5 Ways Being a Nurse is Nothing Like it Looks Like on TV

Television shows about medicine get a lot of details wrong. In particular, nurses are given limited roles with little authority. In real life, working as a nurse is almost nothing like being a nurse on television. Here are five key ways that nursing is different in reality.

Who’s in Charge?

In most medical television shows, physicians are in charge of everything. They draw blood, order nurses around and make all of the decisions about health care. Modern hospitals don’t look anything like that. Nursing is a separate field with its own managers and executives. Nurses assess patients, make their own decisions about a patients’ status and work with doctors to deliver health care. More and more medical facilities are moving towards a team-based care approach. This lets nurses share their unique psychosocial and medical expertise.

Hands-on Treatment

Television shows rarely show the many options that nurses bring to patient care. If you’ve ever watched House or E.R. and see doctors drawing blood or monitoring patients, you might wonder what exactly nurses do. In real life medical centers, physicians don’t provide hands-on care to most patients. Instead, it’s the nursing staff who set up IVs, assess patients on a regular basis and keep things running smoothly. The doctors provide an overall strategy, write prescriptions and determine the treatment course, but it’s nurses who implement most of the orders.

Advanced Care

Very few television shows about nursing show advanced care providers. Nurses can earn a master’s degree in a clinical specialty and provide independent care as a nurse practitioner (NP). In many states, an NP can admit patients to a hospital, write prescriptions and schedule procedures. Nurses can also earn a graduate degree to work as a nurse-midwife or a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Both jobs combine the holistic approach of nursing with cutting-edge scholarship to deliver great patient care.

Non-Clinical Roles

“Parks and Recreation” is one of the few shows on television to show the diverse job options available to nurses. When Anne Perkins started working for the city of Pawnee, she represented the Health Department. In many counties, Registered Nurses provide necessary public health care like disease screenings, vaccinations and education campaigns. Nurses can also work at schools or companies to promote healthy behaviors. Modern bachelor’s programs for nursing concentrate on patient education and community-level health efforts. Some nurses even earn a graduate degree in public health so they can understand a broad perspective on health outcomes.

Male Nurses

Men can work as nurses; roughly 10% of American nurses are men. Despite what you see about nursing on television or in movies, most male nurses don’t face discrimination in the workplace. In fact, they’re often welcomed for their physical strength and their ability to relate to patients in a different way. Male nurses are also more likely to pursue high-paying specialties like nurse management or nurse anesthesia roles.

Working as a nurse is fun, rewarding and fast paced. Don’t be deceived by what you’ve seen on television. Instead of relying on medical shows that give a false impression, talk to nurses you know and find out what it’s really like to work in nursing.

Related reading: 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being an ER Nurse