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MTV show portrays travel nurses, stirs controversy

November 14 2013

A new MTV reality show, called “Scrubbing In,” shines the spotlight on travel nursing. And while the show is bringing attention to travel nursing, it has taken criticism from some corners. The presidents of both the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists and American Nurses Association wrote to MTV President Stephen Friedman to protest the show’s portrayal of nurses.

However, the healthcare staffing firm that provided the nurses for the show said it will raise the visibility of travel nurses and there have been more positive comments than negative.

“I think there have been more travel nurses who have been supportive and understand that the show is a show and anything on television caters to a certain audience,” said Alan Braynin, CEO of Aya Healthcare Inc., a San Diego-based healthcare staffing firm. “It’s not meant to be an account of all travel nurses.”

It needs to be judged on the standards of the MTV audience and the programming of that network, which is aimed at an under-20 audience, Braynin said. “I think this show probably raises the bar on programming of the network, and I think it will encourage some folks to consider nursing that otherwise may have not thought about it.”

The nine nurses on “Scrubbing In” went through the same vetting process as all travel nurses, including background checks, education verifications and drug screens. “Scrubbing In” nurses obtained all appropriate state licenses before any patient care was performed. Six of the nurses on the show had level 1 trauma center intensive care unit experience event before shooting.

“In reality, these nurses worked hard in the hospital for 13 weeks, they performed important work,” Braynin said. The nurses did a great job clinically and did charitable endeavors outside of work, although the show portrays only a small portion of their lives, he said. How a network chooses to cover that is a decision of the network.

However, Carol Manchester, president of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, called for the show to be canceled in her letter of Nov. 5 to the president of MTV.

“This program portrays nurses in a disrespectful and unfair light for purely salacious purposes,” Manchester wrote. “We urge you in the strongest possible terms to cancel it.”

Manchester’s letter said the show could hurt nurse recruitment.

“As you must be aware, the United States is facing a shortage of nurses and there are efforts under way across the country to encourage young people to enter nursing and increase enrollment in nursing schools,” Manchester wrote. “A television program that intentionally reinforces negative and antiquated stereotypes about nurses and that shows them in the worst possible light does nothing to support those efforts, and, in fact, serves to do the opposite.”

American Nurses Association President Karen Daley also criticized the show for its portrayal of nurses and potential impact on recruiting efforts for the profession.

“Based on the premiere, this show is neither ‘reality’ nor entertainment; it is harmful and irresponsible,” Daley wrote in her letter of Oct. 25.

The show premiered on Oct. 24, and was filmed at hospitals in Orange County, Calif.

MTV has also stirred controversy in the past with other shows. And some have said the show’s trailer may paint a different picture than the show itself.

Aya previously did another television show on travel nurses called “13 Weeks,” that focuses more on the clinical side and was edited more closely to the staffing firm’s taste and audience. Braynin said his firm is considering more nurse-related content that will focus on some of the heroic work done by nurses.


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