7 ways Hollywood goofs up medicine
“As seen on TV” does not apply to the real world of medicine, nursing and health care in general. I for one fell victim to this urban legend until I entered the world of nursing and became entrenched in the ‘real’ world of health care.
We’ve all seen the TV shows. Everything from the groundbreaking ER, Third Watch, House, Nurse Jackie, HawthoRNe, Mercy, Three Rivers, Trauma, etc. The list is endless.
And the medical mistakes are legion…and not just about nursing.
Yes, I’m well aware it’s all about TV ratings. Yes, I’m also aware that you need to “sell” the audience on the plot of the series or episode. But, sometimes Hollywood medicine is so outrageous and so far from the truth that it’s mind boggling.
I think what leaves me speechless and slightly angered is the notion that John Q. Public actually thinks what they see on TV or in the theatres ‘must’ happen in the real world. When they enter the hospital, or the ambulance, the ER, the ICU, etc., they will be experiencing exactly what they saw!
My fellow health care professionals and I have to do damage control quite a bit by dispelling the myths and propaganda.
I thought I’d share with John Q. Public some of the frustrating falsehoods that are misrepresented out there in Hollywood medicine. I apologize how random this may be.
- No, the doctors do not come to your bedside and draw your blood for impending surgeries. It’s the phlebotomist, or lab technician, or even a nurse.
- No, most patients who have brain surgery or multiple surgeries in one sitting don’t wake up talking after they ‘recover’ with no oxygen! Most can remain sedated or still have a breathing tube in place for patient safety. At the very least, they won’t be carrying on full conversations immediately after surgery (especially if it’s a 4-10 hour surgery)!
- The last time I checked, there are far more nurses on a hospital unit than physicians. Even at the larger hospitals.
- No, the nursing CEO of a hospital does not do patient care or take over a patient’s care at the bedside. And I don’t remember them ever hangin’ out in ER on a daily basis.
- No, patient family members don’t get to roam around the ER and poke their head in and out of patient rooms at will.
- No, when someone gets ‘shocked’ with a defibrillator their body does not lift up off the bed/table/ground.
- No, when you see a ‘flat line’ we do not ‘shock’ the patient
Like I said, I know, I know, it’s TV drama. But sometimes Hollywood can be a lil OVER-dramatic.
OK. End of rant. (Please feel free to add to my list.)
Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing.
After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital.
He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
By Sean Dent