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Check out our favorite small-screen caregivers

Shaun Harrison
1 of 13 Mitchell Haaseth/NBC


The young nurses of NBC's upcoming Mercy are just learning the ropes of the profession — unlike the hardworking health care professionals included in the rest of our gallery. How do they compare with other heroic lifesavers of television shows present and past?
2 of 13 courtesy NBC

Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies), ER

The compassionate and passionate Carol was supposed to die in the original pilot, but we're glad she lived since watching her struggles was as intriguing as watching her romance with Dr. Ross. Though, we did question her judgment at first when she didn't immediately follow George Clooney to Seattle.
3 of 13 Justin Lubin/NBC Photo

Sam Taggart (Linda Cardellini), ER

Spirited and independent (and a single mom to boot), Sam demanded respect when she served as County General's main nurse in the show's remaining years. And what's an ER nurse without issues? Sam and her son, Alex, endured a kidnapping by his criminal father before finding happily ever after (we think) with Uncle Jesse, er, Tony Gates.
4 of 13 Joel Warren/NBC

Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney), ER

If Carol had struggles, then Abby was in an all-out war with her personal demons, which included alcoholism, infidelity and a bipolar mother among other things. Oh, and let's not forget that she survived chopper crashes, kidnappings, a smallpox outbreak and ambulance bombings. Through it all, Abby, who eventually earned that M.D. suffix, remained sympathetic and empathetic, thanks in large part to Tierney's superb acting chops.
5 of 13 Bob D'Amico/ABC

Carla Espinoza (Judy Reyes), Scrubs

Sure, she's technically a nurse at Sacred Heart, but Carla's real role on Scrubs is the long-suffering, eye-rolling wife of Turk (Donald Faison) who learns to live with her husband's "guy love" for J.D. (Zach Braff).
6 of 13 Ken Regan/Showtime

Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), Nurse Jackie

Despite her prickly demeanor (and the Vicodin-snorting... and the cheating on her husband... and the giving away of non-organ donors' organs), Jackie really is just trying to help. If only she could put some of that effort into putting her own life back together.
7 of 13 Karen Neal/TNT

Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith), HawthoRNe

She does more than give shots and change IVs — she also bonds with her patients and makes sure they don't get swept under the hospitals rug of bureaucracy. That's the kind of medical professional we'd want by our side.
8 of 13 CBS/Landov

Maj. Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan (Loretta Swit), M*A*S*H

A stickler for Army protocol, Hot Lips was stubborn and unafraid to speak her mind in the operating room and out. More importantly, her stance against chauvinism is something all fellow nurses can be proud of.
9 of 13 Mitch Haaseth/NBC

Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), Heroes

Who knew that the same traits that made him a great hospice nurse — sensitivity and compassion — would also make him a world-saving hero. This guy's just super.
10 of 13 courtesy NBCU Photo Bank

Julia Baker (Diahann Carroll), Julia

Years before Dynasty, Carroll made television history starring as the widowed Nurse Julia Baker in the first series to feature an African-American woman in a non-stereotypical role. Carroll earned an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe for her role.
11 of 13 Herb Ball/NBCU Photo Bank

Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles), St. Elsewhere

Rosenthal, St. Eligius' no-nonsense head nurse, is the only non-M.D. to refer to her doctor bosses by their first names. In her private life, an affair ends her fourth marriage and, in a TV first, she has a mastectomy after learning she has breast cancer.
12 of 13 Justin Stephens/ABC

Dell Parker (Chris Lowell), Private Practice

It's not easy being a male nurse, even on TV. Dell's nontraditional career choice (he's a midwife) is initially played for laughs — he wears pink scrubs, for example. After he quits in protest to go work at a hospital, his coworkers realize his value and agree to take him more seriously.
13 of 13 Craig Sjodin/ABC/Retna Ltd.

Colleen McMurphy (Dana Delany) China Beach

With several older brothers back in Kansas, tomboy McMurphy is used to holding her own with the boys. It's a skill that comes in handy as a triage nurse in Vietnam's mostly male medical establishment.