Day is dawning in Newark, New Jersey, as nurse Veronica Flanagan Callahan hauls her weary behind out of bed. Eating cereal by the window, Veronica hears helicopter blades. Instantly, the window shatters, as Veronica is cut down in a hail of bullets. Luckily, it's only a dream, though Veronica's not sure that her waking reality is that much better: Sucking on a cigarette and her first cocktail of the day, Veronica's mom Jeannie tosses her a package of big girl underpants, pushing her to get back together with husband Mike. Does Veronica realize how much her parents spent on that wedding!?
On the way to work, Veronica stops for coffee, just as a crowd gathers around a nasty car wreck. The passenger seems fine, but the driver has a glass water bottle lodged in his chest. When the only doctor on scene reveals that he's merely a dermatologist, Veronica sends him to get a knife and something to sterilize it, then grabs the nose of the hysterical passenger to explain that her boyfriend has a tension pneumothorax. His chest is filling with blood, and he'll die in 30 seconds if they don't relieve the pressure. The dermatologist runs up with a bottle of vodka and a knife, which Veronica plunges into the boyfriend's chest, stuffing a straw in the incision. As the boyfriend takes a grateful breath, Veronica explains -- this is just a little trick she picked up while serving in Iraq.
Veronica wheels the boyfriend into the emergency room, ordering him to trauma for some X-rays, and annoying Chief Attending, Dr. Dan Harris. Veronica has no authority to give orders -- she's just a nurse. Shocked to learn that Veronica is merely a nurse, the girlfriend threatens multiple lawsuits. Moments later, Veronica is called to Chief of Staff Dr. Alfred Parks' office for a lecture on protocol. Veronica is making her contempt for Harris and his ego too personal, and she needs to let go. Parks served in the war too; has Veronica considered talking to somebody? Veronica claims she doesn't need to, because she's taking delicious Paxil, and it's working like a charm.
Strolling towards the nurses' station, Sonia Jimenez ignores the ogles of hospital personnel to concentrate on ignoring a call from her current paramour, a wealthy lawyer. Fellow nurse Angel Garcia laughs at Sonia's technique, but she calls it "discipline" as young, eager resident Dr. Corey Whittaker plops down a box of donuts to curry the nurses favor. Harris strolls up to introduce fresh and innocent Chloe Payne, who just graduated from nursing school and is starting her first day at work. Angel interrupts the introductions, sending the nurses to deal with unruly cancer patient, Mrs. Borghouse.
Unhappy and in pain, Mrs. Borghouse hurls her pudding cup, hitting Chloe square in the chest. Chloe is just changing Mrs. Borghouse's bedpan when Mike, Veronica's estranged husband, barges in with a bouquet of flowers, another attempt to win his wife back. Chloe spills urine all over herself as Veronica tries and fails to push Mike out the door. Rejected by Veronica, Mike chats up Mrs. Borghouse, who offers her daughter. Belinda fills out a sweater better than Veronica, and wants kids. Mike gives up on Veronica, but not without leaving her with a kiss and the flowers.
Senior Nurse Klowden gives Chloe her first job: shutting down Mr. Weintraub's machines. Weintraub is dead, but Chloe can't grok it, since his machines are still beeping. Meanwhile, Detective Nick Valentino escorts two gunshot victims to the ER. Drug dealer Smalls and 15-year-old Marcus Washington are still fighting, as Nick flirts with an unresponsive Sonia. When Marcus starts coding, Angel rushes in with the crash cart, taking a shock for his troubles when inexperienced Dr. Whittaker forgets to yell clear before applying the paddles that shock Marcus back to life. Sonia wants to report Whittaker to Harris, but Veronica thinks they should just tell the other nurses to watch out for him.
The shift is over and it's time for a drink. Sonia insists on inviting Chloe, who's still sitting in Mr. Weintraub's room, refusing to believe he's dead. Veronica quickly flips off the machines, and pulls Chloe out. At the Lucky 7 bar, the nurses play shuffleboard and gossip about the preternaturally hot bartender. Sonia refuses to go for him -- no more broke-ass men for her, that's why she's after the lawyer. Chloe still can't get over the sadness of Weintraub's death. Veronica thinks the Weintraub case was a walk in the park. If Chloe wants sad, how about the pediatric burn unit? Or the soldier that had both arms blown off and needed a colostomy bag? Freaked out, Veronica heads for home.
Veronica returns home to find both her parents passed out drunk, and is surprised by brother Bobby, whose wife has kicked him out again. Veronica and Bobby search the house for their parents' stashed booze, then pass the bottle on the porch. Veronica admits that she's not doing too good, and may even have a drinking problem herself. Bobby thinks Veronica should get back together with Mike. He may have slept around while Veronica was in Iraq, but at least he didn't fall in love, which is more than Veronica can say. Pissed off that Veronica's being a hypocrite, Bobby leaves her alone with the bottle, which she hurls to the pavement.
While tending to Marcus, Chloe notices a rash on his chest. Veronica pulls Whittaker aside -- maybe Marcus has a fat embolism, which doctors in Iraq used to treat with heparin. Maintaining that blood thinner heparin isn't indicated for this use, Whittaker claims he'll look into it in a few hours. Angel is called away while wheeling Marcus to recovery, leaving Chloe on her own. Marcus wakes up and Chloe takes his hand for a tender moment, which is destroyed when he starts gasping for breath. Chloe screams for help, then shrinks against the wall as the more experienced nurses take over.
Harris tells Marcus' mother that her son is brain dead -- his brain was deprived of oxygen for too long. Nick sits vigil outside Smalls' room. Ignoring his warning to be careful, Sonia gets to work on Smalls -- how could he harm her? He's unconscious and handcuffed to the bed. Nick flirts, but Sonia knows his type: broke, and she's having none of it, leaving to take a call from her lawyer, who invites her to the Costume Institute Ball. Meanwhile, Veronica lays into Whittaker. Did he know that Marcus had an embolism? Whittaker blows her off, so Veronica throws a donut at him, calling him an unbelievable moron, unaware that Marcus' mother has seen the whole thing.
Once again, Veronica is called on the carpet in Parks' office. When Veronica claims that Marcus is brain dead because of Whittaker, Harris defends his resident. Parks lays into Veronica for taking a bad situation and making it worse -- she's the one who can't control herself, and Parks will fire her if he has to. After work, Veronica returns home to find her parents drinking gin rickeys with Mike. In order to escape, Veronica reluctantly agrees to take a ride with Mike.
Mike removes Veronica's blindfold once she's inside a gutted house. It turns out that Mike decided to rehab their house, add a few bedrooms. Veronica explodes, prompting Mike to toss her engagement ring through the wall that's no longer there into the yard. Since they're still paying off the ring, Veronica and Mike get on their knees to search for it. Mike confesses that he felt abandoned when Veronica went to Iraq, but he knows they still love each other. Maybe married life is simply about two people torturing each other until they die. Mike finds the ring, slides it onto Veronica's finger, and asks her to come back to him. Veronica agrees.
Angel and Sonia are checking out photos of dresses on her smart phone when Veronica rolls into the locker room. Sonia is stunned and skeptical to see the ring on Veronica's finger, but Veronica claims it's all good, and invites the nurses to a party at the Lucky 7 to celebrate her reunion with Mike. Harris introduces Veronica to new staff member, Dr. Sands, inviting her to tag along on a consult with Mrs. Borghouse and her children. Sands intends to operate, but Veronica is concerned that Mrs. Borghouse doesn't understand the real impact of the surgery, which will only buy her a little more time, and require chemo, again. With a look to her desperate children, Mrs. Borghouse agrees to the surgery.
After the consult, Sands asks Veronica why she doesn't think Mrs. Borghouse shouldn't have surgery. Veronica knows that Mrs. Borghouse only agreed to please her children; maybe she needs permission to give up the fight. Veronica's just walking away when Sands yanks her into a supply closet for a passionate kiss. He just finished his tour in Iraq, and thought it would be romantic to surprise Veronica by taking a job at Mercy. He loves her, and has come to Newark to live happily ever after. Shocked, Veronica accuses Sands of being crazy and rude, then finally admits that she just recommitted to her horrible marriage.
Later, Veronica confides in Sonia about Sands. Sonia is convinced that Veronica is in love with Sands, but Veronica explains that she barely knows him. They had an intense connection in Iraq, and he made her feel safe. Remembering the reunion party scheduled for that night, Veronica berates herself for being the worst person in the world. Sonia maintains that guilt isn't going to help; if Veronica wants to blame someone, she should blame the terrorists.
That night, Sonia is all dolled up in a hot dress and on her way to the Costume Incident Ball when Smalls groans in his room. When she checks on him, he grabs her and punches her in the face. Her fury unleashed, Sonia fights back like an animal, unable to stop until Nick rushes in her to pull her out of the fray. Meanwhile, a meal tray clatters to the ground, and Veronica hits the deck as if a bomb went off. Sands spots her on the floor, but she claims she's totally fine.
Nick tries to calm Sonia, but she insists that she's not going to let Smalls' assault get in the way of her date. Still shaking, Sonia gets in the elevator, only to realize that Nick is right; a shiner is welling up, and her beautiful dress is torn. How will she ever get out of this neighborhood, when it keeps pulling her down!? Sonia calls her date, explaining that she can't make it. Meanwhile, Veronica and Mike's hard drinking party gets underway at the Lucky 7, where her brothers Ryan and Tim compete for Chloe's attention.
When Sonia shows up at the Lucky 7, Veronica pulls her and Chloe to the roof with a bottle of whiskey. Sonia refuses to cry over her ruined evening, but Chloe's like a waterworks. She thought nursing was going to be about helping people, but it's so sad. Sonia reminds Chloe that letting go is part of the job, and part of taking care of herself, pointing her comments at Veronica. Veronica claims that getting back together with Mike is about taking care of herself, and will make her life more stable. Sonia directs Veronica's attention to the street below, where Mike is about to get his butt kicked.
Veronica takes Mike to the hospital to stitch up the cut on his head, bypassing Sands, who's the doctor on duty. When Sands finds them anyway, Veronica introduces a still-drunk Mike, insisting that he have a CAT scan. Meanwhile, Nick shows up late to the party at the Lucky 7, just in time to get picked up by Sonia. They return to his place to rip each other's clothes off. Veronica and Sands share a tender moment after Mike's scans come back clean. Veronica feels like she has to do the "responsible" thing, despite her feelings for Sands, who admits that he signed a two-year contract.
The next morning, Sonia slinks out of Nick's apartment, promising to call. Veronica checks on Mrs. Borghouse, does Veronica think she should have the surgery? Veronica admits she thinks it's too risky; Mrs. Borghouse needs to think about optimizing quality of life with the time she has left. Thinking she's scaring Mrs. Borghouse, Veronica admits it's clear that she's in the wrong line of work, but Mrs. Borghouse thanks her for being honest. Veronica is a wonderful nurse, and she shouldn't doubt it for a second.
Realizing that Marcus' mother has sat all night at her son's bedside and has no other family, Chloe offers her a tissue and a shoulder to cry on. Sands tells Veronica that Mrs. Borghouse has decided against surgery, then asks if they're going to be okay working together. Veronica suggests they try being friends. Later that night at the Lucky 7, Chloe celebrates the first day she didn't want to kill herself on the job. Sonia insists it's the last day she'll ever walk through Newark with her panties in her purse. When a fight brews, the nurses refuse to leave their stools... until the hot bartender gets injured. Suddenly all solicitous, Sonia, Veronica and Chloe assure the bartender that they're nurses, and maybe he should take off his shirt, just to be safe!