The new series “Nurses” is set in Toronto, in a Dec. 31, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The new series “Nurses” is set in Toronto, in a Dec. 31, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

New Toronto-set series ‘Nurses’ to debut with fictional van attack storyline

TORONTO — The first episode of new Toronto-set drama series “Nurses” may look chillingly familiar.

As a group of five young nurses start their first day at the fictional St. Mary’s hospital, news breaks of a nearby terrorist attack in which a white van crashed into pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Later, one of the nurses realizes a van-attack patient is the suspected perpetrator who says misogynistic, white-nationalist viewpoints while being treated, highlighting the ethical struggles frontline health workers can face on the job.

Series creator Adam Pettle says the episode is loosely inspired by the April 2018 van attack that killed 10 and injured 16 in Toronto, and inspired by similar incidents in other cities around the world.

But he put a fictional spin on it and avoided showing the actual attack onscreen so he wouldn’t trigger viewers.

Pettle says the premiere, airing Jan. 6 on Global, is meant to portray an event that brings the new nursing team and the community together, and showcase the heroism of frontline health workers.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like we were exploiting it or using it, so I did try to use it as the … incident of the episode but not focus on the horror if it,” Pettle said in a recent phone interview.

Pettle said he was also inspired by an article written by a Jewish nurse who treated the wounds of the gunman in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018.

“It’s just a beautiful piece of writing about having to care for him, and how that’s not a professional’s job to be judge and jury, about how difficult it is and how complicated it is.”

Vancouver actress Tiera Skovbye, who stars as nurse Grace Knight, says the episode brought back memories of calling her best friend who lived in Toronto at the time of the attack to make sure she was OK.

“To get that in the very first script was a lot to take on,” Skovbye said.

“But it just goes to show that as a nurse you never really know what you’re going to get any given day, and that no matter what, the care of the patients come first and you have to put all other aspects of it aside.”

Pettle has long been immersed in hospital settings.

The Toronto-based writer/executive producer’s dad is an obstetrician and his stepmother is a nurse, and he has fond memories of hanging out at the hospital nurses’ station as a child.

At age 21, the theatre graduate underwent surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer, which spurred him to write about such subject matter in his first play.

Pettle has since explored the medical world in several projects, including the Canadian show “Saving Hope,” on which he was an executive producer.

On the ninth episode of “Nurses,” a patient undergoes one of the treatments Pettle went through 25 years ago.

Pettle hopes the series will bring a new element to the medical drama genre through the lens of nurses “who are usually relegated to background performers in hospital shows,” he said.

“With the focus being on nurses, it’s less about medicine and the high-stakes surgeries of it,” said Pettle, “and it’s more about the psychology and spirituality and families, and the stories are more domestic than they are medical.”

“Nurses” has already been renewed for a second season.

Pettle shot the show in Mississauga, Ont., and Hamilton, and consulted with health-care professionals to add authenticity and accuracy to the script. He also had nurse consultants on set to help the actors.

The other core group of young nurses are played by Canadian actors Natasha Calis, Jordan Johnson-Hinds, Sandy Sidhu, and Donald MacLean Jr.

With its blend of serious and sudsy stories, “Nurses” will no doubt draw comparisons to the long-running American hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Like “Grey’s,” “Nurses” also has a local watering hole where the characters go to unwind after their shifts.

But “Nurses” has a different tone and younger characters than “Grey’s,” said Skovbye, who’s happy with the comparisons.

“‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is a show that’s been on for what, a million seasons at this point?” she said with a laugh, ”and people love it and there’s a market for a show like that.

“So if we’re being compared to a show that was as successful as ‘Grey’s Anatomy, then I think that’s great.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eighteen inmates and four staff at Red Deer Remand Centre have tested positive for COVID-19. Advocate file photo
Red Deer Remand Centre up to 22 COVID cases

Eighteen inmates and four remand centre staff areactive COVID cases

Christine Cornelius, department manager at Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, prepares seed racks at the Red Deer County shop. (By SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Central Alberta gardeners already buying seeds to prepare for spring

Potatoes and carrots popular choices for backyard gardens

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Red Deer’s newest Waskasoo Park trail offers some bird’s-eye views of the city. It runs along the Highland Green escarpment, between Howarth Street Close and 60th Street. More information is available on reddeer.ca. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
PHOTO: New Red Deer trail offers hikers a bird’s-eye view

It links Howarth Street Close with 60th Street

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is resigning. The news comes as… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele, left, and Kyle Connor, right, congratulate Blake Wheeler on his goal during second period NHL action against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, January 21, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Team Stecklein forward Allie Thunstrom (9) shoots against Team Szabados goalie Shannon Szabados in the NWHL All-Star Hockey Game Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Humphrey
NWHL expansion Toronto Six head to Lake Placid women’s hockey bubble

NWHL expansion Toronto Six head to Lake Placid women’s hockey bubble

United States defender Aaron Long (23) and Canada forward Lucas Cavallini (19) battle for the ball during second half of CONCACAF Nations League soccer action in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Canadian men’s soccer team returns to action on weekend with scrimmage against U.S.

Canadian men’s soccer team returns to action on weekend with scrimmage against U.S.

FC Dallas forward Fafa Picault, left, steps into a kick as Nashville SC midfielder Alistair Johnston (12) defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. A dozen Canadians are available in Thursday's slimmed-down MLS SuperDraft, reduced to three rounds from four this year. While the draft is not the pipeline it once was, the success of players like Johnston, taken 11th overall last year by expansion Nashville SC, show there are still success stories.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Whitecaps go international with Nigerian forward, Jamaican defender in MLS SuperDraft

Whitecaps go international with Nigerian forward, Jamaican defender in MLS SuperDraft

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at centre stage

Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at centre stage

A man wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver Wednesday, November 18, 2020.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Manitoba eases measures as COVID cases decline, but feds warn of severe illness rise

Manitoba eases measures as COVID cases decline, but feds warn of severe illness rise

Most Read