International Nurses Day: Top 5 Portrayals of Nurses

"As we can see, nurses are a source of inspiration for writers, musicians, and actors, but they are also an inspiration to everyone else in the world."

Today is International Nurses Day so we would like to take the opportunity to salute them all with a resounding ‘Hellooooooo, Nurse!’ Ever since Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing (the fact that today is her birthday is not a coincidence at all) nurses have captivated the imagination and creativity of artists everywhere. Nightingale herself has been the subject of plays, films, books, museum exhibits, and even a stained glass window at St Peter’s Church in Derby. In order to celebrate her life and legacy as well as impact both in her chosen profession and the arts I would like to list the top portrayals of nurses in popular culture. There is a reason that movie stars play nurses, and it’s because nurses are stars themselves.

  • The Nurse Who Loved Me. In 1996, American alternative rock band Failure included a song in honor of patients’ crushes on nurses as the 13th track of their third and last album. Fantastic Planet. The Nurse Who Loved Me was later covered by alternative metal band A Perfect Circle in their 2003’s album Thirteen Step. We can’t blame songwriters Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards for dedicating a song to the nurses who loved them, but let’s face it; nurses love all of us, that’s the reason they got into the profession in the first place.  
  • Miss Cora. Thirty years before Failure’s ode to nurses, Argentinean master of the stream-of-consciousness narrative technique Julio Cortazar gave us the short story Miss Cora, from his collection All the Fires The Fire. In it, 15 year old Pablo is hospitalized due to an upcoming appendectomy, and during his stay he meets nurse Cora, with whom he is so smitten that he can barely talk to her without blushing or feeling like crying. Nurse Cora herself is young and inexperienced but also very sensitive and beautiful.
  • Lara Antipov. The brave and strong nurse from Boris Pasternak’s novel Dr. Zhivago was already a literature icon before she was immortalized by the stunning Julie Christie in David Lean’s feature film version of the book. Also known as Larissa, a Greek name that suggests brightness and cheerfulness, Lara lives through the bloody Russian revolution of 1905 as a nurse but also to look for her MIA husband. Failing to find him, she must raise their daughter as a single mother. Lara became the inspiration for many talented men –both real and fictional- like Maurice Jarre, who composed ‘Lara’s Theme’ for Lean’s movie.
  • Nurse Carla Spinoza. During eight seasons of clever sitcom Scrubs, actress Judy Reyes –born in The Bronx and of Dominican descent- played though, street-smart nurse Carla Spinoza. This character was not only a fitting representation of nurses, but also of Latino women in American society. By no means a stereotype or a cliché, nurse Spinoza was an homage to professional females who strive to balance all the aspects of their lives, which in her case included coping with a demanding career, marriage, motherhood, religion, post-partum depression,  and the loss of her mother.
  • Phil Parma. Not all nurses are women, as illustrated in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 opus Magnolia, in which the recently diseases and decorated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman plays male nurse and caregiver Phil Parma, who tends to Jason Robard’s cancer-ridden character. Phil goes above and beyond the call of duty by helping reunite Robard with his estranged son, played by Tom Cruise.

As we can see, nurses are a source of inspiration for writers, musicians, and actors, but they are also an inspiration to everyone else in the world. They are an example to follow each day, and not just today. Like we mentioned already, real-life nurses are the real stars, and if today we celebrate book, TV, and film tributes to those stars is because if we celebrated real nurses by name we would have to mention them all, because they all are true heroes.