- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2001

''Nurses," a five-part documentary series starting tomorrow night (Jan. 28) on Discovery Health Channel, follows nursing staff members at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore through their work.

The first episode, about the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), mostly takes a low-key approach. It presents several nurses on their shifts while explaining the roles they play.

The program shows the life-and-death intensity of cases such as those of a 9-year-old electrocution victim and an infant liver-transplant patient. It also portrays everyday concerns, such as those faced by teen-agers with chronic conditions who strive to live normal lives.

Although many viewers will watch "Nurses" for entertainment, the series also provides insights that would seem valuable for anyone considering a medical career.

Nurse Pam Butler, for example, tells of her reaction to acquaintances who believe she has a rough job.

"This isn't hard," she says. "It's one of the joys of my life."

Mrs. Butler tells viewers that children are more resilient than adult patients, and she shows the tricks of her trade, such as singing to her charges to reassure them.

"If I get goofy and I'm singing 'bibbety-bibbety-boo' before I even touch them, then I'm not a scary person, and I'd like them not to be afraid of me," she says.

Mrs. Butler is shown in the episode doing battle with an underweight 2-year-old who keeps removing her feeding tube. The nurse's creative solution provides one of the lighter moments of the show.

Another nurse has a more personal story to tell. Charlie Wheeler, a former Army medic, recalls his own experiences when his infant son died of a rare heart condition. He had been considering a career as a doctor but shifted gears when he saw the nurses at work.

"The nurses were always there for us… . The way they took care of him is the way I take care of my patients," Mr. Wheeler says.

Later, Mr. Wheeler explains that he underwent a trial by fire at the PICU, arriving during a month that saw 13 deaths, a high number for the unit.

Most of the show's scenes are well-chosen to illustrate the points raised by the nurses' interviews, effectively showing the work they do.

A couple of scenes put the nurses in the sort of interview setting common to such "reality" shows as MTV's "The Real World" or CBS' "Big Brother," but most scenes use the more effective method of mixing the nurses' comments with the work footage.

"At the bedside, the nurse is the hub around which revolve all the players in a patient's care. The doctors, families, social workers, technicians — they all come in and out — but the nurse is there and has a role in every success, every crisis," narrator Mike New says to sum up the show's purpose.

The narration is non-intrusive, keeping the focus on the nurses.

Two scenes in surgery are unnecessarily grisly, however. One sequence shows the burned arm of the boy who touched a live electrical wire. Footage of the liver transplant gives several bloody glimpses of the organ. While surgery might be all in a day's work in medicine, these scenes might be disturbing to some viewers.

{*}{*}1/2WHAT: "Nurses: Pediatrics"WHERE: Discovery Health ChannelWHEN: 8 p.m. tomorrow

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