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"Dr. Ken" to feature nursing skill, education and autonomy

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Dr. Ken's damaging October 9, 2015 episode suggested that nurses are low-skilled servants looking for a physician to possess them. The theme of the episode was that Ken the physician learned that "his nurse" Clark was also his "friend" and should be treated better. But the plotline also told viewers that:

  1. Clark, formerly a "nurse" or "doctor's assistant," had just become a registered nurse by taking his "boards," after studying in an RN program "since last summer";
  2. this transition was like a "streetwalker" becoming an "escort";
  3. nurses are subordinate work spouses of physicians who essentially belong to the physicians, rather than serving patients under their own practice model;
  4. physician abuse of nurses is unfortunate but also kinda funny; and
  5. men in nursing do not embody traditional notions of masculinity. The show has yet to suggest that nurses have any actual health skills.

This adds up to toxic stew of nursing stereotypes: the unskilled handmaiden, the angel, the weak male, and even the naughty nurse. In fact, nurses receive at least three years of college-level science education, and they use their advanced skills to save lives, often with little or no involvement by physicians.

All this matters because research shows that popular media portrayals have a real effect on how decision-makers and members of the public view nurses. And a profession that gets as little respect as nursing does in this episode will have a hard time competing for scarce health resources. The result is an under-empowered profession unable to save lives it otherwise could. (More details and the film clips on The Truth About Nursing's website at

We are asking the makers of Dr. Ken to make amends for this episode and in the future avoid nursing stereotypes, which harm real nurses--and their patients--and to show nurses as college-educated science professionals who save lives and improve patient outcomes.

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