If people went by what they saw in movies and TV medical dramas, they'd believe a hospital is a place where every prospective patient who comes through the ER has an ailment that requires immediate attention - not to mention that there is enough staff on duty to provide that attention. You'd also walk away thinking most patients have some mysterious disease that can baffle even the best diagnosticians. Or that performing CPR and using defibrillators are miracle cures if someone goes into cardiac arrest. You might also think that doctors perform tasks ranging from operating on patients to transporting them from room to room. And despite working 48-hour shifts in multiple departments at the same time, you might think the doctors and nurses can still somehow find the time to hook up in the supply closet or on-call room.
This all makes for great drama. But it often isn't very representative of how hospitals actually function. In reality, doctors probably spend more time filling out paperwork and charting than they do with the patient, and they definitely don't perform tasks such as taking the patient from room to room, drawing blood, or running CT scans; those are jobs performed by other hospital employees such as transport staff, nurses, and technicians. Oh, and - sorry! - according to those who work in hospitals, there is very little sex taking place between staff members. At least not while they are on duty.
Oh, and if someone goes to a real ER with an issue that isn't seen as life-threatening or otherwise very serious, they shouldn't be surprised if it takes hours before anyone helps them.
- Photo: Grey's Anatomy / ABC125 VOTES
Interns And Physicians Read The Results Of MRIs, X-Rays, And CTs Instead Of Radiologists
Reddit user catofcanals talked about how Grey's Anatomy had the interns performing MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays and then reading the results themselves. But in reality, "in most places (at least here in Canada), the images are taken by technologists and then read by a radiologist before the results are then given to the ordering physician."
Tom Jonas, meanwhile, recalled how some of the actions shown on medical dramas or films would get a real doctor in serious trouble:
I remember a UK series (I think it was Doc Marten) where the doctor takes a patient down to the radiology department of a hospital he doesn’t even work in and performs a CT scan on the patient himself and interprets the results. In the show, he diagnoses some rare and wonderful disease and saves the day. Anyone who even tried that in reality would just have security called on them and be thrown out.
- Photo: Kill Bill Vol. 1 / Miramax Films224 VOTES
Patients Easily Rip Out Their IVs And Nothing Happens
In the film Something's Got to Give, Harry (Jack Nicholson) frantically pulls his IV out when his doctor (Keanu Reeves) warns him that if he had taken any Viagra, it could react badly with the medicine in the IV. It's a comical scene, and nothing bad happens to the character - he doesn't collapse in pain, no blood pours out of the site, nothing.
But as Redditor u/rkgk13 commented, that's not what would happen if a real person attempted to pull out an IV: "You know how bad*ss characters rip out their IV one-handed to get back to the action more quickly? It really doesn't end up that clean or painless. Have fun with your blood geyser."
Redditor u/CarinaRegina1957 added:
The nurse had just pulled out my IV when the nausea hit me full throttle and I went running to the toilet to throw up. The blood that literally shot out of me like a f***ing fountain convinced me that I was going to bleed to death on the toilet floor. I looked like a murder victim.
- Photo: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / TriStar Pictures318 VOTES
Psychotic Patients Can Be Calmed Instantly With An Injection
Here's a scene that shows up in a lot of medical dramas - a patient that is psychotic, high, or otherwise unruly immediately calms down when injected with a sedative. These scenes might make for good drama, but they aren't very realistic.
As Redditor u/thewaybaseballgo pointed out, not only do injections not act as an immediate sedative - the location of the injection site is also critical:
A stab in the neck is crazy reckless. When I worked inpatient psych, we just used an IM gluteal injection. Much easier of a target when you have an HIV+ crackhead schizoaffective thrashing about. Takes a bit for them to calm down, but enough to let you put on the Velcro restraints.
Dr. Peter Chai, an instructor in emergency medicine and medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts, laughed at the idea of sedatives being able to work immediately, telling Stat News:
I wish we had a drug that could work that fast. When they come in high or psychotic, those people are agitated, and it might take several people to hold them. That part’s true. But after the shot, it takes about five to 10 minutes for them to calm down.
- Photo: Grey's Anatomy / ABC432 VOTES
Patients Can Talk While On A Ventilator
Angela Guerrero is a respiratory therapist. As she explained on Quora:
It is hilarious for us to see [actors playing patients] talking while intubated on a ventilator! There is a tube placed down the trachea, past the vocal cords. Of course some air can escape, but not enough for a conversation.
She added that in medical dramas and movies, the procedure to take a patient off of a ventilator is also performed incorrectly:
Respiratory is one of the biggest theatrical mistakes. Again, the actors just grab the tube and pull it out. Mechanical ventilation is not stopped without testing to be sure the patient will not fail breathing on their own. And the tube requires suctioning and the balloon deflated before withdrawing.
- Photo: Flatliners / Sony Pictures Releasing551 VOTES
The Defibrillator Is A Cure-All Requiring Those Giant Paddles
One of the more common scenes in any film or television show focused on doctors or medicine is the one where the patient flatlines. When this happens, the attending doctor grabs the defibrillator, yells "Clear!" and hits the patient's chest with an electrical shock, sometimes multiple times. And more often than not, this miraculously brings the patient back to life.
It makes for great drama. But there's a gigantic problem with this: no real doctor would actually use a defibrillator in this situation.
As Redditor u/IAMA-Dragon-AMA commented: “Defibrillators only work in response to certain cardiac rhythms. They aren't magical, bringing people back from the dead with electricity machines.”
Dr. Snehalata Topgi concurred, telling INSIDER:
The defibrillator only works on specific heart arrhythmias. Asystole (AKA flatlines) is not one of them. This always makes me laugh when I watch TV or movies. You only defibrillate ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation.
The reason no actual doctor would use a defibrillator in this situation is because when a person flatlines, there is no electrical activity in their heart. So there is no heart rhythm that the defibrillator can "reset" by shocking the patient.
- Photo: Halloween II / Universal Pictures626 VOTES
In The OR, It’s Acceptable To Have Nail Polish, Hair Sticking Out, And Hands All Over The Place
Operating rooms are required to be antiseptic or aseptic environments. But as medical professional Maria K. Todd pointed out on Quora, films and television shows often violate these rules, risking the patient's safety:
[These shows and films commit] Many breaks from aseptic technique, hair outside of bonnets, nail polish, jewelry, masks and glove use, how many hands are on the operating field, hands in positions and areas that are not in the clean zone.
If anyone working in a real operating room environment failed to follow the rules of maintaining an aseptic environment, they'd be made to leave the OR immediately and possibly could face disciplinary action.