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Nurses on TV are often very realistic characters who show the ups and downs of the nurse lifestyle. Despite shows that sensationalize nursing, there have been great series like Nurse Jackie that are relatable and dramatic. The best characters demonstrate that nurses are caring, strong and complex – just like everyone else. Here are five TV nurses who we just can’t stop watching (even though some of their shows aren’t on the air anymore!).
1. Jackie Peyton – Nurse Jackie
With a bit of a drug problem, adultery problem and occasional ethics problem, Nurse Jackie proves that even people with the best intentions can sometimes go off track. Edie Falco stars as Jackie Peyton, an emergency department nurse in New York City who struggles in her personal and professional lives. The show has earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and won a few Emmy awards. Thanks to brilliant writing and storylines that reflect the drama of real life, this show and its title character prove that a person who wants to save others may have demons of her own to face.
2. Carla Espinosa – Scrubs
The no-nonsense, straight talking Carla (Judy Reyes) was the perfect balance to rest of the goofy cast at Sacred Heart teaching hospital. More importantly, Carla represented a strong, confident and capable nurse who challenged doctors and stood up for what she believed to be right. Reyes took inspiration from her sister who is a nurse. She also trailed real nurses and took further inspiration from their strength and confidence. This real-life insight and inspiration makes Carla one of the best TV nurses to ever grace the small screen.
3. Samantha Taggart – ER
ER, which was on air for 15 seasons, was an extremely popular show that kept viewers tuning in for the character storylines as much as for the medical dramas. Linda Cardellini played Samantha Taggart, a single mom who had her son at age 15. She came from a family of alcoholics and lifted herself up to a successful career in nursing. This was not without drama, though, because Sam’s balancing act through a series of crises revealed the depth of her character. Not only did her demand for respect as the main nurse keep us captivated, her out-of-the-ER storyline was just as compelling, including a kidnapping and an eventual happy ending.
4. Abby Lockhart – ER
ER was on for so long it gave us not one, but two, great TV nurses. Abby Lockhart, who was played by Maura Tierney, was battling alcoholism, infidelity and her bipolar mother as she sought success at County General. She somehow managed to survive a chopper crash, kidnapping and an ambulance bombing. She went on to become a doctor and was an empathetic and relatable character through it all thanks to Tierney’s acting ability.
5. Christina Hawthorne – Hawthorne
It’s hard not to love Jada Pinkett Smith. She portrays title character Christina Hawthorne as a headstrong nurse who does what she knows is right without playing by the rules. There is a House-esque quality to her character, because she follows her hunches which end up being right (most of the time). Not only does Hawthorne take the time to bond with her patients, but she keeps them out of the bureaucracy of the hospital. It’s a secret longing many nurses have, come to life in front of their eyes.
These TV nurses have a string of challenges that keep their shows dramatic and create must-watch TV. Their character flaws also help us remember that no one is perfect – an important thing to keep in mind when we’re tired, sore and frustrated from a long shift. We love how these five TV nurses face life’s lows and keep going, both in the hospital and out of it, because it proves that no matter what we’re facing, we, too, can prevail.