debauchery of various sorts. This is aptly demonstrated in the
direct line Jackie draws separating her professional persona and her
life at home with her family. None of her coworkers, aside from
her best friend Dr. Eleanor O’Hara (Eve Best), know that Jackie is
married, has two children, and is having an affair with Eddie (Paul
Schulze), the ER pharmacist. Jackie operates under her own moral
code and redefines the traditional work-life balance of middle
adulthood for straight, White females. Instead of finding a work-
life balance, Jackie compartmentalizes her life, a structure she
maintains regardless of the costs. This compartmentalization is
demonstrated further as Jackie manipulates the steps of addiction
recovery for her own benefit. The period of midlife is often
characterized by stability, but Jackie’s addiction only brings
instability to her and the people who love her. Therefore, Jackie’s
character highlights, in glaringly obvious ways, the detrimental
effects on a person’s midlife when compartmentalization is used as
a defense mechanism to keep the line drawn separating work life
and personal life.
In the pilot episode of Nurse Jackie, Jackie shows viewers
her façade, which gives them an inkling that she has figured out
how to manage the various spheres of her middle adulthood
nursing work at the hospital, family life at home, and secret
personal life in various spaces while snorting prescription pain
pills to keep the spheres of experience and relationship distinct
and, for awhile at least, intact. Jackie begins her shift at All Saints
Hospital by snorting a line in the bathroom. When a bike
messenger is brought to the ER, Jackie checks the patient and
realizes the man most likely has a brain bleed and needs a scan.
Jackie relays this information to Dr. Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli),
who ignores Jackie’s request for the test. The bike messenger dies
because Dr. Cooper never checks for a brain bleed. Albeit Jackie
is a nurse and Dr. Cooper serves as her superior, but she makes
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