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July 24, 2017

The Glamorous Side of Healthcare: Hollywood Nurses

By Dawn Papandrea

Any Registered Nurse knows there are a number of nursing specialties that go beyond working in a hospital or nursing home. But there are just a couple that can earn you a few seconds of fame and get you into one of the most glamorous industries in the world - Hollywood.

One of these is becoming a medical script nurse who consults with writers for TV and film. The other is becoming a set nurse who cares for the cast and crew. 


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Medical Script Nurses

As you might have noticed, medical dramas and comedies have been popular on network and cable TV for years. Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago Med, Scrubs, and House M.D. are just a few of the medical shows that have enjoyed huge audiences. And it’s not a trend that seems to be letting up.

Medical script nurses act as consultants to TV and film writers, and even book authors, to help ensure the accuracy of plots featuring medical or nursing-related plots or characters.

Letting false information or imprecise portrayals hit the airwaves not only hurts the credibility and integrity of a show, but it can also have negative consequences for the health profession, portray health professionals in an unfair light, or even give audiences false ideas about diagnoses.

That’s where medical script nurses come in. 

What Script Nurses Do

Script consultants work side-by-side with TV and film creators to help them develop and fact-check stories by drawing from their medical knowledge and real-life experiences. Doctors and other medical professionals can find work in this field as well.

They might meet with a writer at the beginning of a story development to help provide context about the character or setting they are trying to create. Sometimes, they might be “on call” as questions come up during the writing process. Or, they might look at a near-final script to spot inaccuracies or add some suggestions.

Some of the questions that come up might involve hospital procedures, medical terminology, how equipment is used, and even the relationship dynamics that exist within a nursing/hospital unit.

In order to do well in this role, medical script nurses must be able to appreciate and respect creative license, communicate well, and make themselves available when questions arise. Often, writers are working on a tight deadline, so being available to consult and share feedback in a timely manner will make it more likely that you’ll get repeat business. 

On-Set Nurses

Film sets are like small, makeshift cities with large crews and actors. On-site medical staff are crucial to making the productions run smoothly.

Scenes in action movies can get brutal and there are times when special effects go terribly wrong. Set nurses are often called upon to render first aid, but in more remote locations, they may be required to provide more advanced care.

Set nurses also work events such as concerts and award shows. Rose, a former Set Nurse Recruiter, describes some of her most exciting placements.

“My favorite nurse ran off to work on tour with Beyonce! Talk about an in! I was most envious of the nurse who worked on “Ride” with Norman Reedus because it mixed my love of motorcycles with hunky men!”

Though it sounds glamorous, some nurses find the level of care to be boring and unappealing while others embrace the experience and the breaks that can lead to longer-term career paths.

Overall, it’s a unique opportunity to hang out with celebrities and get a behind-the-scenes look at filming while getting paid to provide first aid. 

Breaking In

Becoming a medical script isn’t as easy as getting work in other specialty areas since positions aren’t typically listed on healthcare or nursing job boards. Instead, you’ll most likely have to look for such work by scouring through entertainment industry listings. 

It also helps if you have a connection with people in the writing and creative community, or if you happen to live in an area that does a lot of film and TV production work. As is the case with most Hollywood-related endeavors, who you know is just as important as what you know.

Of course, script review can be done remotely, too, if you can find a writer willing to work with you via Skype, phone, or email.

Set nurses may find it a bit easier to find employment considering the many event medical services agencies in existence, but the pay is not nearly as good as a traditional nursing position.

What You’ll Earn

When it comes to how much such services are worth, this varies greatly. For script nurses, there will often be a negotiation that takes place in which you might offer an hourly or project rate. Remember, your time and expertise is your value, so don’t sell yourself short if you’re asked what your rate is.

Set nurses on the other hand, are paid quite poorly. The company that Rose recruited for paid nurses only $15 per hour or $100 per day. 

And because this is freelance or side work, don’t expect to quit your salaried job to make a career out of medical script or on-set nursing. This is usually more in the category of a fun, interesting way to make some extra income.

And, who knows? You may even get to meet a few of your favorite TV doctors and nurses along the way.

Are You Ready For A Job Change?

While you’re waiting for your big Hollywood break, you should know that other high-paying nursing opportunities abound. As a skilled nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the best jobs from coast to coast on our job board. Get the pay and career path you deserve. Click here to see open positions for nurses now.


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Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.

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