Waitresses Dressed as Naughty Nurses a Crime?

Serving Up Stereotypes?

ByABC News
November 17, 2006, 9:37 AM

Nov. 17, 2006 — -- The motto of the Tempe, Ariz., restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill is "Taste worth dying for." That's because it serves only artery-clogging food like big, greasy hamburgers with names like the Quadruple Bypass -- that's four half-pound patties -- and Flatliner fries, deep-fried in lard. It refuses to sell diet anything.

Jon Basso is the restaurant's owner. He calls himself "Dr. Jon" and works in a doctor's coat. But his uniform isn't what earned the Heart Attack Grill a threatening letter from the office of Arizona's attorney general.

The government is upset because the "Doc" calls his waitresses nurses. He also has them dress as nurses, or in some cases, as nurses you'd see only in an X-rated movie, with micro-miniskirts, net stockings and high heels. One customer told us, "If I had a nurse like that when I was in the hospital, I'd probably still be in the hospital."

The Arizona Board of Nursing asked the attorney general to write to Basso, advising him that according to law, "only a person who holds a valid and current license to practice professional nursing may use the title 'Nurse.'"

It seems ridiculous, but it sure got Basso's attention.

"When somebody with the title of attorney general calls you up and you're a small businessman like me, with three kids to support, that's scary," Basso told ABC.

"I thought, oh my God all the money that my wife and I spent to this restaurant is in jeopardy because here's a lawsuit and I don't have the money to afford attorneys to defend this."

The Board of Nursing would not talk to us about this, but Sandy Summers, executive director of the Center for Nursing Advocacy, did. "It's not only the Heart Attack Grill," said Summers. "It's the whole 'naughty nurse' image."

Summers' group said the "naughty nurse" stereotype kills people, thousands of people, because it creates a nursing shortage by discouraging women from becoming nurses.

"We have this environment where decision-makers who run hospitals or members of Congress don't value nursing to the extent that they should," said Summers. She added that there are fewer nurses handling more patients.

"They're given eight patients instead of four, and sometimes even more than eight. And when you double a nurse's workload from four patients to eight, patient mortality increases by more than 30 percent."Summers also maintains that the media's sexualized images of nurses have led to sexual harassment on the job.