7 TV Nurses That Are Sure to Inspire You

We all need role models, people we can look to and say “yes, I want to be just like her.” For the past 60 years, television has offered up many shows that feature truly inspiring nurses. While many of our favorite nurse characters are far from perfect (but really who is?), all of them are hard working and passionate about providing their patients with the best care.

Because we couldn’t pick our favorite nurse or show for that matter, we decided to list them by chronological order. Also note that some of these shows you may not be able to find on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu as they have been off the air for quite some time.


1. Janet Dean, Janet Dean, Registered Nurse (1954 — 1955):

Never heard of nurse Janet Dean, Registered Nurse? We’re not surprised, but this show is worth checking out. Nurse Janet is a trail-blazer in the truest sense of the word. Airing in February 1954, Janet Dean, Registered Nurse is believed to be the first television series to feature a nurse as the main character.

After being discharged from the U.S Air Force Janet Dean travels across the country filling in at hospitals and doctor’s offices. However, nurse Janet is not satisfied with just tackling her patients’ physical ailments. Instead, she often acts as a kind of detective and attempts to uncover the deeper issues behind her patient’s problems.

This series ran for a full year and consisted of 39 half-hour episodes. While you won’t be able to find this series on Netflix, there are still a few floating around Youtube.


2. Major Margaret Houlihan, M*A*S*H (1972 -1983)

Looking for a wildly feminist nurse role model? Look no further. Nurse Margaret Houlihan is not only a superb nurse, but she is also fiercely protective of all the other women under her command.

A brash, by-the-book nurse, Major Margaret Houlihan is a force to be reckoned with. She was born in an Army base hospital.  After graduating from nursing school, she joins the Army and serves throughout WWII.

Inspired by two real-life Korean War MASH head nurses, Major Houlihan is not only is a skilled nurse but has no fear speaking out against sexism in a camp of predominantly all males. Throughout M*A*S*H’s 11 seasons, nurse Houlihan remained head nurse as well as the highest-ranking female officer in the unit.


3. Nurse Samantha Taggart: ER (1994- 2009)

Since its very beginning, ER set up out to portray what it’s like to live and breath working in a hospital, in this case, the fictitious County General Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Over its 15 seasons (331 episodes to be exact) this cult classic follows the professional and personal lives of many amazing characters — John Carter, Carol Hathaway, Doug Ross, and Abby Lockhart to name a few. However, one of our all time favorites was nurse Samantha Taggart. From her very first scene, she makes it clear that she means business.

Throughout the rest of the series Sam shows time and again that she not only knows what she is doing, but that she is exceptionally good at it. Nurse Taggart is the perfect example of a nurse who stays calm, cool and collected at all time.


4. Carla Espinosa, Scrubs (2001-2010)

The hospital’s head nurse, Carla Espinosa is the definition of sass and no nonsense. She is the perfect role model for any nurse who wants to be both no-nonsense and extremely caring. Throughout the series, nurse Espinosa not only puts up with her future husband, Turk and his best friend J.D.’s antics while keeping the nurses in order.

Actress Judy Reyes says that her sister, a real-life licensed nurse, is who inspired her performance and who Judy turned to for answers about any technical questions she had about nursing and medicine.

Whether you are looking to connect with your inner sassiness or just looking for a good laugh, Nurse Espinosa and the rest of the Scrubs cast are where it’s at.


5. The Nurses of Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – present)

Ok, so we fibbed. While Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t have any lead nurses, how could we not add it to the list? Now going into its 14th season, this show is officially an institution. Based in the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital, the show mainly follows Meredith Grey and other surgical interns, residents, and attendings as they work their way up to being doctors.

Yes, we know that many of the show’s storylines would never happen in our wildest medical dreams, but it’s still a fun show to watch (read binge watch). And hey, if one of the numerous outrageous scenarios do occur in real life you will be prepared thanks to Grey’s.


6. Jackie Peyton, Nurse Jackie  (2009-2015)

Jackie Peyton is an emergency department nurse at All Saints’ Hospital based in New York City. Throughout Nurse Jackie’s seven sessions, the show follows the strong-willed nurse as she tries to balance her personal and professional life.  

While she is known for her great patient care, nurse Jackie Peyton is equally known for her often tumultuous personal life and on and off drug habit. Nonetheless, this show is a definite fan favorite. Nurse Jackie is sure to inspire you if you’re looking for a show that truly illustrates how nurses navigate the chaos that often is the everyday of urban hospitals.


7. Jesse Sallander, Code Black (2015 – present)

The most recent nursing television show, Code Black was inspired by Ryan McGarry’s documentary, also called CodeBlack, of one of the busiest and most hectic emergency rooms in the country USC Medical Center. If you’re already a travel nurse, you’re likely familiar with or even encountered a code black situation. However, if you’re not, it’s when there are too many patients and not enough medical professionals in an emergency room.

The show centers around the fictional Angels Memorial Hospital which is constantly overcrowded and understaffed. While the show focuses on four first-year residents, nurse Jesse Sallander, known as “Momma” is still front and center as he manages the residents. While he comes off as tough, nurse Sallander cares deeply for his students.



Nurse TV (2005 — current) 

Nurse TV  is the first of its kind, a web-based reality show that aims to recruit more nurses to address the nursing shortage. NTV debuted with the travel nursing documentary that won 2006 Media Award from the American Academy of Nursing.

Do you think we missed any important nursing TV shows? Let us know if the comment section below.