Your favorite movie or TV show may feature a spunky heroine who’s smart, capable, and great at her job, but chances are she’s not a nurse. Although TV shows and movies are known to take artistic liberties with many professions—such as homicide detectives, lawyers, and politicians—the importance of what nurses do has been consistently downplayed and marginalized in mainstream media.

Historically, nurses have played a secondary role in health care-focused TV shows, perhaps showing up as the attractive “naughty nurse” or not featured at all. There were few prominent portrayals of nurses until the 1970s TV show M*A*S*H, whichintroduced Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, played by Loretta Swit, to the popular culture. In addition to being the only main female character in the ensemble cast, Houlihan was an army nurse who served as romantic fodder for a few of the male characters over the course of the show.

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