MTV's Scrubbing In agrees to make some positive changes
Success! See our press release
November 16, 2013 -- Since MTV's 10-episode reality show Scrubbing In premiered last month, tens of thousands of nurses, as well as the Truth and other nursing groups, have worked to persuade MTV to cancel the show or at least reduce the damage it is causing. See our original analysis. After these collective efforts, MTV reached out to The Truth About Nursing to engage in extensive discussions about how to ameliorate the situation. MTV has agreed to take several helpful steps, including airing the show at a less prominent time, some re-editing of episodes, and other efforts to convey accurate information about nursing, although the last six episodes will air. Thank you to those who protested the show's focus on very personal details of the lives of the nurses with little suggestion of nursing skill or knowledge, all of which tends to reinforce nursing stereotypes. Below we explain the five main steps MTV has agreed to take, including a "Day in the Life of a Nurse" MTV website feature. We thank MTV for being receptive to our concerns and agreeing to take some positive steps. We also ask that you join us in urging Johnson & Johnson and others to stop sponsoring Scrubbing In; despite promises to stop, J&J has continued to place ads for its products on the show up through the fourth episode, despite our repeated requests that they cease. Please click here to sign the petition to ask J&J to cease its advertising on all shows that degrade nursing. Thanks again!
This outcome was the result of vigorous collective efforts by nurses. MTV executives reached out to the Truth after receiving our letter and we engaged in lengthy discussion. They were unusually open to hearing our concerns about the links between the stereotypes, the undervaluation of nursing, and the underfunding of nursing practice and education. Our main executive contact was disturbed that there was such a strong and unanimous condemnation of Scrubbing In by nurses, calling it an "eye-opening experience" for MTV. However, as we suspected, all of the footage for the show has been shot, so options to affect the raw material of the show are limited. We argued that it would probably be best if MTV simply canceled the show, or at least placed it on hiatus so the remaining episodes could be re-edited to highlight any nursing skill that had been filmed and to decrease the focus on intimate details of the nurses' personal lives. The executive agreed to discuss our concerns with others at MTV, which ultimately agreed to take the following steps:
1. Less prominent air time, potentially cutting viewership in half - Starting with this past week's episode (airing November 14), MTV promised to move the air time of Scrubbing In from 10 pm to midnight, which our contact said would likely cut viewership in half, from about 500,000 to 250,000. (MTV notes that our concerns were among several factors that led to the time slot change.)
2. Re-editing some episodes - Three of the six remaining episodes of Scrubbing In will be re-edited to include more clinical scenes featuring nursing skill. Those who have been watching know that the nurses are inexperienced and so far have displayed minimal expertise, so we should not expect too much.
3. "Day in the life of a nurse" MTV website feature - MTV now plans to do a "day in the life of a nurse" feature for its website that they will cross-promote to the 40 million people who follow their Facebook page. It will be several pages of photographs with accompanying text intended to educate viewers about real nursing. We believe that we have someone lined up for this, but if that falls through, we will cast our net wider and seek applications from a larger audience. Thank you.
4. Blog post on nursing on MTV website- MTV would also like to feature a blog post on its website about what it takes to become a nurse. Our contact said that the website receives 10 million unique visitors per month. We will be closely involved in putting this together. February 5, 2014 update--MTV has posted our blog posting here!
5. Ongoing consultation - Our contact said that if MTV did more nursing programming, they would consult with The Truth About Nursing so we can educate those involved about potential pitfalls and key messages about nursing. It is not clear if Scrubbing In will return after the current season, but if it does, we would rather do what we can to improve the depictions.
Though not a perfect outcome, this is more than most Hollywood shows have been willing to do to limit the damage from flawed depictions of nursing. Working in unison with so many nurses and nursing organizations has been a great help in changing this depiction of nursing! Thank you all again for your efforts to wake MTV up.
We thank Milka Stojanovic for heading up the original petition that gained over 31,000 signatures and Tyler Kuhk for working the social media hard to ask every nursing organization and school they could find to join the campaign. We also thank the following nursing organizations for campaigning against this show:
As we noted earlier, we noticed that Johnson & Johnson had advertised its line of Neutrogena products on the first episode of Scrubbing In. We wrote to Andrea Higham, who oversees J&J's well-known Campaign for Nursing's Future, the stated purpose of which is to improve nursing's image. In response, Higham said that J&J
immediately contacted MTV to request all such Johnson & Johnson brand advertising be removed from the show. In addition, Johnson & Johnson brands were added to the MTV 'do not air' list for the show.
However, when we watched the third episode of Scrubbing In online, we saw two J&J products advertised (Clean & Clear and Acuvue). We wrote to J&J about this on November 11, 2013, but so far have received no response. On the fourth episode that aired November 14, J&J advertised its Acuvue brand again. We also asked Ms. Higham to pull J&J's support of Grey's Anatomy and The Mindy Project, but again, we have gotten no response.
Please voice your concerns about J&J's support of shows that degrade nursing. Please sign our petition to ask that all broadcast and Internet advertising for J&J products be withdrawn from Scrubbing In and other shows that degrade nursing. Thank you!
Such collective action by nurses greatly improves our ability to change how television depicts nurses. Thankfully, Scrubbing In reaches fewer than a million people for only 10 weeks (so far). Shows such as Grey's Anatomy and The Mindy Project reach about 5-10 million each week and generally depict nurses as unskilled handmaidens, if not complete idiots--that is, when they are not showing heroic physician characters provide all meaningful nursing care. There is more to do.
Please click here to sign up for our free news alerts to stay in touch with media depictions of nurses and how we can work together on these issues. We need you involved! We hope to work with you all soon on more projects. Thank you again!