Scrubbing out the noise around ‘Scrubbing In’.

In Editorial by Edmund Kwok3 Comments

Guest post by Vicki Meyouhas.

They don’t put boring people on reality TV” responded by husband when I said that MTV should have cast me, or one of my many intelligent, responsible and ethical nurses to star in their new reality TV show ‘Scrubbing In’.


He didn’t mean to offend me, of course, but there was a lot of truth to it. I doubt the buzz, the ratings and sought-after viewers would have responded quite the same to a boring (maybe stable and normal is a more fitting term) nurse on her time off. Just imagine the scene, a nurse finishing her shift, commuting home (perhaps on her bicycle for the added excitement?) getting dinner ready, maybe doing a load of laundry, maybe ironing some scrubs, having dinner with her husband, reviewing the mundane details of their respective days, finishing it all off with an episode of How I Met Your Mother. No, this would not get MTV ratings, and that is exactly why they cast who they did.

Nurses seldom make waves on TV. With the notable exception of Nurse Jackie, which has served to change the landscape of TV nurses, nurses were mostly portrayed as handmaidens, bimbos or background noise to exciting TV medical drama. Sure, there are nurses on TV, but few in recent memory have done much to advance the nursing profession (I’m looking at you Grey’s Anatomy’s ‘Siph Nurse’ circa 2004). That is why many were initially excited by the potential, and then crushed to find out what Scrubbing In was actually all about.

In true, formulaic MTV fashion, the show has cast a bunch of attractive, loud and scantily-clad individuals who happen to be nurses to star in the reality TV show about nursing… but really, the show is about what they do outside of hospital. Almost immediately after the release of the trailer, American and Canadian nurses’ associations and unions responded by demanding the show be taken off the air, claiming it would cause irreparable damage to the nursing profession. The Ontario’s Nurses Association (ONA) even circulated an online petition to tackle this issue.

As a proud nurse, I am conflicted; on one hand I was secretly glad that MTV chose to feature nurses and was irrationally optimistic that they might come up with something half decent (I say optimistic because I’m well aware of the crap that MTV produces). On the other hand I shared the concerns of the nursing associations that the show would put the profession to shame.

The show itself is what one would expect from MTV: cringe worthy scenes of drunken debauchery, porn-esque shower scenes, infidelity, and very little actual hospital work. Did MTV purposely select nurses who had their fair share of drama? (i.e. inability to get a California nursing license due to a remote DUI, cheating girlfriends, fragile egos, short fuses), of course! The one nurse they cast that comes off as normal (i.e. average sized, breast implant free, not loud or obnoxious), barely gets any air time… because, as my husband says ‘they don’t put boring people on reality TV’.

As for the unions’ and the nursing associations’ fears that this would miss-represent the profession and deter young people from selecting this as a career? I think their concern is as legitimate to the outcry of Italian-American associations during the peak of Jersey Shore’s popularity. But the truth is, MTV’s Scrubing In represents nurses about as accurately as Jersey Shore represents Italian people. I also think that people, or at least people who’s input matter, know this.

Anyone who has spent any time with nurses, whether socially, professionally, or as a patient, will know what nursing and nurses are like. Young people who consider nursing as a career will continue to do so regardless of the fact that MTV chose to feature a bunch of loud debaucherous young nurses as their shining example and ambassadors of the nursing profession. With Scrubbing In , MTV does what it does best (or at least, competently), it entertains young people and causes old people to raise an eyebrow in dismay.

Author Bio: Vicki lives and works in Ottawa. She splits her time between being an ET nurse (providing care, education and support to patients with complex wounds and/or ostomies) and being a part time professor with the University of Ottawa’s school of nursing.

Edmund Kwok

Edmund Kwok

Emergency Medicine. Quality Improvement. Patient Safety. Change Management. Healthcare Administration.

Frontdoor 2 Healthcare

Frontdoor2Healthcare, founded by Dr. Edmund Kwok in 2012, provides editorial and commentary on issues affecting Canadian healthcare from the emergency department’s “front door” perspective. Frontdoor posts allow for open sharing of the diverse opinions and perspectives of emergency physicians from across the country.

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