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The Best TV Shows About Nurses, from ‘Outlander’ to ‘Nurse Jackie’

We live for medical dramas that are ripe with provocative themes and fascinating characters, but not every show gives nurses the props they deserve. With their incredible work ethic and top-notch clinical skills, nurses play a vital role in the healthcare industry. And yet, these characters often get sidelined while the most esteemed doctors and chief physicians get the spotlight. Fortunately, there are several TV shows about nurses that’ll deepen your appreciation for anyone in the field.

To celebrate Nurse Appreciation Week, we rounded up 17 shows that depict the everyday lives of nurses. From Nurse Jackie to Bob Hearts Abishola, keep reading for all the binge-worthy titles to add to your list.

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1. “one Day At A Time”

  • Cast: Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, Todd Grinnell, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz
  • Rating: TV-PG

In this remake of the 1975 classic, Machado is Penelope, a Cuban American U.S. Army Nurse Corps veteran and mom who works in Los Angeles. While the sitcom doesn't always revolve around her place of work, it tackles quite a few relevant themes, ranging from mental illness to sexism and gender identity. Not surprisingly, the Netflix series scored two Emmy wins for Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series.

2. “bob Hearts Abishola”

  • Cast: Billy Gardell, Folake Olowofoyeku, Christine Ebersole
  • Rating: 13+

When Bob Wheeler suffers a heart attack that lands him in the hospital, he becomes smitten with his Nigerian nurse, Abishola. What ensues is an unlikely love story—but that’s not the only high point of this series. Prepare for all the chuckle-worthy gossip between Abishola and her coworkers at Woodward Memorial Hospital.

3. “mercy Street”

  • Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Hannah James, Josh Radnor
  • Rating: TV-14

If you’re craving a thought-provoking medical drama that keeps the soap opera elements to a minimum, then try Mercy Street. Set during the Civil War era, the series follows two volunteer nurses, abolitionist Mary Phinney and Confederate supporter Emma Green, as they work at the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. What could possibly go wrong?

4. “nurse Jackie”

  • Cast: Edie Falco, Eve Best, Peter Facinelli
  • Rating: TV-MA

Falco delivers a powerful performance as Jackie, a headstrong emergency department nurse with a weakness for prescription drugs. Throughout the series, it’s revealed that her personal life is just as (if not more) chaotic and stressful than her job, and it expertly balances dark humor with drama. So, it comes as no surprise that the show has two dozen Emmy Award nominations and five wins to its name.

5. “virgin River”

  • Cast: Alexandra Breckenridge, Martin Henderson, Colin Lawrence, Jenny Cooper
  • Rating: TV-14

Mel Monroe, an L.A.-based nurse practitioner and midwife, is convinced that taking a new job in Virgin River will give her the fresh start she needs. But upon arrival, she learns that there’s more to this charming small town than meets the eye. (Psst, after you devour all three seasons, you can check out all the details on season four here.)

6. “outlander”

  • Cast: Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Duncan Lacroix, Tobias Menzies
  • Rating: TV-MA

Adventure and fantasy meet romance in this gripping historical drama, which follows a former World War II nurse who travels back in time to 1743. While there, she finds love with a handsome warrior, but she also gets sucked into a few life-threatening situations.

7. “hawthorne”

  • Cast: Jada Pinkett Smith, David Julian Hirsh, Christina Moore
  • Rating: 13+

Yes, we're still salty because the series ended on a cliffhanger, but we’re still grateful that we can enjoy reruns. Pinkett Smith stars as Christina Hawthorne, a no-nonsense Chief Nursing Officer who leads a team of nurses at a Virginia hospital. Drama abounds as Hawthorne fearlessly advocates for her workers and patients.

8.“ratched”

  • Cast: Sarah Paulson, Finn Wittrock, Cynthia Nixon, Jon Briones
  • Rating: TV-MA

Even if you haven't seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, you'll be swept away by Nurse Mildred Ratched's dark origin story. Set in 1947, long before the events of the film, the series follows the asylum nurse after she gets hired to work at Lucia State Hospital in California. Although Mildred seems like a role model, she has ulterior motives.

9. “julia”

  • Cast: Diahann Carroll Lloyd Nolan Marc Copage
  • Rating: TV-G

This classic revolves around Julia Baker, a widowed single mom who takes a job as a nurse in Los Angeles after her husband gets killed in the Vietnam War. Fun fact: Carroll made history as the first non-stereotypical Black female lead in a TV show. Consider us impressed.

10. “call The Midwife”

  • Cast: Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Helen George, Bryony Hannah
  • Rating: TV-MA

Call the Midwife follows a group of midwives who work in the East End of London—better known as one of the poorest districts in the country—during the ’50s and ’60s. This emotional and heart-wrenching drama is loaded with feminist themes and social commentary, tackling topics like infertility, poverty, prostitution, racism and religion.

11. “mercy”

  • Cast: Taylor Schilling, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jaime Lee Kirchner
  • Rating: TV-14

The series follows three nurses at the fictional Mercy Hospital as they try to balance their personal lives with their high-stress jobs. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after just one season, but if you’re a sucker for melodramatic soap operas, it’s worth every minute of your time.

12. “frankie”

  • Cast: Eve Myles, Dean Lennox Kelly, Derek Riddell
  • Rating: TV-14

While nurses typically offer their services in hospitals and private clinics, district nurses offer care to patients in certain communities. And in this British series, viewers get an intimate look at how that works. Myles plays Frankie Maddox, a lead district nurse who’s so committed to her job that she puts the health and livelihood of patients above her own needs.

13. “nurses”

  • Cast: Tiera Skovbye, Natasha Calis, Jordan Johnson-Hinds
  • Rating: NR

From the team behind the Canadian police drama Rookie Blue comes Nurses—a show that'll make you laugh and shed a tear (or two). In the series, five promising young nurses navigate complex cases and ethical dilemmas while working at a busy hospital in Toronto, Canada.

14. “anzac Girls”

  • Cast: Georgia Flood, Antonia Prebble, Laura Brent
  • Rating: TV-MA

Based on true stories that have rarely been talked about, Anzac Girls depicts a brave group of young nurses who served with the Australian Army Nursing Service during World War I. The series took inspiration from Peter Rees's history book, The Other ANZACs, as well as several historical documents, from vintage photographs to diary entries.

15. “the Nurse”

  • Cast: N/A
  • Rating: 13+

If you’re curious to see what a career as a district nurse entails, then you ought to check out The Nurse. This inspiring seven-part series explores the ins and outs of the profession by following real-life workers who care for patients in their own homes.

16. “the New Nurses”

  • Cast: Jens Jørn Spottag, Anette Støvelbæk, Molly Blixt Egelind
  • Rating: TV-14

If you haven’t heard of this Danish drama, you should know it’s criminally underrated. Based on true events, the eye-opening series depicts the controversial decision to let male students become nurses due to a shortage of trained professionals in Denmark during the ’50s.

17. “er”

  • Cast: Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Sherry Stringfield
  • Rating: TV-14

ER doesn't exclusively focus on nurses, but it still explores the many challenges they face. Known as one of the longest-running medical dramas in American TV history, ER follows the lives of doctors, nurses and medical staff at County General Hospital in Chicago. The famous show tackled a host of hard-hitting issues like loss, substance abuse, domestic violence and racism.