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You Are What You Watch?

Luciali72x721Lucia Li -- “Idiot’s are fun; every village should have one.” – House

Medics are split into 2 camps: those who hate medical dramas and those who love them. I’m firmly in the latter. "Grey’s Anatomy", "House", "ER", "Scrubs", "Casualty" (a UK version of ER) … sad though it is, almost any TV series set in a hospital will have me tuning in. You’d think I get enough medicine in my day job, but apparently not. In fact, I never used to enjoy these programs until I became a medical student. Some of my medical friends joke that it was programs such as these that first got them interested in medicine whilst others claim that watching them reminds them of the light at the end of the dark tunnel that medical training can sometimes be. If you are a medical TV addict, I suspect you’ll have other reasons of your own, which I’d be really interested to hear about. Meanwhile, here’s what they mean to me:

Scrubs -- This show does, indeed, speak the truth. It paints such hilarious caricatures of the worst of hospital life that you can’t help but laugh, rather than cry.

House -- The one we should all aspire to be. In terms of knowledge if not in grumpiness. Plus, it was the first program that really made the medicine, the chase of diagnosis, interesting, rather than the lives of those who practice it.

Grey’s Anatomy -- Very pretty. Full of beautiful people, sexy medicine, sweeping storylines … what’s not to love? And it’s really one of the only programs that really ram home the difficulties in the lifestyle of surgery -– the hours, the sacrifices -– whilst still making it seem worthwhile … thank God!

ER -- Who doesn’t love ER? Written by ex-medic Crichton, this series has actually taught me medicine or at least reinforced it. That episode with the blackout in Season 4, where Carter stops someone’s tachycardia by plunging his face in ice-cold water… the diving reflex has never been illustrated so well!

Nevertheless, no matter how realistically the dramas claim to portray the life of doctors, this is pure escapism. The image of medicine given is essentially shiny. The struggles and worries that face these TV doctors may be realistic, but the way the characters deal with them is only possible in the fantasy land of TV medicine. For example, in the modern NHS, what house officer gets assigned only 1 case for the entire day, giving them time to agonize over the ethics of it? Or the way the characters interact, whilst honest, borders on unprofessional in many cases. The characters themselves are caricatures of medical stereotypes; most medics are made of varying proportions of those traits! But, frankly, when you’ve got the likes of McDreamy and Carter on-screen, who can begrudge a little suspension of reality?

August 27, 2008 in Lucia Li | Permalink


I love watching House and Scrubs. I only watched one episode of ER, many years ago, and it made such a ridiculous mistake that I decided it wasn't worth my time to watch it: During a C-section, the surgeon somehow managed to cut the abdominal aorta and the patient hemorrhaged to death... isn't the aorta BEHIND the uterus? And quite obvious? I imagine surgeons don't go cutting big tubes willy-nilly, so I decided the writers must have no idea what they were talking about and never bothered to watch again.

House has disappointed me, though only very rarely: the one episode where the patient had a systemic Staph aureus infection comes to mind... they magically missed it somehow. Staph aureus is not a fastidious organism, if I recall correctly from micro, and if there's enough in the blood to make the patient sick, blood cultures should grow within a day, or less. Not to mention examining a stained blood smear would probably show the organisms right away... But I can forgive House. They're usually not too bad, and I love the characters.

And Scrubs is just plain fun :-)

Posted by: Jenniffer | Aug 28, 2008 8:36:10 AM

House.... Hmm i remember him checking out the small bowel that has no mesentry. Where I work with Staph. aureus usually grows in 10-20 hours. Even if the writers consult M.Ds some mistakes are bound to happen. regarding Grey's anatomy..... no comment, I wish I had an Izzy at my hospital.

Scrubs is amazing and never fails to amuse me as it was never meant to be accurate.

Love & Peace

Posted by: Sam | Aug 28, 2008 12:29:05 PM

I love House . But in one episode he tried to intubate holding the laryngoscope with his right hand . That was funny...

Posted by: Hend | Aug 28, 2008 3:19:50 PM

house is'nt the kind you watch while making coffee or doing something else cos you want to follow every case and its differential diagnosis very closely. On the long run, it teaches that even the tinniest info about a patient is relevant for proper and quick diagnosis-and definitely quick recovery and a happy patient as well as a satisfied doctor.

Posted by: lolo | Sep 1, 2008 4:49:09 PM

I remember watching tv shows like Hopkins 24 and Hopkins. These were shows based in johns hopkins hospital. I also like untold stories of the er. These shows make me realize that my bad mights aren't really so bad because I could be dealing with something on one of those shows. I can't stand Grey's Anatomy, Privet practice, or er. I do like Scrubs and House. I like these shows because once again things aren't so bad. I could be working at a hospital like Sacred Heart or have an attending that's mr. grumpy like House.

Posted by: Sarah | Sep 2, 2008 7:30:52 PM

I'm going to be honest now, I could say, that House inspired me to come to medical school, but thanks to the fact that it depicts the whole world more realistically than other shows it gave me a reality check too. It gives the push and it really is one of the shows that I like to watch many times, because it gives new ideas every time, studies to check out. On the other hand there is the idea: it's a show and it has mistakes, minor ones. One can say, that the research done by the writer is amazing and admirable. I think is the one that deserves to be watched by both medics and medical amateurs.
"So syphilis prevents domestic violence. I'm gonna be even more attractive to the ladies. " - House
If he wasn't just a character and younger I would really date him :D.

Posted by: Timea | Sep 3, 2008 12:36:19 PM

i lovve house and Grey's anatomy...however a former lecturer of mine once told us that House reminds him of a cartoon show and we should be ashamed of ourselves for throwing ourselves completely into those shows..i do disagree however as it gives me motivation that medicine is not just about how to cure someone but essentially about the person on a whole..u know emotional, physical and all... and besides House is handsome and dr. Mcdreamy...i need say no more..lol..

Posted by: Shaunell | Sep 3, 2008 1:09:18 PM

i watch house and grey's VERY obsessively..but i wouldn't say they are the driving force behind my desire to join medical school...they are more like the "inspiration" of learning/practicing medicine..that aside...it is a constant reminder of everything i love about medicine in the first place..

grey's anatomy is really charming and makes me feel very satisfied at the end of every episode...house on the other hand is my preference (thank goodness i never actually have to CHOOSE one show) mainly because it's less dramatic and more about the medicine...and of course..who could resist sarcasm coming from a limping doctor?

Posted by: workaholic888 | Sep 3, 2008 9:31:28 PM

I think it's slightly insane to criticize a TV show because it isn't accurate on a medical point of view...it's fiction, it's fun, and that's all! You like it, or you hate it, but your professional education surely does not hold on this.

Posted by: Sara | Sep 3, 2008 10:09:21 PM

I have to say ER got me thru nursing school. I could watch that show and think, "Hey, it could be a lot worse."
Well, now it is, but it's ok. House is a bit too obnoxious for me, but the pathophysiology presented during that show is pretty good...for tv.

Posted by: tomla | Sep 3, 2008 10:54:00 PM

You don't need the apostrophe in 'idiots' in your quote.

Medical shows bug me even though I do watch them.

House because they never take a proper history, they see zebras and they all seem to be trained in every intervention.

Casualty because it's badly acted.

Greys because it's Hollywood medicine (you never get that many hotties in one firm)

I do like scrubs though, even if it makes me cry sometimes.

Posted by: Kirsty | Sep 4, 2008 1:50:33 PM

I find House too obnoxious , the medicine is way off the mark , and the statistical improbability of the rarest diseases of every conceivable specialty ending up in 1 hospital .

Grey's is pure soap-opera medicine.

Scrubs is great with its over-the-top approach . I'm sure every doctor at one time or another must have run into people like Kelso or Cox. The program that most doctors can easily connect with .

ER has the most realistic settings and medicine . Just watching it gives me a rush . It's even quite educational , barring the occcasional mistakes .

Posted by: Suhaib | Sep 5, 2008 11:51:24 PM

for me these shows are adection i'm in my last year med school and all i do is watching house, ER, scrubs etc... then when i'm bored; "i start thinking of" reading the real life books!

good to hear thier are other nutcases like me :-) how watch medical series gtg next episode of ER is starting in 5 minutes

Posted by: Gabrial | Sep 6, 2008 4:52:58 PM

I LOOOVVVEEE House. i think the medicine in this show is the most realistic of all these med shows and i just love how he disects every disease to find the correct diagnosis. the suspense is thrilling, lol. grey's got too much drama- i aint interested in ur lives just wats goin on with the patients- dont really watch scrubs. and ER was the shit when i was in primary skool but its still ok. however, i am ever glued to the tv when medical incredible or mysteries of the er or any other medical show comes on on discovery health, no drama just pure medicine with real life diagnoses.

Posted by: Eureka | Sep 7, 2008 1:06:37 PM

i really like all those dramas. HOUSE teaches us how to diagnose well, thouh the condition in US is not as like as my country's, and neither is the kind of disease. Furthermore HOUSE also tells me that patients need something more than just curing, they want to be treated as human.

GREY'S ANATOMY, gret drama. though some of my friends don't like it because it is too melancholic and only giving a little medical knowledge for students. but, i really like it cause you can learn and understand what people feel (not only form patients, right? but we can get it from our partner)

SCRUBS!!! hoaaaa, i love Zach really much. he is so amazing as a funny, smart, and great doctor though he doesn't show it up from his attitude. this drama sometimes make me laugh, cry, and smile. good!!!

these all drama inspires me to do more for my patient and study hard becoming better doctor...

Posted by: kholisah nasution | Sep 9, 2008 9:25:00 AM

Scrubs is hilarious. it always has me in stitches.

House seems to perfect to me. I mean, he'll just be sittin there, then 'voila' he knows the problem. I love it though, its addictive n kinda educative....

Posted by: tunta | Oct 5, 2008 2:16:23 PM

well all the shows are great but non of them really inspired me to be a medic student i stated school way before greys ,house and scrubs started. well greys is melancholic and not inspiring scrubs is really a comedy. anyways they are all shows.

Posted by: aisha | Oct 14, 2008 2:10:10 PM

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