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5 Shows like Nurse Jackie: Medical Specialists Behaving Badly

Roxanne_Sancto_itcher_contributorHave you lost all hope in doctors? Shows like ‘Nurse Jackie’ can do one of two things: either they’ll help restore your faith in medical professionals, or they’ll confirm your suspicions of incompetence and cold-heartedness. ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘Getting On’ will achieve similar results. ~ Roxanne Sancto

You know what this job is, honey? This job is wading through a shitstorm of people who come into this place on the worst day of their lives.

Well, if you put it that way, I guess it’s not all too difficult to understand why ER nurses aren’t always happy people. And Nurse Jackie (Edie Falco) is all about putting it that way – i.e. she tells it like it is. She may not necessarily make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but she’ll do everything to make you feel better. Remember, doctors are there to diagnose; the nurses heal.

Jackie is dedicated, empathetic and happy to generously bend the rules in order to help others. But the long hours and intense stress levels would be unbearable for her were it not for her little helpers: Vicodin and Percocet. She’s quite the expert on the topic too:

“Percocet should never be crushed, broken or chewed unless you want it to hit your system like a bolt of lightning. Which is only a problem if you’re afraid of lightning; which I am not.”

TV series like ‘Nurse Jackie’ help you understand why some doctors and nurses prefer quiet over chatty and why they always seem to look worn and haggard, but still have your best interest at heart. Shows like ‘Nip/Tuck’ on the other hand will make you doubt the motives of some doctors.


Shows Similar to ‘Nurse Jackie’…

‘Nip/Tuck’ (FX, 2003)

A clinic founded and run by two excellent plastic surgeons who have been lifelong friends has an attractive ring to it, right? It sounds like the kind of place where patients are treated like family, a place where the doctors come to work with an actual smile on their faces… but nothing could be further from the truth in the McNamara/Troy surgery centre.

While Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) flits from one midlife crisis to another, his best frenemy/partner Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) lives a life of debauchery. He has slept with more women than he has operated on and he is definitely no stranger to booze and cocaine. He’s mostly a narcissistic, womanizing prick, but he does show moments of real vulnerability and emotion.

‘Nip/Tuck’ can be really difficult to watch at times. Up until the last few seasons, some of the storylines were extremely intense and realistic in a deeply depressing and demoralizing manner. From season five onwards, things start getting a bit too “Hollywood”.

Similarity Match: 80%
Christian and Jackie both have a predilection for illegal substances, but Jackie doesn’t let her secret hobbies get in the way of showing some heart in her job as a nurse.

‘Getting On’ (BBC Four, 2009)

Kim (Jo Brand), Dr. Pippa Moore (Vicki Pepperdine), Hilary (Ricky Grover) and Den (Joanna Scanlan) work in the geriatric ward of a UK hospital and are expected to stick to some of the impossible rules and regulations set by the NHS.

Kim has returned to work as a nurse after a child-rearing hiatus and is having a difficult time adapting to modern NHS regulations. She has a calm, often disinterested demeanour but is very compassionate with her patients, often overlooking rules. This doesn’t sit well with her colleagues.

Series similar to ‘Nurse Jackie’ and  ‘Getting On’ highlight the morbid atmosphere, the staff’s exhaustion and their hardened expressions with dark, greyish lighting and a satirical approach. As far as American remakes go, HBO’s ‘Getting On’ is actually pretty damn good.

Similarity Match: 70%
Both Nurse Jackie and Kim navigate through their professional lives with a “get on with it” kind of attitude. But unlike Jackie, Kim doesn’t need drugs to get through her shifts.

‘Private Practice’ (ABC, 2007)

If all doctor’s offices were like the Oceanside Wellness Center, I’m sure none of us would dread our yearly check-ups as much as we do. The environment is welcoming thanks to the décor and friendly expert staff, all of whom operate in different fields: psychiatry, alternative medicine, gynaecology, paediatrics, etc.

But just because the doctors look like they have it all together, it doesn’t mean they actually do. Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman) for example, is a borderline stalker; and this is a shrink we’re talking about! And the cute, hippy quack Pete (Tim Daly) is a serial monogamist with some serious pent-up anger towards his dead wife. And don’t even get me started on Cooper (Paul Adelstein)…

The doctors of Oceanside Wellness Center were first introduced in the double episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ titled ‘The Other Side of Life’, which simultaneously acted as the pilot for ‘Private Practice’.

Similarity Match: 65%
‘Private Practice’ feels brighter and breezier than ‘Nurse Jackie’ and the characters aren’t quite as outspoken and brave. But they too struggle with the effects their professional lives have on their personal lives.


If You Like ‘Nurse Jackie’, You Will Like…

Series like ‘Nurse Jackie’ help humanize doctors. I know it’s easy to get upset with doctors or nurses who seem rushed, over-tired or downright uninterested, but we don’t always consider why they may act this way.

‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘Getting On’ offer a lot of insight into the behind-the-scenes of the medical system and its professionals. But not all is hopeless and gloomy; there’s always the ‘Green Wing’ of East Hampton Hospital or better yet: the Sacred Heart teaching hospital!

‘Green Wing’ (Channel 4, 2004)

You know how you feel when you get in the car with your little brother and all you can think is, how the hell did this kid ever get his driver’s licence? Well, let me tell you: If you knew the ‘Green Wing’ doctors personally, you’d probably feel similar: How are these people doctors?

Yes, Dr. Alan Statham (Mark Heap), house officer, Martin Dear (Karl Theobald) and anaesthesiologist Guy Secretan (Stephen Morgan) may be an eccentric bunch, but we’re kind of, sort of, almost sure you’ll be in good hands with them…

‘Green Wing’ is an incomparable, offbeat comedy, whereas Nurse Jackie is more satirical in its comic aspects. Both touch on the many doubts doctors face in their working lives.

‘Scrubs’ (ABC, 2001)

Dr. John Michael “J.D” Dorian (Zach Braff) may not always be focused, but he proves himself to be quite the doctor by the time he leaves the Sacred Heart teaching hospital. He often spends more time on daydreaming and dear-diary moments – which are both portrayed and narrated – but he means well.

His wife Elliot (Sarah Chalke) is extremely competitive and strives to be the best doctor there can be but unfortunately, her social skills often fall to the wayside…

‘Scrubs’ doesn’t focus on dramatic moments all that much but rather illustrates some of the hardships of being a medical student. Like ‘Nurse Jackie’, some characters lack certain social skills.


Sometimes Doctors Need Doctors Too

We tend to think of doctors as superhuman when in reality, they carry the same kind of emotional baggage and have the same kind of doubts we do. The only difference is: for doctors to bring their personal upsets into their professional lives could have serious consequences on the well-beings of others.

Shows like ‘Nurse Jackie’ perfectly illustrate the reality of what it means to be working in the medical field.

Which one of these nurses or doctors would you feel most comfortable with?

My name is Roxanne Sancto and I’ll be writing all things music, book and movie related for itcher mag. I also write for New Heroes & Pioneers’ upcoming Festival and Culture magazines, to be launched in the spring of 2014. I am the co-author of The Pink Boots and am currently working on two new novels. I love music, literature, cinema, crafting, yoga and animals.
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