Ryerson students from the Nursing Students’ Union and Canadian Nursing Students’ Association are trying to convince MTV to cancel its new reality show, Scrubbing In, because they believe that its party-themed dramatization will negatively portray the nursing profession to the public.
“Historically, the nursing profession has been burdened with sexualization, objectification, and stereotypes. This has improved over time,” said Alfred Lam, the co-ordinator of education and equity of the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association at Ryerson. “(But the show) tarnishes the professional image of nursing that has been built up by those who came before us.”
A petition that was started by a Wisconsin nurse on change.org has garnered over 20,000 supporters in favour of cancelling the show, which has been compared to MTV’s wildly popular Jersey Shore.
“Nurses are entitled to have a personal life, but we are taught from day one in nursing school to keep our personal and work life separate,” Lam said. “This show blurs that line and may cause patients to lose their trust in the profession.”
Barb Mildon, president of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), wrote an open letter that was posted on the organization’s website. In it she expresses her displeasure with the show’s premise and the way that it trivializes the critical work that nurses do.
“I’ve been looking through tweets and people have been saying, ‘I want to become a nurse now because of watching Scrubbing In,’ or, ‘I want to switch into the medical field after watching that show,’” said Jonathan Garcia, the vice-president of Ryerson’s nursing course union. “It barely represented the actual nursing side of nursing. There was a lot of drama (and) a lot of partying…. That’s not really showing what nursing is all about.”
A poll set up by the CNA on its website asks visitors for their opinion on the show. Out of over 1,100 votes, 65 per cent of participants hope it will be cancelled, 26 per cent will be tuning in and nine per cent have no opinion.
“For the people that are more ignorant and don’t actually know what nursing is about, it’s just giving them the wrong idea. It gives them the false idea that we party all the time and just drink,” Garcia said. “They’re reinforcing a stereotype that we don’t want to be associated with.”
But Lam and Garcia don’t speak for everyone. Erica Wright, a former nursing student at Ryerson, thinks the campaign against the show carries little weight because the show is just a representation of a small group of selected nurses in Orange County, Calif., not every practising nurse in the world.
“It’s not professional, but is that a reason to tell MTV to cancel the show?” Wright asked. “It’s not any more stupid than any average MTV show, but they’re not actors, so they’re not really portraying them in an (inaccurate) way. Besides, what they do outside of the hospital is their own business.”
She also says that those who have been vocal about the cancellation campaign — which started before the show premièred last Thursday — are playing into exactly what MTV wants.
“By giving it so much attention, (it’s) making it worse for them because if the show was completely inaccurate, people would just not take it so seriously,” Wright said. “But the fact that they’re so offended by it is giving it more exposure. Now everyone knows about it.”
MTV has aired only one episode so far and the campaign against it has made waves on Global News, CityNews, and in the Toronto Sun.
Wright believes the backlash will eventually blow over and that MTV will not cancel the show any time soon. Now she says that the upset nurses should place their priorities elsewhere.
“(Nurses) should be less concerned with the way that the media’s portraying them,” she said, “and more concerned with (their own patients’) experiences in a hospital.”