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Saturday, August 8, 2020  

This Is What Nurses Are ForPublished 7/10/2006

I don’t watch very much television. I don’t have any moral or intellectual objection to television, it isn’t that. The reason that I don’t watch very much television is that I am the only female in the house nowadays, and, since the "boys" have the majority, they get to choose what we watch.

Their tastes generally run to the all airplanes all the time type of programming or the cute cartoon characters doing and saying horrible things type of programming. I usually just go feed the goldfish or read or call my mother for a chat. A few nights ago however, I was watching television with the guys and we caught the last fifteen minutes of "House."

First off: I know this is fiction, but sheesh! Take a shower, shave, eat a sandwich, have a nap and then come to work. You are a doctor, not a bohemian poet so consumed by your art that you have no time or energy for nonsense such as hygiene. Secondly: the patient in this episode evidently had myasthenia gravis. And a tumor. Remember that I just caught the last fifteen minutes.

House took a syringe out of his pocket, slammed it into the patient’s thigh (without cleansing the skin, without aspirating for blood so that he would know he was not inadvertently in a vein). The patient immediately improved. House seemed to hate him. I don’t know if this was justified or not. All the patient’s symptoms disappeared. I don’t know if this is possible or not. House informed him that the injection would only ameliorate his symptoms for a few minutes and was used to diagnose not treat. He then stood there and watched as the patient collapsed on the floor. He collapsed suddenly and dramatically as if all his bones had turned to Jell-O. He also appeared to be in some respiratory distress. House knew this was going to happen, but made no effort to catch the patient or help him. I was ready at this point to change the channel. It got worse. I quote, "This is what nurses are for."

"This is what nurses are for." Then he went to the door and hollered, "Clean up on aisle 3."

AAAA!!!! I quit writing letters to editors, television companies, politicians and the like a long time ago because you either get no response at all and end up feeling impotent, ineffectual and frustrated or you get a form letter that says, "Thank you for your support," even though you were not offering any support at all. It is an exercise in futility. But, and here I will repeat myself, AAAA!!!! Surely the producers and writers of this program are begging for a letter!

Here’s something I can say with absolute certainty: I will never, ever, ever watch "House" again. Not even 15 minutes of it. Not any of it, ever, ever, ever until the end of time, no matter what! "This is what nurses are for," my hind leg!

I understand that this program is meant to be entertaining. I get that. I understand about "the willing suspension of disbelief." But this show is aired on prime time and presumably viewed by millions and millions of people. It seems to me that the writers and producers must have some level of accountability, should be held to some standard of responsibility. Should the public be led to believe that they can expect to be treated with such cavalier disregard for their safety and well being?

Healthcare professionals, all of us, are taught that every human being deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. During my career I have often cared for patients who were convicted criminals or who were facing criminal charges after their recovery, and I would guess that many of you have too. A nurse or doctor in the real world who treated any patient the way that House treated his in this episode would be immediately officially and justifiably reprimanded.

What in the world did the writers of this program think that they were accomplishing? Because it had absolutely nothing to do with anything that might ever happen in the real world. They were not doing the public any service, nor were they doing any service to healthcare professionals. I imagine they think that they are gritty and real, riding the razor edge of what is acceptable. Bitingly funny. Maybe they need a few days in the hospital with some respiratory distress to set them straight.

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