7 Famous Fictional Nurses: Do TV and Movies Get It Right?

Famous Fictional TV and Movie Nurses

Helping to save lives, nurses and doctors play a vital role in our society. Because of the importance of nurses, they are frequently portrayed in TV and movies both in good and bad ways. Below are descriptions of 7 famous fictional nurses in American pop culture that span from the villainous to the good natured.

Famous Nurses on TV

1. Nurse Jackie

One of the most famous nurses on TV today is Nurse Jackie. Nurse Jackie is a popular dark comedy-drama on Showtime about an emergency department nurse named Jackie Peyton in New York City who battles a long-term drug addiction. While the series has received many positive reviews, Jackie is not a model nurse, and the New York State Nurses Association and the American Nurses Association have both decried Nurse Jackie’s unethical behavior and frequent violation of the Code of Ethics for Nurses.

2. Major Margaret J. ‘Hotlips’ Houlihan

‘Hotlips’ was the sexy blonde head nurse in the hit TV series M*A*S*H. Her character was inspired by a real-life Korean War nurse. ‘Hotlips’ initially used her looks and relationships to get her way and further her career, however, over time, her character evolved and became more dedicated, deep, and sensitive when it came to her profession.

3. Nurse Carla Espinosa

Nurse Carla Espinosa was a sassy, no-nonsense nurse born in the Dominican Republic on the TV show, Scrubs. A dedicated and strong-willed nurse who also had a soft side, Carla was the head nurse of Sacred Heart Hospital before giving birth to her second child. Although to some extent the portrayal of Carla was realistic, the comedic nature of the show often brought the characters into over-the-top situations.

Famous Movie Nurses

4. Nurse Ratched

Nurse Ratched from the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the most famous movie nurses in pop culture and is frequently ranked among the best villains in film. Ratched is a cold, heartless woman who is head nurse at a mental institution. With the belief that she knows best, she possesses a controlling personality, eventually driving one of her patients to commits suicide towards the end of the film. In real-life, we can certainly hope that we never come across anyone like Nurse Ratched.

5. Madam Poppy Pomfrey

Poppy Pomfrey was the matron and nurse at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films. Essentially the magical equivalent of a school nurse, she is very mild-tempered and down-to-earth, but also very strict. However, Pomfrey’s character is not exactly the most accurate depiction of a nurse, as in one memorable scene in the first movie, Pomfrey helps Harry magically regrow the bones in his arms by administering  a potion called Skele-gro.

6. Nurse Betty

Nurse Betty was an American comedy film from 2000 featuring Betty Sizemore, a Kansas waitress who was, in fact, not really a nurse. After witnessing her husband’s murder, Betty starts obsessively following an actor from her favorite soap opera. The actor is a doctor on the show, so Betty pretends to be a nurse, believing she is a character in the soap opera.

7. Gaylord “Greg” Focker

Gaylord Focker, or Greg, as he prefers to be called, is a male nurse in Meet the Parents. Greg has trouble getting the approval of his fiance’s father, who looks down on Greg for working in a profession typically associated with women. Although we don’t get to see much of Greg at work, from what we do get to see of his personality, it seems like nursing may be a good fit.

Nursing is a popular and iconic field that gets lots of attention in movies and TV. However, as is the case for much of what airs on television, entertainment value often trumps accuracy. While these fictional nurses can afford you an entertaining glimpse into this rewarding occupation, just remember that in many cases, the scripted lives of nurses are not necessarily like the real thing.