This is the story of four student nurses who shared the same house as they studied and the ups and downs they went through over the course of their year. Sometimes the patients would be the biggest problems, as Lynn (Brioni Farrell) discovered when she went to attend to one man who promptly tried to rape her. He didn't get far because she kicked him in the balls, but she was not happy about how the doctors violently pinned him down to give him a sedative. Meanwhile Phred (Karen Carlson) accidentally gives a patient an overdose which they survive, but the doctor in charge keeps quiet about it if he can take her out to dinner...
Stephanie Rothman was an interesting director as she was a woman making films for the exploitation market, a rarity at the time, and she usually managed to put some of her pro-female social commentary into the scripts she had a hand in as well. Under the tutelage of producer Roger Corman, she turned out a brief but worthwhile body of work that may not have aged as well as the other budding auteurs' movies Corman produced, but that's not to say they were worth ignoring. Yet Rothman never achieved a mainstream hit like those guys, which was a shame.
Acting as co-writer and director here, you get the impression the strong-willed women, who nevertheless are by no means castrating hard cases, were a means for Rothman to say something vital about the place of the working woman in American society, just at the time when feminism was improving attitudes towards them. Unfortunately, while The Student Nurses makes great material for a thesis, perhaps more so than many of its peers and follow-ups, it plays like an episode of General Hospital with nudity and sex scenes added.
Still, there is entertainment here, as the four protagonists prove they can cope with the paths their lives take. Phred and her new gynaecologist boyfriend have their relationship take a typical path, and are broken up in an unexpected manner. The cause of this is Priscilla (Barbara Leigh), who "never wears a bra" (an important plot point judging by how often it is brought up) and hooks up with a hairy biker who introduces her to the pleasures - or otherwise - of L.S.D., which must be the least psychedelic trip sequence ever filmed.
Not only does the biker get Priscilla's mind expanding, he gets her pregnant as well, leading to a scene where she has an illegal abortion thanks to Phred's boyfriend. Phred is horrified, but interestingly the film appears pro-choice and Priscilla suffers no ill effects afterwards: it's Phred who suffers instead. Along with that is the tale of Sharon (Elaine Giftos) who falls in love with a difficult and ailing cystic fibrosis patient and does what she can to make his final days happy (if you know what I mean) and then there's Lynn who in a bizarre twist ends up joining armed revolutionaries and having her consciousness raised. There's a refreshing character to these women in that they refuse to be pushed around and don't define themselves solely by the guy they're going out with, but really The Student Nurses is too much the soap opera for its own good. Music by Clancy B. Grass III.