Call the midwife review of PBS show

War Story

I love a good war story, and a tale that starts off with “I remember the time we_______” will always get my attention. That’s partly why I wrote my own book of nursing stories after my first trip to Nepal in 2007. You can buy my book on Amazon. 

And of course, in the country of Nepal I am a Registered Midwife, due to the way the Nepal Nursing  Council defines the profession of nursing. I do not think I would dare to deliver a baby there, though.

Call The Midwife

This is called the “en face position.” mothers do it instinctively. A newborn baby’s sharpest visual acuity is about eight inches. the first thing a baby really learsn is the face of it’s mother.

And so it turns out that PBS is broadcasting a series first shown in the UK last winter, Call the Midwife.  It starts out with the voice-over of an older woman, who is saying  “I must have been mad……madness was the only explanation.” and it had me from hello, as the saying goes.

The trailer shows the first few minutes of the first episode, as the young new graduate arrives in the east end of London in 1950 or so.


The Washington Post reviewer called it soft and sentimental. and pointed out that the characters were almost stereotypically quirky. For me, I noticed that right away but thought it would be delicious…. I love a sharply drawn character, and it’s okay if the quirks show from the start. We will see what happens in the next episodes to mature each character and round out the three-dimensional aspects.

Post War baby Boom

One thing I would say is, the movie definitely shows the postwar baby boom. I think in today’s society where we have one or two children families, it’s hard to imagine what thebaby boom was like. My own family consisted of six kids, and everyone on our street also had six or more. Nowadays that is unimaginable.

from novice to expert

And best of all is the promise that we will follow the young heroine as she develops the skills needed to perform her role. I have to admit, the scene where she thinks the Spanish lady’s baby is dead, while the mom is hemorrhaging, she could have chosen some more effective actions than she did…. such as more aggressive massage of the fundus etc)

Image of Nursing in the media

As a former legislative spokesperson for my State Nurses Association, I was also very interested to see how the nurses were portrayed as nurses. Every nurse, and especially the new nurses, needs to think about the way that nurses are portrayed in the media, and to insist that the profession be depicted for what it is. This is critically important. It impacts the public trust of nurses and their integrity. So far, I thought Call the Midwife did a good job.

There is a terrific website named The Truth About Nursing, in which the nurses who run it are evaluating media trends. You can find a YouTube video about Sandy Summers, the nurses who founded that group.

There is a book called

Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk

The Truth About Nursing announces the publication of its leaders’ new book Saving Lives: Why the Media’s Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk. With striking examples and an irreverent style, the book explores nursing stereotypes from TV shows to the news media, and it explains how these images affect real-life decisions about nursing. The book also offers a comprehensive plan to help everyone improve nurses’ image–and public health.

Read more:

It is not available in hard copy, but the digital edition is still available. here is the link to Amazon.

Any way  – I don’t watch much TV but for the next few weeks I know where I will be on Sunday evenings…..  I am dying to know what everyone else thought about the first episode…..


Filed under nursing education, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Call the midwife review of PBS show

  1. Gaynor Sheahan

    This series is being shown here in Australia at the moment. (We’re on to around episode 5 I think). It’s compulsory viewing in our house on a Sunday evening including for my 18 year old son! It veers between graphic, gritty portrayals of life and birth in the East End of London at that time – bleak and brutal for the average woman of child bearing age. I agree that some of the midwife or nun characters are quirky and stereotypical but they still draw you in. Class divisions were stark then (and still now to some extent) and the series shows that well. It can get a bit soapy in later episodes but absolutely delightful nevertheless. Chummy is just marvelous, and steals every scene she’s in. I’d be interested in knowing how accurately the series draws on the original memoirs, but it certainly echoes many stories my mother told of growing up in a family of 10 with no father during the depression in Merseyside.

    • We’ve only seen one episode here, then the preview of next week when Chummy arrives.

      I would guess that Chummy is critical to the show, for two reasons:

      1) she starts off hopelessly searching for a clue. I have had many students just like her, well-meaning and studious but not wise to the ways of the wicked world. ( can you tell that I teach Fundamentals?)

      2) I expect that what will happen to Chummy is exactly what has happened to my students that started off like her: She will turn into a fine nurse and we will all cheer her on!

      sorry to share my guess as to the spolier, but – looking forward to next week!

  2. mags

    I was a midwife in UK in 1961. This program is set in 1957. Believe it or not…my own experiences were typical of this film. Having a husband stand at the foot of the bed with a bicycle lamp with the room full of lit candles because of a power cut!! Always had to buy a newspaper on the way to our first patient so that we had a clean surface on which to place our bags…some homes were gross! Of course, there was only primitive birth control hence the large families. It was a time of my life that I enjoyed enormously and in later years parents of babies I had delivered would call on me in my home to show me their child. There is no greater compliment that I can think of!!!

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