Global’s Nurses brings viewers into the trenches with frontline medical workers

I first spoke to Adam Pettle during what turned out to be the last season of the medical drama Saving Hope. He and I—along with co-producers Noelle Carbone and Patrick Tarr—discussed, among other things, Saving Hope‘s longevity and its possible end.

Now Pettle is back with a new group of folks in scrubs, saving lives in a hospital. Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Global, Nurses is a departure from Saving Hope, focusing almost solely on the nurses at the fictional St. Mary’s Hospital. Sure, there are doctors and surgeons flitting about, but the focus is on nurses Grace Knight (Tiera Skovbye), Ashley Collins (Natasha Callis), Keon Colby (Jordan Johnson-Hinds), Nazneen Khan (Sandy Sidhu) and Wolf Burke (Donald MacLean Jr.).

Pettle doesn’t pull any punches on the five in Monday’s debut. Moments after reporting for duty on their first day, they are thrown into the melée following a vehicle attack on pedestrians.

Days before Corus announced Nurses was renewed for a second season, we spoke to Pettle about how Nurses came about, why he was eager to re-visit the medical drama genre and what viewers can expect in Season 1.

Were you champing at the bit to get back into the medical stories, and this time focus on nurses? 
Adam Pettle: My dad’s a doctor. My mother’s a nurse. I kind of grew up in and around hospitals and so it’s always been a genre I’ve been really into. When I was making Saving Hope, [executive producer] Ilana Frank had read a book called A Nurse’s Story, which is a memoir by Canadian nurse Tilda Shalof. Ilana was like, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to make A Nurse’s Story.’ We started talking about it and then I had been doing a Burden of Truth on CBC, and we continued to kind of talk through some ideas and, and then we landed on writing a show about five young, newly-graduated nurses.

On Saving Hope and most medical shows, the nurses are usually relegated to background performers. We thought it would be really great, especially in this time we’re living in. We know there’s some pretty selfish leadership going on all over the world, and I was really drawn to this idea of a job about caring and how we care for people as opposed to big splashy medicine, and kind of front line heroes. Unsung heroes.

What immediately struck me watching Episode 1 was what I loved about ER. Noah Wyle’s character is the viewers’ in because he was this fresh face coming in and you were learning about the intricacies of the ER through his eyes. On Nurses, you’ve got the same scenario.
AP: That’s exactly it. It’s like we are with them. Their newness and rookie mistakes, which have life and death stakes. It’s one thing to learn a job, but when it’s that job, I find it quite noble and heroic. It seems like it’s a lot of grunt work and shitty work. And it’s not just caring for patients, it’s caring for family members. I’ve talked to one nurse who was like, ‘It’s more about psychology and spirituality than it is about biology.’ And I love that idea.

There’s a guy named Mike Denby, who has kind of been my main consultant who’s a young, super handsome real-life nurse at The Hospital for Sick Children. He’s kind of connected me with a few nurses there. I went to St. Michael’s Hospital and interviewed, I think it was five or six ER nurses at different stages of their careers, which is fascinating too.

Why did you decide to use a vehicle attack as the main event in the debut episode to introduce us to everybody?
AP: I thought it was raw. It’s such a horrific local event that really terrified me when it happened. It’s very loosely based on that event. I really wanted a first-day event that all the stories kind of sprung from. The show, for me, was like seeing the different characters as body parts. Everything stemmed off of an event, I wanted quieter stories like the ICU story and like the pregnancy story, but I wanted them all to spring up out of the same inciting incident.

Something [like that] affects everybody and is so random and senseless. But the impact it has, on all ages, on all races on the whole. And I also wanted to throw them into the deep end as far as work.

Nurses airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Global.

Images courtesy of Corus Entertainment.

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