Three Reasons Scrubs' Carla Espinosa Would Be a Great Real Nurse

NursingFebruary 20, 2014

TV shows nowadays don't offer many role models for aspiring nurses, mostly because hospital shows tend to focus on physicians. To this end, one of the most sympathetic nurse characters on TV appeared not in a reality show or drama series, but in the sometimes racy comedy series "Scrubs".

"Scrubs", with its slapstick humor and sex jokes, offended nursing organizations more than once. But despite many questionable plot lines, the show occasionally paid tribute to the contributions of nursing by highlighting nurse Carla Espinosa, one of the most respected and memorable characters on the show.

These are three reasons why Carla would be a great real-life nurse:

Commitment to Patients

Devotion to meeting a patient's emotional wishes, in addition to medical needs, is what separates a great nurse from an average one. In "Scrubs", Carla consistently demonstrates this. For example, in the first season (episode 16), she tries to fulfill a coma patient's wish by playing rock music in his hospital room, despite resistance from the hospital's chief of medicine, Bob Kelso. In season 3 (episode 2), she searches the hospital for the owner of an unidentified urine sample. While the plot may not be clinically realistic, her dedication is admirable.

Taking Initiative

Nurses are ethically obligated to evaluate treatment plans from physicians to ensure that they are in the best interest of the patient. Because of this responsibility, nurses play a key role in catching errors, especially those made by new doctors. Sometimes, a nurse will also need to take the lead. For example, in the episode "His Story III", Carla notices that one of the interns instructed a patient to get 100 units of insulin instead of 10 because of unclear notes in the patient's chart. Just as Carla realizes this, the patient goes into seizure. Carla takes control of the situation and saves the patient, while the intern silently helps her. In fact, Carla also serves as a mentor to the new interns in the show's first episodes, as evident by the nickname she gives the main character, J.D., who she affectionately calls Bambi.

Attention to Detail

In season 5 (episode 15), Carla demonstrates an extraordinary memory in regard to her patients, which the character Janitor labels "crazy nurse memory". Her attention to detail also helps her track down a patient who has disappeared. While this episode is one of the few emphasizing the importance of nurses (as opposed to focusing on Carla's relationship with her husband, surgeon Turk), it does so very openly, even going so far as to compare nurses with physicians through J.D.'s voiceover: "Carla knew that without charts, doctors didn't know much about their patients."

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons