the phone.

After you see his lack of basic clinical skills, it's clear he does the nursing profession a favor by staying behind a desk. In an episode where he performs his first pap smear, he drops the speculum on the floor, intending to use it (despite his mistake) until the patient protests. It's difficult to believe that a nurse, who typically has completed both clinical on-the-job training and extensive coursework to receive a diploma, would not know or care that the device is no longer sterile.

Good Riddance

Dell does develop some skills later in the show, but only shortly before he is killed off in the third season. He is replaced by the nurse character Stephanie Kemp. Stephanie is slightly more competent than Dell, but she plays a smaller and less interesting role in the show. Unfortunately, "Private Practice" viewers are far more likely to remember Dell, even years after his demise.

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Tags: LPN, nursing