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Cancel MTV's Scrubbing In!

October 30, 2013


To:   Nick Predescu, Executive in Charge of Production, MTV
        Janay Dutton, Executive in Charge of Production, MTV
        Shannon Fitzgerald, Executive Producer, MTV
        David Osper, Executive Producer, MTV
        Brandi Albahary, Publicist, MTV California
        Candice Ashton, Senior Publicist, MTV California
        Jennifer Solari, Vice President, MTV California
        Stephen K. Friedman, President of MTV

I’m writing to ask that you cancel your new ‘reality’ show, Scrubbing In. But I’m not expecting you to do that. I think we all know that ratings alone will determine whether or not the show continues to air. And I know that the spectacle and controversy caused by Scrubbing In will probably boost your viewership and make you and your network lots of money. I get all this.

I could tell you that, as a nurse, I’m insulted by the show’s stereotypical characterization of nurses. I could tell you that stereotypes are ignorant, demeaning and damaging. I could tell you that the caricature of the ‘sexy nurse’ is outdated and worn out. But I suspect you already know all of these things. You produce shows that exploit ethnic stereotypes, gender stereotypes or whatever other stereotypes you think are amusing. And the people who care about the people you’re damaging write to you to complain. I get this, too.That’s how this works.

MTV is in business to ‘entertain’. You’re not in the business of educating people. But I am. Because educating people is an important part of nursing. So, too, are assessment, analysis and communication. So I’m going to take this opportunity to educate you a little about the real reality of nursing. Because the young nurses portrayed on your show know not what they do.

The real reality of nursing is the product of two histories. The first history is one of progress. This history marks the relentless advancement of science and knowledge in the service of humanity. This is a glorious history, a venerated history. The second history is neither glorious, nor venerated. This second history is one of incrementalism, marred by regressions. This history marks the long and arduous struggle to end disrespect and violence against nurses in the workplace. All too often negative depictions of nurses in the media denigrate the profession, undermining the respect and admiration that nurses earn every day from their patients and health care colleagues. This was not acceptable in the past and it’s not acceptable today.

Today’s nurses would find the methods and technologies used by nurses in 1865 or 1950 archaic, rudimentary, even crude. But a nurse working in 2013 is confronted with the same crude attitudes, the same feelings of powerlessness, the same degrading or violent behavior that afflicted her or his predecessors decades and even centuries ago. Putting an end to negative stereotyping is a big, big part of the struggle to end this violence and disrespect. Scrubbing In shows there is still a lot of work to be done.

The reality is that nurses can’t tolerate the insinuation that they are not really professionals. That the scrubs and business suits they wear at work are really just disguises or costumes. That nurses are just playthings for peoples’ amusement, or punching bags for peoples’ anger and frustration. And I’ll tell you something else about the real reality of nurses. Nurses are sick of being exploited. Nurses are sick of being degraded. Nurses are sick of being bullied. Nurses are sick of being verbally abused. Nurses are sick of being kicked, groped, slapped, strangled, spit at, raped, and even murdered on the job.

Nurses are just plain sick of being disrespected.

These are the reasons I ask you to cancel your ‘reality’ show about nursing. But, as I’ve said, I really don’t expect you to do that. So I would ask you to do this: when you’re looking at the ratings and trying to determine how many more episodes to film, think of another number. Think of a number that nobody really knows. It’s the number of nurses who don’t report incidents of violence and sexual assault against them. These nurses don’t have their own ‘reality’ show to counterbalance the negative, offensive and damaging stereotypes propagated by the performers on your show. And I think you’re finding out that these nurses and their colleagues won’t watch silently as their profession is degraded and mocked.

I don’t suffer any delusions that Scrubbing In won’t find an audience drawn to controversy and spectacle. These so-called ‘reality stars’ may not realize – or may not even care – that they’re hurting the profession that they profess to love. But one day, they’ll probably quit their jobs, leaving nurses to deal with the damage they’ve done.

So you broadcast the show. And I complain. That’s how this works. But when you’re profiting from the ratings of your new show, try to think about that other number – the number of nurses victimized and alienated by disrespect and violence in their workplaces. Because that number reflects the real reality of nurses.


Dianne Martin, RPN RN BScN MA
Executive Director