Carol Hathaway

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Carol Hathaway
Carol Hathaway ER.jpg
Julianna Margulies as Carol Hathaway
First appearanceSeptember 19, 1994
(1x01, "24 Hours")
Last appearanceMarch 12, 2009
(15x19, "Old Times")
Portrayed byJulianna Margulies
Duration1994–2000, 2009
TitleNurse Manager (1994–2000)
OccupationRegistered Nurse
FamilyHelen Hathaway (mother)
Unnamed father (deceased)
Unnamed Sisters
SpouseDoug Ross (husband)
ChildrenKate Ross (daughter, with Doug)
Tess Ross (daughter, with Doug)

Nurse Carol Hathaway Ross is a fictional character on the popular television show ER, portrayed by Julianna Margulies from 1994 to 2000. Julianna Margulies' removal from the main cast opening credits was in the final episode of season 6.


Carol Hathaway is a registered nurse and is the nurse manager in the emergency room of Chicago's County General Hospital. She holds a master's degree in nursing and is left-handed.

Carol is sensitive towards the lack of recognition the ER nurses experience. She is sometimes hostile to the physician assistants, and once told surgeon Peter Benton in Season One, "Haleh may not be able to cross clamp an aorta, but she has over 20 years experience in emergency medicine and if you would step off your pedestal maybe you would realize it's the nurses that make this place run and not you."

In Season 3, Carol intends to go to medical school and become a doctor, but decides against it because she sees that her job as a nurse is worthwhile.

In Season 4, Carol obtains funding for an ER clinic by getting money from Dr. John Carter's grandmother, Millicent Carter. Carol's clinic provides care for thousands for free.

In Season 5, after a fiasco with Doug Ross, a dying child, and an overdose of medication, Carol is forced to step down from her position with the clinic, and step down from being Nurse Manager.

Personal life[edit]

Seasons 1–6[edit]

Eight weeks after her suicide attempt, Carol returns to work. Although she later denies it, the staff suspect that her suicide attempt was brought about by her failed romance with Doug Ross, a womanizing pediatrician also working in the ER. Carol keeps Doug at a distance in both professional and private matters, which becomes difficult as Doug continually tries to win her back, on one such occasion showing up drunk on her doorstep, with flowers. While Carol harbors animosity towards the brash pediatrician, it becomes obvious to the viewer as well as the staff, that there are continuing feelings for him.

In an attempt to move on from her fractured relationship, Carol becomes engaged to orthopedic surgeon John "Tag" Taglieri (Rick Rossovich). The relationship is tumultuous from the start, since Carol cannot commit fully to Tag, and against his wishes, tries unsuccessfully to adopt a Russian child suffering from AIDS that was abandoned in the ER. Right before they are about to walk down the aisle, Tag leaves her at the altar, telling her he cannot commit to someone who cannot reciprocate those feelings. While hurt, the ER staff much like they have in a brazen attempt to save her life, continue to do so at the wedding reception, with food, drinks and music.

Carol, in an attempt to become more independent, purchases a run-down row house, which she plans on renovating. She later becomes involved with paramedic Ray "Shep" Shepard (Ron Eldard), who moves in with her. Despite a promising start, their relationship is severely strained after Shep goes through a drastic personality change after the death of his work partner. Shep and his partner had decided to enter a burning building to save children who were trapped by the fire. Shep's partner was badly burned and later died in the ICU. Shep becomes abrasive, and despite Carol's attempts to get him professional help, he refuses, so she ends their relationship, refusing to watch someone she cares about self-destruct.

Without Shep's extra income she is unable to afford her house. Things get even worse when a labor dispute arises concerning the reassignment of her nurses. As nurse manager for the ER, Carol is privy to management decisions, and she finds herself torn between her friends and the hospital administration. During a nurse sickout, Carol accidentally transfuses the wrong blood into a patient. Although it is unclear whether it was the blood or his other injuries that cause his death, Carol blames herself. The administration initially does not punish Carol for this incident and uses it to cast the sickout in a bad light, but she resents the administration's actions and believes she is not being punished sufficiently for her error, so she talks to the press and gets suspended.

During her suspension, Carol is held hostage at gunpoint during an armed robbery at her local grocery store. She treats several injured people and manages to escape the incident, shaken but unharmed. Carol later takes the MCAT with Doug's assistance and assumes she failed, when in fact she did very well. However, she opts not to pursue medical school, having only taken the test to prove she was capable. It was also during this time that Carol and Doug become closer as friends. Doug, the once-womanizing pediatrician, hits rock bottom, leading a life of celibacy after one of his one-night stands dies from a cocaine overdose. As he straightens out his life, Carol begins to see him differently, and after a surprise passionate embrace on her doorstep, Doug and Carol begin to rekindle their relationship.

Their relationship is held up by Carol's insecurities and bitter memories of the past. Frightened over what the staff might think, Carol and Doug romance each other in secret, even though it's obvious to the staff, who start an office pool over when they will out themselves. Doug's attempts to make up for his past mistakes and commit to her eventually pushes her back. After kissing a firefighter and then confessing to Doug, he leaves her for awhile. The two eventually reconcile. Carol overcomes her insecurities and is finally able to put those demons to rest and commit fully to Doug. Soon after, the two decide to conceive a child. Carol opens up a free clinic in the ER, backed financially by colleague Dr. John Carter's wealthy grandmother. The clinic is a success, helping many in the community.

Doug's constant run-ins with authority begin to jeopardize not only his job, but also his relationship with Carol, who despite her devotion finds it increasingly hard to support his reckless decisions regarding patient care. This all comes to a head when a terminally ill boy dies under his care. Using a PCA machine from Carol's clinic, Doug authorizes the mother, Joi, to administer enough pain medication to stop his heart. An ensuing scandal resulting from the police investigation ruins both their careers. Carol is forced to step down as Nurse Manager and give up control of her clinic and Doug is forbidden from seeing patients. Seeing no other way out, Doug resigns, leaving for Seattle to take a lucrative job offer despite Carol's protests. Unbeknownst to Doug, Carol is pregnant with twins.

Carol delivers Tess and Kate Ross on Thanksgiving Day assisted by then-OB nurse Abby Lockhart with long-time friend and colleague Dr. Mark Greene as her birthing coach. When Doug learns of his twin daughters' birth via a telephone call, he invites them to come and live with him in Seattle. Carol cannot decide if it is the right thing to do; still hurt over his abrupt departure a year earlier, she attempts to raise their daughters alone. Dr. Luka Kovač, a new Attending from Croatia who lost his wife and children in the Croatian War of Independence, often helps her take care of the twins, and a tentative romance eventually develops as the two become closer, but Carol doesn't see it going anywhere. Treating a woman dying of end-stage ovarian cancer and helping her family say goodbye moves Carol to reunite her own family, and after saying goodbye apologetically to Luka, she abruptly leaves work and flies to Seattle that day to reunite with Doug. It is later revealed that the day she left Chicago, Carol sent for her twin daughters to join her and Doug in Seattle.

Season 14[edit]

Eight years later in the Season 14 episode, "Status Quo", Jeanie Boulet mentions Doug and Carol when she returns to the ER after her ex-husband's death and learns of brain lesions due to AIDS progression in her son. Nurse Haleh Adams states that they are living happily in Seattle and that their twin daughters are now in third grade.

Season 15[edit]

In the season 15 episode The Book of Abby, long-serving nurse Haleh Adams shows the departing Abby Lockhart a closet wall where all the past doctors and employees have put their locker name tags. Amongst them, the tag "Hathaway" can be seen.

Carol Hathaway appears again in Season 15. She and Doug are now married and practice at the University of Washington Medical Center, where Carol is a transplant coordinator. During the episode, Carol and Doug help a grieving grandmother (Susan Sarandon) donate her grandson's organs. One of the organs, a kidney, is given to "some doctor"; unbeknownst to both Doug and Carol it is their former co-worker and friend John Carter. While on the job she met two current employees at Chicago County General Hospital Dr. Neela Rasgotra and Nurse Manager Sam Taggart.


Entertainment Weekly placed Hathaway in its list of the "30 Great TV Doctors and Nurses".[1] Her relationship with Doug Ross was included in AOL TV's list of the "Best TV Couples of All Time" and in the same list by TV Guide.[2][3]


  1. ^ Wilkinson, Amy (June 15, 2009). "ER, Julianna Marguiles – Paging Dr. Feelgood: 30 Great TV Doctors and Nurses – Photo 7 of 28". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  2. ^ Potts, Kimberly (February 11, 2008). "Best TV Couples of All Time". AOL TV. Aol, Inc. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  3. ^ "Couples Pictures, ER Photos – Photo Gallery: The Best TV Couples of All Time". TV Guide. Retrieved June 25, 2012.