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7 Ways Hollywood Goofs Up Medicine

7 Ways Hollywood Goofs Up Medicine

What Hollywood medical cliches have you seen?

Sean Dent | Scrubs Magazine

May 26, 2010

‘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 ground breaking ER, Third Watch, House, Grey’s Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, HawthoRNe, Mercy, Three Rivers, Trauma, etc. The list is endless. I’m talking about health care in general – not specifically medicine, or nursing, or ‘hospital’, ‘pre-hospital’, etc. I’m just talking about anything ‘medical’.

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 ‘out there’ 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 theaters ‘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)!

  • No, the last time I checked – and in most cases there are far more nurses on a hospital unit than physicians. Not 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 little OVER-dramatic.

    OK. End of rant. (Please feel free to add to my list.)

    Any other Hollywood theatrics you’d like to expose?

    More on

    In Nurses in the Media: Medicine for Your Viewing Pleasure
    In Career: Privacy Dos and One Big Don’t
    In Career Advice: Just the Facts, Ma’am

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