Nurse movies aren't known for realistic, multifaceted portrayals of nursing. A Google search of the word "movie nurse" conjures a slew of films that portray nurses as sex objects, glorified handmaidens, homicidal, delusional and rarely as individuals that take care of the sick. However, there are a few notable exceptions with some nurse movies that portray nurses as professionals worthy of patients' trust. Here are four movies that best reflect the realities of nursing.
1. Patch Adams
In this film, the title character attends medical school and tries to bring happiness and joy to his patients, as well as treat their illnesses. During his visits to the ward, the nurses act as his guide to truly understanding and uplifting the patients. They also provide opportunities for Patch to continue his efforts. Ultimately, at the end of the movie, he makes a grand speech to the rest of his class, recommending that they "cultivate friendships with those amazing people in the back of the room. Nurses that can teach you, and have a wealth of knowledge to share with you." The nurses in Patch Adams are dedicated to their patients and are competent professionals that mentor medical students.
2. Girl, Interrupted - Valerie Owens, RN
The beautiful thing about Valerie, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is that she is absolutely unflappable. She has the self-confidence, experience and insight into her patients that no matter what they do, she isn't shaken up. She also pushes the main character, Susanna, to leave the institution because she knows that Susanna isn't crazy but simply confused about her life's path. And despite Susanna's angry, racist tirade, Valerie refuses to get angry or take it personally and continues to advocate for her well-being.
3. MASH - Major Margaret Houlihan
Even though Margaret was a bit of a hypocrite when it came to Army regulations and moral behavior, she is one of the best nurses in film. She ran her side of the unit with efficiency and had high expectations of the nurses in her charge. She proved to be an asset to the doctors in taking care of patients, and her leadership encouraged the other nurses to be exceptional, even if it couldn't keep them from spending their free time with the joking surgeons, Hawkeye and Trapper.
4. Wit - Susie Monahan
In a made-for-television film about a brilliant literary professor diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, Susie, a nurse, stands out as being the one person on the health care team who is truly concerned about the patient's quality of life. In one particularly poignant scene, Susie and Vivian (the professor and main character) are discussing options about code status. Susie provides the patient with honest options about their future and supports Vivian, no matter her decision. This film is shown in medical schools to demonstrate how doctors should not behave, and it could also be shown in nursing schools for the same reason. It also serves to inspire future nurses on how to be compassionate towards their patients.
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