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Hawthorne: Strong Drama, Plus a Spotlight on the Nurse–Doctor Relationship

June 19, 2009


As this blog noted earlier in the week, Nurse Hawthorne is no Nurse Jackie. Take away Jackie’s drug addiction, stealing, and forgery, and you’re left with Hawthorne, a nurse I would definitely want taking care of me. Jada Pinkett Smith, playing Christina Hawthorne in TNT’s premiere new summer drama, HawthoRNe, brilliantly portrays everyday nurses as they are: caring, affectionate, courageous, and smart. She’s one version of that “great lead nurse character” that Diana Mason, AJN editor-in-chief emeritus, has suggested we need. (Click the video above for a preview of episode two.)

Hawthorne is not only a nurse; she’s the chief nursing officer (CNO). I must admit, I didn’t exactly know what the responsibilities of a CNO were, not being a nurse myself, until I asked one of our nurses on staff, Christine Moffa. With that said, you may wonder what attracted me to the show in the first place.

One word: drama. I sensed that Hawthorne would be just as dramatic as other drama-filled TNT shows I watch, such as The Closer and Raising the Bar, despite some early critiques saying that Smith’s characterization was boring and the storyline predictable.

I appreciate Smith’s new role as Hawthorne. If she isn’t protecting her nurses from physicians (who are too busy to give the patients the attention they deserve, and too quick to point the finger at the nurses when something goes wrong) or mentoring a nursing student (whose first day consists of a patient throwing up blood on her uniform and a doctor yelling at her with an accent that’s so heavy it’s impossible to understand), she’s making sure her nurses provide the best possible care and that they consistently look out for their patients’ best interests.

The love–hate relationship between the doctors and nurses is a big problem confronting characters in the show. Christina Hawthorne makes it her responsibility to be the leading advocate for her nursing staff. She makes it clear that she will hold her nurses accountable for their mistakes so long as doctors are also held accountable for theirs.

Sometimes, it turns out, this isn’t so simple. In the first week’s episode, a diabetic patient ends up “coding” after a nurse goes against his instincts (yes, the show has a male nurse character, another plus) and follows a physician’s order to give the patient a dose of insulin that’s too high. In the aftermath, both the nurse and the doctor blame each other—all the while the patient’s irate father is threatening to sue the hospital.

In the end, the lesson learned is to stop placing blame on one another and work together as a team to prevent such incidents in the first place. We all know how easy that can be. How frequent are these conflicts? Are all nurse and doctor relationships this difficult? What are some ways your staff deals with these issues?

—Amanda Geer, AJN administrative coordinator

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2 comments

  1. I have not yet seen HawthoRNe, but if it’s anywhere near as smart and well-written as Nurse Jackie, I’m in for the long haul. I am not asking for realism from entertainment media, I am asking that they not insult nurses. It seems the writers have gotten the message.

    Why I oppose the ANA positions against the 2 new nurse shows: http://open.salon.com/blog/nurse_phd/2009/06/08/nurse_jackie_rules

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  2. Well, yes, its nice to have a nurse on TV like that. Unfortunately, this show is about as realistic as the other medical shows–zilch. Unless Hawthorne is the CNO is a tiny community hospital, the bulk of her day is spent at meetings and doing managerial stuff–and not defending “her” nurses from physicians. In all the years I worked in nursing, I’ve yet to see the CNO stroll through the hallways and tackle problems. Most nurses haven’t a clue as to who the CNO even is.

    If they wanted to make Hawthorne a leader in a realistic sense, they could have just made her the head nurse of a unit.

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