I have an interest in how Nurses are represented in Film TV. In a lot of medical movies and TV shows Nurses are background, or one character basically represents the entire nursing staff/dept. So I created a list where a nurse is the main protagonist. After searching through thousands of titles I found out of 85 with a Nurse as protagonist and 5 with a Nursing Assistant as the protagonist. Some observations I found interesting is that only 13 are based or inspired by a book. Nursing School/students are rarely used while medical school is not uncommon. Male Nurses as protagonist showed up in the late 1990’s. I also found that War and or Military Nursing profession is heavily represented with other specialties not shown much if at all.
I believe we Nurses, and students should support Nurse Writers and good Nurse Stories (good being subjective to the person). As well as teaching the public that there is more to Nursing than what is commonly known.
Nurses as the Protagonist
Inspired by the characters in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey [First Published in 1962] and the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Set in California in the late 1940’s Nurse Mildred Ratched goes to work at a state psychiatric hospital but has anger, secrets, and a darkness hidden under the surface.
Four young nurses work in a Canadian Hospital work hard and learn to be nurses and about life.
The Influence (2019)
Nurse Alicia returns home with her family to help her sister with their dying mother. While there she deals with traumas from the past and an angry witch.
Prescription for Love: A Cinderella Story (2019)
A Doctor and Nurse get stuck on a dark elevator for a few hours and get to know each other. After they are released he ends up not seeing her. However, he seeks to find her with the few clues he has; while she knows who he is but has challenges in letting him know who she is.
Virgin River (2019-?)
Based on the Virgin River Series by Robyn Carr [First Published in 2007] A Nurse Practitioner and midwife Melinda Monroe takes a job in the rural town of Virgin River, California. She goes there for a fresh start after going through personal tragedies.
Angles in White AKA Itsumademo Shiroi Hane (2018)
Rumi Kizaki is a young woman that failed to get into Japans National University. So she enrolls in a Nursing school as a last choice back up. As Rumi learns, interacts with classmates, and patients she realizes being a Nurse may be more than a backup plan for her
Hotel Artemis (2018)
Set in a dystopian future a Nurse with the help of an orderly runs a secret ER/convalescent Hotel for Criminals.
The New Nurses AKA Sygeplejeskolen (2018-2019)
Danish TV series about the first men to train and become Nurses in 1950’s Denmark.
The accounts of several famous and award-winning Physicians and scientists that worked within the Charite Hospital in Berlin at the end of the 19th Century.
The Midwife (2017)
Claire a dedicated midwife deals with personal changes including her hospital closing down, her son leaving home, and her father’s former mistress reappearing and needing help.
Morocco: Love In A Time Of War (2017)
In 1921 a military hospital is opened in Melilla for Rif War Soldiers. This series concentrates on a group of upper classes nurse trainees from Madrid.
The Ottoman Lieutenant (2017)
A Young nurse from Philadelphia joins an American doctor, to a medical mission in the Ottoman Empire just before the start of WWI. Once there she develops a relationship and falls in love with a charming Lieutenant in the Ottoman Army.
Trust Me (2017-2019) Season 1
After a Nurse is fired for being a whistleblower she takes on the identity of her MD friend that immigrated begins a new life as an Emergency Doctor.
Hearts of Christmas (2016)
New Finical officer Matt is brought in to cut costs to a struggling hospital before the start of the New Year. One of the cuts is to Alice a senior Nurse and beloved mentor on a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Jenny a mentee to Alice decides to throw a Christmas party and Celebration of Nurse Alice’s life work. This causes friction between Matt and Jenny that they overcome.
Journey Back To Christmas (2016)
After leaving a Christmas Party in 1945 a Nurse travels forward in time to Christmas 2016 where she helps a family reconnect and celebrate Christmas.
Mercy Street (2016 -2017)
The Stories of the Doctors, Nurses, Patients, and others that worked at The Mansion House Hospital located in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War.
The Crimson Field (2015)
In a tented field hospital on the coast of France, a team of doctors, nurses, and volunteers work together to heal the men wounded in the trenches of WWI.
The Delivery Man (2015)
A Cop turned Midwife deals with sexism and the challenges of being a male in a female-dominated field.
Based on the Outlander Novels by, Diana Gabaldon [First Published in 1991] Post WWII Army Nurse travels back in time to 18th Century Scotland while on vacation with her husband. In the past, she works as a healer and gets involved with the people and events of that time. So she has to decide to stay in the past or go back to the future.
ANZAC Girls (2013)
During World War I, true stories of Australian and New Zealand nurses serving at Gallipoli and the Western Front. Based on the book The Other Anzacs: Nurses At War 1914-1918 by Peter Reese [First Published in 2008].
The series shows Frankie’s professional and personal life as a team leader of District Nurses within the UK.
The Shift (2013)
During a 12 night shift in the ED an experienced nurse has to precept a new nurse. As the shift passes the two of them disagree about the quality of life and quantity of life in regards to the people they are treating.
Call the Midwife (2012-?)
Based on the Midwife Trilogy by Jennifer Worth [First published 2002] the TV series of the nurses, midwifes, and nuns that live and work in London's East End during the 1950’s and 60’s.
Sisters of War (2010)
Sisters of War is a movie based on the true story of the friendship between Australian women, Lorna Whyte, an army nurse and Sister Berenice Twohill, a Catholic nun from New South Wales who survived as prisoners of war in Papua New Guinea during World War II.
Christina Hawthorne RN dealing with the loss of a loved one works does her best for her people at Richmond Trinity Hospital, in Richmond Virginia.
Three nurses a recent Army Nurse Veteran, a recent graduate and an experienced civilian nurse work together to keep patients healthy and alive in a New Jersey hospital.
Nurse Jackie (2009-2015)
A Registered Nurse struggles with addiction, personal problems, and being a competent nurse in New York.
RAN: Remote Area Nurse (2006)
Helen Termaine is sent to a remote island community in Australia’s North Torres Straits to work as the Remote Area Nurse.
Bloody Mary (2006)
A group of Nurses decides to play a game of Bloody Mary at an asylum that they work at. They are successful in summoning the ghost who proceeds in killing the residents and staff.
An American nurse takes a night position at Mercy Falls Children’s Hospital on the Isle of Wright. While working there she learns of a supernatural presence and must protect herself and the children.
No Angles (2004-2006)
Four friends and coworkers from the same hospital work hard and try to have active social lives away from work.
Meet The Parents (2000)
Male Nurse Gaylord Greg Focker has decided to propose to his girlfriend Pam Byrnes but he needs to meet her parents and family first. Her father Jack Byrns disproves of Greg for various reasons and seeks to get rid of him. It is followed by Meet The Fockers (2004) and Little Fockers (2010).
All Saints (1998-2009)
Australian TV show about Ward 17 at the fictional All Saints Western General Hospital the nurses, and doctors that work there.
Miss Evers Boys (1997)
Based on the play Miss Evers Boys which is based on the true story of the 1932 Tuskegee Study of Untreated Blacks with Syphilis; In which 412 black men were infected with syphilis to see how they were affected by the infection. The events are told from the perspective of Nurse Evers.
Nurses On The Line: The Crash of Flight 7 A.K.A. Lost In The Wild (1993)
Based on the true story about a group of Doctors and Student Nurses that were traveling to a medical station in rural Mexico; that crash lands in the rain forests after an engine malfunction
Sitcom about the nurses that work on a med-surge floor in a Miami Hospital. This is a spinoff of Golden Girls (1985-1992) and Empty Nest (1988-1995).
Which Way Home (1991)
American Nurse Karen Parsons sets out to get a group of orphans out of Cambodia with the help of a smuggler near the end of the Vietnam War.
Deep Sleep (1990)
Nurse Maggie Healey immigrates to Australia and begins working in a psychiatric ward. She observes strange deaths and puts herself in danger as she investigates what is going on.
China Beach (1988 – 1991)
Award-winning television series set at an evacuation hospital/R&R base based on the book Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by former U.S. Army Nurse Lynda Van Devanter [First Published in 1983].
In Meredith, CA. a small rural town the only time they have a Doctor is on Wednesdays when one flies in. The rest of the time is Jesse Malone an LPN takes care of the medical needs of the area. One day she is reported and arrested and has to go to court for practicing beyond her scope of practice.
Woman of Valor (1986)
A Group of US Military Nurses serving in the Philippines survive as POW's after they are taken prisoner by the Japanese.
Florence Nightingale (1985)
Made for Television biopic of Florence’s Nightingale career with the bulk of the movie covering her war years.
Purple Hearts (1984)
In the middle of the Vietnam War, a Navy surgeon and a nurse fall in love while serving in Vietnam during the war.
Visiting Hours (1982)
A Mad Man attacks an activist TV journalist sending her to the hospital. The madman unhappy with only injuring his victim tries to attack her in the hospital. In doing this a Nurse catches his eye and he proceeds to stalk and attack both of them.
Nurse (1980) (1981-1982)
Based on the book Nurse by Peggy Anderson [First Published in 1978] Recent widower Mary Benjamin returns to work as a nurse at Grant Memorial Hospital in New York.
The Night Nurse (1978)
Prudence Simpson is hired as a private nurse for a former opera singer. Strange and supernatural things happen within the house and to as soon as she is hired.
Candy Stripe Nurses (1974)
Candy stripers are the protagonists this time with the same story structure as the other parts in the series.
After Nurse Coffy’s sister suffers from an overdose she turns vigilante killing those she holds responsible.
The Young Nurses (1973)
The nurses take on a drug ring operating within the hospital and they are still sexually liberated.
Nurse Report (1972)
Related to the School Girl Report series the nurses at St Martin’s Hospital in Munich have various sexual adventures.
Night Call Nurses (1972)
The next installment in the nurses series is more of the same on a Hospital Psych Ward.
Private Duty Nurses (1971)
Sequel to The Student Nurses (1970) the nurse’s head gets jobs, is involved with some of the social issues of the day, and has some amours encounters.
The Student Nurses (1970)
Four friends and student nurses become sexually liberated, learn about their chosen specialties, and are a part of issues that were relevant at the time.
Red Angel (赤い天使, Akai Tenshi) (1966)
Army Nurse Sakura Nishi is sent to the front-line field hospitals where she faces the grim realities of war and falls in love with Surgeon Okabe.
The Naked Kiss (1964)
A woman leaves her life as a prostitute behind and becomes a nurse at a children’s hospital. However, she may lose it all after she witnesses an act of child molestation.
Nurse On Wheels (1963)
Nurse Joanna Jones moves applies and is accepted to position as District Nurse for a small country village with her mother. Once in the village, she faces humorous challenges as a young new nurse.
The Nurses (1962-1965) Renamed The Doctors and The Nurses
The story is about two Nurses that work in a large hospital in New York. Near the end of the series, Two Doctors were added to the main cast and the show was renamed.
Janet Dean, Registered Nurse (1954-1955)
After being discharged from the US Air Force Janet Dean, RN travels the world as a nurse healing people's physical ailments and mental disorders.
Battle Circus (1953)
New Nurse Lt. Ruth McGara is assigned to a MASH unit. There she is romanced by Major Jed Webb the Chief Surgeon. The two become close as they work and survive attacks on the unit.
Flight Nurse (1953)
Lt. Polly Davis USAF is assigned to the Medical Air Evacuation unit. Where she worked on a C-47 Transport whose mission was transporting the wounded from Korea to Japan.
White Witch Doctor (1953)
Widowed Nurse Ellen Burton goes to Belgium, Congo to work for a Missionary Doctor. To get to the mission she hires an animal hunter, guide, and treasure hunter. Together they have adventures, face dangers from the wildlife, a local Witch Doctor and a native tribe.
The Lady With The Lamp (1951)
Based on the stage play The Lady With A Lamp about Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War.
Patricia Pinky Johnson, a light-skinned black woman goes to nursing school in the North where she passes for white. After graduating she goes home to the South and takes a rich terminal woman Miss Em. After Miss Em dies she leaves her fortune to Pinky. Miss Em’s family contests the will in court.
Sister Kenny (1946)
Based on And They Shall Walk: The Life Story of Elizabeth Kenny by Elizabeth Kenny and Martha Ostenso [First Published in 1943]. Nurse Kenny developed treatments for infants suffering from polio and fought for her treatments to be accepted by the medical establishment.
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Nurse Betsy Connell is hired to care for Jessica the wife of a plantation owner on a Caribbean Island. As she tries to help Jessica as various family secrets are revealed.
Cry Havoc (1943)
Lieutenant Smith, a Nurse in an Army Hospital in Bataan, is in need of experienced nurses. It being wartime she has to take what she can get in this case women of varied backgrounds stuck in the area and need employment.
So Proudly We Hail! (1943)
A band of Army nurses is bound for Honolulu until the attack on Pearl Harbor redirects them to Bataan.
The Lamp Still Burns (1943)
Based on the book One Pair of Feet by Monica Dickens [First Published in 1942] While WWII is raging. Hilary Clarke decides to become a nurse and is put through a demanding training process. As this is happening she falls in love and must choose between staying a nurse or getting married.
Parachute Nurse (1942)
Two hospital nurses enlist and start the training in a newly formed unit of parachute nurses to be sent to sites where medical aid is inaccessible.
Vigil in the Night (1940)
Based on the book Vigil in the Night by A.J. Cronin [First published in 1939] Nurse Anne takes the blame for her younger sister and Student Nurse Lucy kills a young patient thru an act of neglect. After losing her position Anne takes a position at a rundown and understaffed hospital. At the hospital, she works to improve healthcare and employment conditions.
4 Girls in White (1939)
Four girls enter a nurse training program for different reasons. The girls learn and grow on the journey to becoming nurses.
Nurse Edith Cavell (1939)
Story Nurse Edith Cavell a nurse that helped to help some 200 allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during WWI before being found out and sentenced to death. Based on the book Dawn: A Biography of Edith Cavell by Captain Reginald Berkeley [First Published in 1928].
Nobody’s Baby (1937)
Failing to get into the shoe business two friends attend Nurse School and get mixed up with a secret pregnancy/baby in a secret marriage.
The White Angel (1936)
Biographical film about Nurse Florence Nightingale’s life and times.
White Parade (1934)
Students get through nursing school from start to graduation.
I Was A Spy (1933)
A hospital Nurse in German Occupied Belgium spy's for the British and has a romance with an Officer in the German Army.
Night Nurse (1931)
Poor girl Lora Hart applies and becomes a Nurse trainee at a hospital. After she completes her training she becomes the night nurse for two girls that are in danger because of a large trust fund.
War Nurse (1930)
Women volunteers and some professional nurses volunteer to work as Nurses in WWI France.
Silent film about Nurse Edith Cavell. An English Nurse working in Germany that helped soldiers behind enemy lined to escape.
Florence Nightingale (1915)
A silent film about the most well-known nurse in history; Based on the book, The Life of Florence Nightingale by Sir Edward Tyas Cook [First Published in 1913].
Nursing Assistants, Orderlies
Skelton Key (2005)
Caroline Ellis a Hospice Nursing Assistant quits her job and goes to work for a New Orleans Plantation helping take care of her husband that suffered from a stroke. At the plantation, she investigates a ghost story and other mysterious happenings around the house.
Paper Mask (1990)
Based on the book Paper Mask by John Collee [First Published in 1988] Hospital orderly Matthew Harris discovers a young doctor has died so he assumes his identity and gains employment in a Casualty Dept. in another part of the country. He struggles with his new role until an experienced nurse helps him. It unravels when he makes a mistake and kills someone.
A Gambler Winslow needs money to pay off gambling debts or pay the price. The easiest way for him to get the money he needs is to inherit it from his dying uncle. To speed up the process he hires the worst orderlies in the US. However, his uncle's health and vitality greatly improve under their care. This causes Winslow to go to more drastic plans.
The Disorderly, Orderly (1964)
Jerome Littlefield a med student becomes an orderly. As an orderly he causes chaos due to clumsiness and a psychosomatic problem causes him to take on the symptoms that people tell him they suffer from.
Tammy and the Doctor (1963)
This is the third movie in the Tammy Tyree film series. Tammy accompanies a friend to LA where the friend is getting an operation. Not having money or a place to stay Tammy gets a job as a nursing assistant, wins over a Doctor and her friend gets better.
The Other Anzacs: Nurses At War 1914-1918 by Peter Reese [First Published in 2008]
Virgin River Series by Robyn Carr [First Published in 2007]
Midwife Trilogy by Jennifer Worth [First published 2002]
Outlander Novels by, Diana Gabaldon [First Published in 1991]
Paper Mask by John Collee [First Published in 1988]
Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by former U.S. Army Nurse Lynda Van Devanter [First Published in 1983]
Nurse by Peggy Anderson [First Published in 1978]
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey [First Published in 1962]
And They Shall Walk: The Life Story of Elizabeth Kenny by Elizabeth Kenny and Martha Ostenso [First Published in 1943]
One Pair of Feet by Monica Dickens [First Published in 1942]
Vigil in the Night by A.J. Cronin [First published in 1939]
Dawn: A Biography of Edith Cavell by Captain Reginald Berkeley [First Published 1928]