By Peggy McDaniel, BSN, RN

The new NBC television series Mercy is starting to grow on me. Like some other recent shows (Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne), this drama features nurses as the lead characters. As I explained here a while back, my response to the first episode was very negative. Disparaging comments made about nurses by other staff and by patients’ family members struck me as unnecessary and irritating. Lines like “what do you know, you’re only a nurse?” were hard for a real nurse to take. My first impression was that the characters could have been women in almost any career. The words and actions of Veronica, one of the lead characters, seemed harsh and inappropriate. The overall image of nursing was negative.

So now for my confession: I have continued to watch Mercy. And I’ve become less of a critic and more of a fan. We still get more dramatic effects than convincing reality. For example, in a recent episode, Veronica runs in and bangs a patient’s chest with her fist, an action which ultimately restarts the patient’s heart. I still miss the comparatively realistic practices depicted in ER; Mercy doesn’t attempt to get such details right. 

But recent story lines have shown our nurse heroines to be strong patient advocates. This is a true (believable, and inspiring) nursing role. Even if the story line takes liberties with what a real nurse would do—such as when a character visits a patient’s son at his home to encourage him to visit his dying mother—the point about patient advocacy is made and appreciated. Advocating for our patients and promoting their health and welfare is a nursing priority.

Have you continued to watch Mercy? Have your views of Veronica, Sonia, and Chloe altered as you’ve gotten to know them? What other nursing roles and tasks would you like to see portrayed? I am hoping for story lines that show off other important nursing roles, such as educator, role model, coordinator, among many others. Let’s hear your ideas. Maybe the network will listen!

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