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Illustration from the novel 'Martin Chuzzlewit' by Charles Dickens: the nurse Sarah Gamp sitting on an armchair drinking tea.
Charles Dickens’ Mrs Gamp.

Portrayal of nurses in literature and other media

Nurses in various guises are scattered throughout literature and other media.

Nurse Gamp is portrayed in Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit as a scruffy, fat and uncaring woman with a red nose who smells of alcohol ([1843–1844] 2004: 564-586).

There are many modern portrayals of nurses in television dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, House, Casualty and ER.

Your task

Think of a few different nurses that have appeared in literature or other media, especially those that come from or reflect your local context.

How were those nurses portrayed? Are recent portrayals different compared to those written decades or centuries ago?

Do you think the portrayals show nursing in a positive or a negative light? Has it changed over time?


Dickens, C. ([1843–1844] 2000) Martin Chuzzlewit. London: ElecBook. available from ProQuest Ebook Central. [22 December 2017]

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This article is from the free online course:

Nursing in Crisis? Exploring Current Challenges

Coventry University