What do social workers think about the social worker character on HawthoRNe?

We’ve received emails from social workers regarding TNT’s new show “HawthoRNe”, starring Jada Pinkett Smith.  What are your thoughts on how the social worker charater is being portrayed on that show? Leave your comment below or on Facebook.

Here is some of the buzz about the show, from around the web, that mentions social work :

Truth about Nursing : “The physician arrives, concurs with Hawthorne’s assessment, and they head to the NICU. Later, Hawthorne tries to protect Isabel from a social worker who sees it as a case of endangerment and has called Protective Services. Hawthorne argues that Isabel rescued the baby. When Isabel stops by to see Moses in the NICU, it’s clear that she has no idea what’s going on, and blames Hawthorne and the hospital for making the baby sick. Hawthorne tries to console her, and to explain that they are helping the baby. Isabel, who veers very quickly from one mood to another, takes out a dollar bill and gives it to Hawthorne “for [the baby’s] future.” However, at that point the social worker shows up with the police.”

Pop Matters : “At Richmond Trinity Hospital, Christina Hawthorne (Smith) is the Chief Nursing Officer. She battles for her patients, explaining to one social worker, “I jeopardizes my job every day” for the good of her patients. Her foes include incompetent doctors who talk down to nurses, hospital administrators with their eyes on the bottom line, and the kind of bureaucratic red tape the health care system produces on a daily basis.”

Amy’s Life in Brief : “So, don’t ask me why I watch hospital-based TV shows. I know, I work in a hospital…I should have my fill. But, nevertheless, I still like them. I still like them, even when they portray social workers in a rather negative light.

So, I was intrigued by this new show, Hawthorne, on TNT. It goes at hospitals from the nurses’ perspective, with the main character being the head of nursing services. I won’t go into all the ways the show wasn’t true to what goes on in hospital. That can be said about any hospital show. Anyway…I just got done watching the pilot episode.

In the pilot episode, there was a social worker involved. Maybe I shouldn’t get all up in arms because they didn’t come right out and declare this character a social worker, but it was implied. Essentially, and I’m sorry if you have recorded this show and haven’t had a chance to watch it, a mentally ill, homeless woman (who has previously been befriended by the title character) shows up with a newborn infant at the hospital. The title character sort of convinces her to let the baby be brought into the hospital for medical evaluation.

So, they get the baby inside and the social work-y character is implying that she will be contacting CPS. Of course, the title character responds (paraphrasing here), “Why? She didn’t do anything wrong!” There is some protest from social work-y character and then agrees to wait a bit before contacting the authorities.

Of course, I’m flabergasted….the woman hasn’t done anything wrong? At this point, they don’t realize that the baby is actually the mentally ill, homeless woman’s baby, they think it’s a foundling. So, there’s nothing WRONG with finding a baby and then taxi-ing it around in a shoping cart? WTF?? And, who is going to get this mentally ill, homeless woman the services she needs to be able to parent safely (once they realize she’s the true parent of the baby)?

So, it just has me frustrated with how social workers are portrayed on TV. Is it because people really don’t understand what it is we do? Is it because shows always need either a dummy or a villain? I don’t know…but I’ll watch again to see if social work-y character is part of the story line again and what role she will play.”

USA Today :  “While she’s no candidate for mother of the year, Hawthorne is a whiz at multitasking and problem solving. Over HawthoRNe’s initial trio of episodes, she’s part psychiatrist, social worker, traffic cop and scammer, antagonizing hospital executives and doctors on behalf of her patients and their loved ones.”

The Nurse is In : “Even though she is the chief nursing officer, she finds time to be in every department in the hospital. In just one day. She’s in the nursery,arranging lodging for a homeless new mom; she diagnoses a patient in the MRI room, by merely glancing at the results of the scan; she decides the type of surgery a patient should have, and, my favorite, she saves a patient’s life by grabbing the paddles out of a doctor’s hands and reviving the patient herself. Whatta woman! Think of all the money the hospital can save! She’s taken the place of a radiologist, one surgeon and a social worker.  AND, she still has time to play mother confessor to the nurses who work under her.”

No comments

  1. With only having seen Hawthorne without the social worker and having worked in the medical setting, I found the relationships to be pretencious (MD-RN more fitting of a nursing home) and self-aggrandizing. I could easily see how the presentation of these cardboard roles could undermine the future working relationships of nurses with other professionals. Yet, again, it’s a nurse establishing the “super-ego” for the rest of the world and how it should operate – do you think we should show how daily interactive practices of nursing staff negatively affect patient care (even according to the nurses). Hawthorne never sleeps, eats, or rests. At least in cop shows, they show that the social worker deals with the same clientel and that the social “problem” is larger than the manpower and not an instantaneous change.

    As for the person’s friend who informed them that all social workers are jaded, thanks to our patients and staff we have been taken around the block by our trust and compassion. We are trained to understand what happened and how, yet we keep on trucking. That’s more than I can say for our nursing professions’ educational counterpart.

  2. Like others who have commente on HawthoRNe, I too feel the social worker character is very negative. I wanted to slap the character! I believe it’s a very danming reflection on our profession. The one time I met with a hospital social worker I was very pleased with her responsiveness and her willingness to help. Hollywood needs to do more reseach on what social workers do and how valuable we are to good, quality patient/ client care.

  3. I really wanted to like this show, but I don’t and part of it is, yes, the negative and 2-dimensional portrayal of social workers. None of the characters have more than one side. Hawthorne is super-nurse who never makes a mistake and even though she has a contentious relationship with her daughter they are still close and she always makes the right decision. THe social worker is an automaton who isn’t willing to look outside the box help the patient the way that Hawthorne is. I don’t take the portrayals of social workers personally but I do worry that people who have limited or negative interactions with social workers will get a skewed idea of what we do or will have their beliefs confirmed that all social workers just want to break up families.

  4. I watched Hawthorne and I liked it. I do agree that the social worker was shown to be the bad guy, however the reality is that some of us have to do what we are mandated to do. I don’t take this stuff personal, it is a movie. I have been told by a good friend that “all” social workers are jaded. I know that this is not true and I can lay down at night knowing the truth and that I am a compassionate, empathetic hard working professional who sometimes have to make decisions that people do not like.

  5. I have been concerned about this since I first watched the show. I know there has got to be a diversity of characters, but social workers already get a bad rap.

  6. I was very disappointed with the episodes I watched, and particularly with the treatment of the social worker character. She is clearly cast as “the bad guy.” I have to say that Hawthorne’s character more often portrays a social worker than a nurse.

    I wonder how nurses feel about the show.

    It seems to me that the writers and producers of the show did not adequately research the “real-life” professions/job descriptions of nurses and social workers. If they had, I believe the roles of each would be more clearly defined.

    T. J. Rutherford, MSW student
    blogger for The New Social Worker (www.thenewsocialworker.com)
    Savannah, GA

  7. I watched Hawthorne today, two episodes actually. In the first episode I thought maybe they just had the Social Worker on this one episode seem like a cold hearted human, however even on the second episode she was still as cold as ever. Social workers are usually portrayed like this in cop shows but atleast cop shows allow the social worker more time on air to let us see that they are the way they are because of overwhelming workloads, this woman is just straight up mean in some cases and it really bothers me that they portray a social worker in this way, we are there to help not cause more problems.

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