In the Media: New Television Show Portrays Nurses as Heroes

    • February 11, 2013

Finding a nurse portrayed in a positive light on television can be tough. On many television shows, doctors are the heroes and nurses are the helpers.

But nurse-heroes are all over the place in a new drama about nursing and family life in the poverty-stricken East End of 1950s London.

In the Dec. 30 holiday special of “Call the Midwife” on PBS, nurse midwives come to the aid of a woman laboring in the bathroom of a crowded tenement house, nurse an abandoned newborn back to health, help a young girl recover from complications from unassisted childbirth, and alleviate physical and emotional pain in an elderly, mentally-ill woman.

The second season of the series begins next month. It is sponsored on PBS by the American College of Nurse Midwives, the professional organization that represents certified nurse midwives in the United States. Click here for more information on the show.

Vernell DeWitty, PhD, RN, deputy program director of New Careers in Nursing, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, hailed the series in a recent blog post on the RWJF Human Capital Blog.

“It is easy to think that women were always tended to during pregnancy, childbirth and delivery,” DeWitty writes. “However, this is not the case. We tend to forget the number of women who died in childbirth and the high rate of infant mortality due to lack of proper care not that many years ago. But with the appearance of the nurse midwife, we realized significant decreases in maternal and infant mortality.”

The show is based on the memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth, a former nurse who wrote three best-selling books about the many horrors of low-income family life in post-World War II London, before the advent of oral contraceptives. They are Call the Midwife (2002), Shadows of the Workhouse (2005), and Farewell to the East End (2009).