How Grey’s Anatomy Gets It Wrong

Recently I was in Seattle for a memorial service. Not the happiest of occasions, but I saw family I hadn’t seen in years and visited a few Seattle sights, so the general mood of the trip was pleasant.

But as I wandered the wet streets, my mind traveled to the television show Grey’s Anatomy and its fictitious hospital, Seattle Grace.

 

Seattle’s Gum Wall. Gross but kind of intriguing.

Seattle’s Gum Wall. Gross. But kind of intriguing.

 

Years ago, I weathered internship. I weathered residency. I even weathered pregnancy in my chief residency year.

But I never weathered anything like those Seattle Grace docs do.

Plane crashes, bus crushes, bombs in human bodies. And that’s the easy stuff. The real struggles come from their endless relationship woes. It’s enough to send pre-med students sprinting to their course catalogs for a quick change of major.

 

Original image from Wikipedia

Grey’s Anatomy (Original image from Wikipedia)

The Fiction of Grey’s Anatomy

  • In the show, residents and attendings bump uglies as often as their scalpels cut skin. Sure, if my former fellow residents and I had done that, we would’ve ended up in a room with our attendings, too. One with a disciplinary board inside.
  • As surgical residents and attendings, these folks have unlimited time for lunch, gossip, and work-hours sex. Cool.
  • Fellows and young faculty now own the hospital and comprise its board. Yeeeeah, and I was my training hospital’s CEO.
  • Residents and attendings interpret radiographic studies and pathology slides as if radiologists and pathologists were mere window dressing. Ohhhh, perhaps they trained under Dr. Gregory House, MD. That would explain the one-doc-does-all ability.
  • Meredith, a surgical attending of only a couple years, has a sister five years her junior who is the new head of cardiothoracic surgery. To be mathematically possible, they would’ve had to start their training at the same time, and perhaps the youngest even sooner. So I guess she’s a heart surgeon prodigy? Good on you, youngster.
  • The residents bark orders at nurses and other healthcare professionals as if the rest of the staff exists only to meet their needs. Good medicine requires good team work. Rounding without nursing input (or that of respiratory therapists, physical therapists, nutritionists, pharmacists…) risks mistakes. And dead patients.

It’s Fiction, Carrie

I know, I know, I get it. I’ve been known to weave some far-fetched tales of my own. I guess that’s why we enjoy it.

Well, that and because those Seattle Grace docs are all so dang pretty.

 

Sisters get photobombed at Seattle’s Public Market.

Sisters get photobombed at Seattle’s Public Market.

Do you watch any medical shows?

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Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of The Seneca Scourgea medical thriller. For full bio, click here.

292 Responses to “How Grey’s Anatomy Gets It Wrong”

  1. surgeryattiffanys

    Haha. Love this great post. It also amazes me that Meredith Grey has her hair down most of the time, I would be too afraid of it dipping into wounds and bodily fluids on ward rounds. And can we all get tailored scrubs? I look like a potato sack in mine – never look as good as them in scrubs. Lastly, paperwork. Why don’t I ever see them do paperwork? As a surgeon, I know from experience that at least 1/3 of each episode should have them doing paperwork! Oh, what do you mean it’s only a tv show?! Isn’t this how we are all supposed to be like?! 😛

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    • Carrie Rubin

      A big yes to all–the perfect hair, the form-fitting scrubs, the lack of paperwork. Man, I wish I would’ve attended a residency program like that! And think of all the time they have for small talk and lunch. And of course, sex. Always time for a quick romp in the call room. 😉

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. iamtheinvisiblehand

    I’ll admit I still watch Grey’s Anatomy, probably out of habit – I mean it’s been what, eight years now? Now, I don’t really care for it that much, seeing as I hate the fact that their relations are all over the place more a la Melrose Place instead of the way professionals with insane work hours and precious little left for personal stuff would behave. Otherwise, their cases make me curious, and I understand the medical stuff shown is true, so at least there’s that.

    Other shows I liked included ER (and I missed the least 2 seasons…incredible), Scrubs (that one really made me laugh), House (I miss it sorely) , and Private Practice, although I absolutely hated it.

    I don’t really know of there are other shows like Grey’s right now. I’ve limited my tv intake to a maximum of 2 hours per day, depending on what’s on.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      I still watch Grey’s too. I figure I’ll stick with it to the end because I still enjoy their drama. I watched all those other medical shows you listed too except for Private Practice. That one was too far-fetched for me. 🙂

      Like

  3. rod

    In the medical shows I’ve seen the surgeons discuss their personal lives, argue, and engage in internecine verbal warfare all over an open wound. I’ve decided to steer clear of these places.

    (I couldn’t log in to make this comment because you have ‘an invalid security certificate’)

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, they seem to have quite the conversations over open wounds!

      As for the security certificate, I know some people have had trouble accessing my blog ever since I switched themes over a year ago. Not sure what’s up with that. 😦

      Like

  4. earthriderjudyberman

    I watch very little TV nowadays. But I did watch quite a few doc shows years ago. MASH was one of my favorites. They’re fun to watch, but you have to lower your plausibility factor to accept all that they’ve been thru. 😉

    I’ve been a reporter and now I’m a teacher, I wish someone would script some cool lines and scenarios for me. Thanks for the chuckle. 😉

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    • Carrie Rubin

      A show about a reporter–that would be a great premise and one that hasn’t been done for a while, at least not on TV. That can be a cut-throat world. Lots of potential story ideas!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. amymak

    I LOVED Grey’s Anatomy. But I think it was that singing episode that made me vomit – after laughing hysterically whilst doctors sang as they performed bone and heart surgery. so bad. I would love to find a good one again. Now I watch cop shows; obsessed with Chicago PD at the moment. I think it’s a Sophia Bush thing 🙂

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    • Carrie Rubin

      That singing episode was ridiculous. I think I turned it off. 🙂 As for Chicago PD, that’s next up for me. I have the first season on DVD!

      Like

  6. Susan Lattwein

    My daughters were crazy about Scrubs. When I finally sat down to watch it, I enjoyed the quirky humor. Now don’t tell me that reflects real life in hospitals, please!!?

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  7. Celine Jeanjean

    I used to watch Grey’s Anatomy, and yeah I loved the show, although my husband and I would joke that every time a patient would come in for a while it would wind up being a tumour. Headache? tumour. Hiccup? Tumour and then death. It’s all good fun though – although I had to look away at times during the surgery scenes.

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  8. Dave

    Used to watch House because I enjoyed how he solved mysterious and because he was such a cynic 🙂 A great character. My son (the doctor) introduced me to Scrubs a couple of years ago because it’s one of favorites. I’ve watched the entire series. Hilarious. Loved Dr. Cox’s rants.

    Check out Vanderbilt MDs on USA. All about residents at Vanderbilt and filmed last year before my son got there. Would have been fun to see him on TV 🙂

    Watched one episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The one with the bomb inside someone. It was good but just never watched again for some reason.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      I watched House for a while, but I grew frustrated by his shenanigans that would have made any other doctor lose his or her medical license. I loved Scrubs. Forgave its inaccuracies because it was so funny. And how cool would it have been to see your son on TV! Though when I was a resident, the last thing I would have wanted was to be on TV…

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Yep. I’ve used the line myself about my own work. That’s why I’m fine with the high drama and high stakes like plane crashes. It’s fiction. We want to be entertained. But just as we need to do our research and get the day-to-day basics right in our fiction, these shows should too. And they certainly have the big bucks to do so…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  9. Gail

    I used to enjoy House, but after a while it became painful to watch such dysfunctional lives.

    Like

  10. Kate Johnston

    I feel the same way about any kind of TV show about families — the stories are dramatic enough to mimic real life, but the characters are unbelievable. They look too good and always have the perfect comebacks or solutions, and still have time to workout. Heck, if I could solve some of my family problems in under an hour, I’d look good in a bikini, too.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, I’m sure it was. I suppose they were about as good at getting the truth right as Grey’s Anatomy and House are at medical issues. 😉

      Like

  11. Alejandro De La Garza

    They’re not doctors, but they play them on TV. I’ve never watched an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” even though friends, acquaintances and former coworkers implored me to make the time for it. but I always had a book to read or a story to write. I made the mistake of watching one entire episode of “Survivor” during its first season and thought it was one of the stupidest shows I’ve ever seen.

    My idea of reality TV is “The First 48” or “Border Wars.” The only thing is that, if the writers and producers of “Grey’s Anatomy” had consulted with you beforehand, Carrie, your blunt honesty and knowledge of the facts would have hurt their little Hollywood egos.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      I watched the first season of Survivor, too. I haven’t really watched any reality TV since, other than Dancing with the Stars here and there. I prefer to see scripted TV with great acting. Well-scripted TV, that is. I’m not sure Grey’s Anatomy falls under that category anymore. The show ER was pretty realistic though. That one did consult doctors. I think they even had them on the set while filming, and it showed because it was pretty factually correct.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, I can’t say as a resident I didn’t enjoy a beer or two post-call… But it was always from my home. I was too exhausted to ever go out!

      Like

  12. Your Moderate Mama

    I’ve never watched GA but one time… when I lived in an apartment. .. I was working out, living room style, and my “oh so sunny” neighbor below me comes up stairs… bangs on my door and proceeds to chew me out for being too loud while her and her girlfriends watch Gray ‘ s Anatomy (said in a deep Texas accent)

    Now anytime I see GA I read it in a Texas accent. .. which I have an accent too but mine is not so country!

    She would also hit the ceiling while my husband and I were having sex…

    at 9pm.

    I love my house!!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, yes, I remember apartment life well. Can’t say I miss it! But I do miss having a landlord or landlady whose responsibility it was to take care of things if they went wrong. Now it’s up to my hubs and I. That’s not so fun.

      That’s funny about your neighbor. Now whenever I see the words “Grey’s Anatomy,” I’ll read them with a Texan accent, too. 🙂

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  13. Perfecting Motherhood

    I gave up on Grey’s Anatomy a few years ago, after they had that plane crash. I got really tired of them killing half the cast at the end of each season, on top of everybody sleeping with everybody. And you’re right, the show has looked less and less realistic over the years. I think they wanted to be different from ER (which was a much better show, in my opinion), so they went for the sensational and gossipy time. I don’t have TV anymore so I watch shows online only, and honestly I can’t remember the last time I did that. Every show ends up running for way too long, trying to milk dollars out of it till the last drop.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      I should watch shows online, or at least get NetFlix. I have a handful of shows I watch regularly and skip everything else. Would probably be cheaper. I liked ER too. That was one of the most realistic. Sure, they had a lot of high-stakes drama, but as viewers we like that. But at least they kept the day-to-day medical stuff fairly realistic. Well, except for when the surgeon got his arm chopped off by a helicopter blade…

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