Confirmed victory
Petitioning Executive in Charge of Production, MTV Janay Dutton and 7 others

Cancel the show or at least give some sense of real nursing skill and autonomy

People have the right to show the public the kind of conduct we see on Scrubbing In. But when that conduct is so closely associated with nursing, it can be troubling, because of the profession's poor image. Nursing has endured decades of negative media images, including the enduring ideas that nurses are unskilled and sexually available. These stereotypes form the foundation of the disrespect and underfunding that has led to the global nursing shortage, which kills millions of people every year. And because of nursing's poor image, it matters which nurses are chosen to appear on a show like Scrubbing In and what they are seen to be doing on the show. We cannot assume that the public, particularly the impressionable young MTV demographic, will know that there are millions of highly qualified professional nurses out there regardless of what appears on this show. So the show is a public health problem. 

Letter to
Executive in Charge of Production, MTV Janay Dutton
General Manager, MTV Stephen Friedman
Vice President for Program Publicity and Communications Jennifer Solari
and 5 others
Exective in Charge of Production Nick Predescu
Executive Producer, "Scrubbing In" Shannon Fitzgerald
Public Relations, "Scrubbing In" Candice Ashton
President MTV Programming Susanne Daniels
SVP of Communications & Public Affairs, MTV Jason Rzepka
Dear MTV and "Scrubbing In" Producers:

I am writing to express grave concern about your new reality show "Scrubbing In," which, as you know, features nine young travel nurses in California.

The show focuses on the nurses' partying, romance, and sex. But unfortunately, associating nursing with frank sexuality risks reinforcing the enduring naughty nurse image. And watching several of the nurses giggle about looking for "hot doctors" doesn't help since it calls to mind the related stereotype that nurses are physician golddiggers.

The limited depictions of actual nursing practice on the show are pretty awful. At one point, a nurse who is apparently on duty is shown practicing starting IV's in a way that suggests she has little idea what she's doing. Another nurse spends significant time trying to help her and is (rightly) later chastised by his supervisor for abandoning his unit. Two nurses showed up in California without California nursing licenses because of past DUIs on their records. A nurse sits on her own bed wearing dirty scrubs, heedless of the potential for bringing deadly organisms into her personal surroundings, as another nurse points out to her--and to viewers. There is virtually no mention here of nursing education, practice specialties, research, or policy leadership.

The show fails to convey that the vast majority of nurses are serious professionals who save and improve lives with their advanced skills. And because the show's focus and structure is personal drama and self-reflection, many impressionable viewers may conclude that nurses in general are not especially serious about their work--and that they don't need to be.

Health dramas such as "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice" and "House" focus on the personal lives of young physicians. But those shows are deeply interested in showing that the physicians are commanding, life-saving health experts, and they include countless examples of the physicians displaying formidable skill. None of that is true of "Scrubbing In." And many of the show's impressionable young viewers may assume that it gives a comprehensive, balanced view of who nurses are today. Although some of the nurses do apparently have a few years of experience, we see little evidence of that in the first episode. And none of them seem to be in any position to speak for the profession as a whole, although they will inevitably be seen that way by at least some viewers.

I have no objection to reality shows in general. People have the right to show the public the kind of conduct we see on "Scrubbing In." But when that conduct is so closely associated with nursing, it can be damaging, because of the profession's poor image. Nursing has endured decades of negative media images, including the enduring ideas that nurses are unskilled and sexually available. These stereotypes form the foundation of the disrespect and underfunding that has led to the global nursing shortage, which kills millions of people every year. And because of nursing's poor image, it matters which nurses are chosen to appear on a show like "Scrubbing In" and what they are seen to be doing on the show. We cannot assume that the public, particularly the young MTV demographic, will know that there are millions of highly qualified professional nurses out there regardless of what appears on this show. So the show is a public health problem.

If MTV would like to do a show featuring nine of the best and brightest young nurses, The Truth About Nursing non-profit organization has offered to advise you and help pave the way to greater public understanding of nursing. In fact, television can provide helpful accounts of real, skilled nurses having compelling, sometimes difficult interactions with patients and colleagues. A recent example is Channel 4's very good "24 Hours in A&E" in the U.K. So it might be nice to think that "Scrubbing In" could be improved enough to become a net gain for nursing, perhaps through more and better clinical portrayals. So I urge the producers to try to convey as much as they can about real nursing skill within the current constraints of the show.

On the whole, I believe it would be best if the show did not continue to be aired at all in its current form, and I urge MTV to cancel it. I hope that at a minimum, you will try to give viewers some sense of real nursing skill. Thank you.