Critical Reflection on Hospital and Doctor Roles in 'Grey’s Anatomy'

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Television hospital shows like Grey’s Anatomy in the past, as well as the present-day do not depict the real-life hospital and doctor roles. According to (Health Enews Staff) far fewer patients go straight from the emergency room to the operating room in real-life compared to the high percentage of television hospital shows. Injured patients on television shows spend less than a week in the hospital. In reality, most injured patients spend much more time in the hospital. Residents’ lives are portrayed as exciting, dramatic whirlwinds instead of being difficult as in real-life situations. “In the 1960s and 1970s television doctors, heroes such as Dr. Kildare and Marcus Welby populated the airways, and the 1994 premieres of ER and Chicago Hope ushered in a new era in which programs prided on using medical jargon, making storylines as accurate as possible without sacrificing entertainment value, and hiring medical professionals to serve on the writing staff” (Hoffman 1).

The danger with many medical TV shows is that they usually paint an unrealistic image of medicine and make unrealistic expectations. According to (Health Enews Staff) the majority of patients receiving CPR survive the code, which is not true, In reality, most patients do not survive cardiac arrest in the emergency room, if they do, they will likely spend the rest of their lives in the hospital. The rate of deaths due to trauma on medical shows is three times more than in real life. Medical dramas often overglaze the lives of residents giving false information, also making it seem like it’s exciting, fun, and dramatic. The shows also make real-world residency seem less stressful. Residents on the show are somewhat lightly punished for their offenses, but in the real world, the incident would dismiss them from the program. Trainee residents at a real-world hospital will not find themselves assigned to a particular case for just one day, instead, they will work that particular case for at least a month. Real-life stats show that patients are more likely to suffer from injuries and diseases at a young age. Other studies show that examining the treatment of different types of illnesses that are found and other diseases are higher in real life. Furthermore, television doctors participate in patient-centered communication behaviors. They rarely engage in other behaviors like patient education this type of behavior has a potential influence on viewers, especially in the healthcare profession. Medical shows are like powerful machines for communicating health messages. Grey’s Anatomy claims a degree of perceived realism that could generate factual discussion versus the narrative comments and could be useful in assessing the reaction to medical information.

Although most hospital administrators do not contact the patient directly thus the impact of their decisions may not be as obvious with direct patient contact. On TV medical dramas, residents are allowed to make medical decisions and perform procedures without an attendant's approval, it does not happen in the real world (Health Enews Staff 2). In real life, some patients do not want to be seen by residents because they are still learning how to be doctors. In some cases, patients in an academic hospital receive better care and have improved mortality rates (Health Enews Staff 2).

TV medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy, have to boost ratings by showing unrealistic skits sometimes. For example, they portray residents’ lives as being exciting and dramatic whirlwinds, medical students who view this is shocked and disillusioned when they finally rotate through surgery and find out what the surgical world is like (Kirzner 1). TV shows like Code Black, show residents going into operating rooms for cases like heart transplants. This rarely happens in real life. These residents are usually seen on the floor taking care of patients. their duties include drawing labs, ordering nurses, getting social workers for patients, connecting patients with their families, and getting patients' signatures on consent forms (Kirzner 1).

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Grey’s Anatomy makes no difference in resident precedence, “In most surgery residency programs, junior residents report to the senior residents, who turn the report to the attending physicians” (Kirzner 2). In real life, if an intern goes past a chief to bring significant patient information to an attending, it would annoy both chiefs and attenders (Kirzner 2). The scheduling of residents on TV dramas is not realistic. They move around to different surgeries each day, in reality, residents are scheduled for a particular service for about a month. Residents do not arrive to work and pick what service they want based on their attendance position.

Therefore general surgery residents cannot change programs as they do on Grey’s Anatomy. They have to switch residency programs to do so, a patient in surgery has to have her intubation tube taped to hold it in place because if it slips, the patient could go into respiratory distress and die (Kirzner 3). In Grey’s Anatomy, the patient’s eyes are never taped shut. In reality, the eyes are taped shut because the surgical patient can get corneal abrasions. Grey’s Anatomy does not follow realistic medical procedures because the show is fiction and is only for entertainment. Code Black is another TV medical show that has been canceled, as the title suggests, code Black is on an influx of patients so great, there are not enough resources to treat them (Hoffman 224). Realistically the average hospital is in Code Black only about five times a year until every day in the TV show. In hospitals doctors engage in minimal patient communication behaviors, they usually do not engage in patient education (Hoffman 244).

Ryan McGary graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He wanted a career as a doctor or filmmaker, he found out in 2005 that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and decided to become a doctor, he was doing a rotation at Los Angeles County Hospital and decided to film a documentary. McGarry became the executive producer of Code Black. He wanted to write and direct episodes of the show once he learned the ropes. McGarry wanted the medical show to capture the transformative experience of an actual ER physician. Code Black is much more realistic than other TV medical shows because McGarry is a real doctor. This meant that he could use his medical knowledge when writing and directing the shows. The cast of Code Black ultimately understood and submitted to is that it is not medicine, it is an amazing amount of intimacy and human drama that is involved.

New Amsterdam is another more realistic medical drama. “It is based on a nonfiction book called Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, written by Eric Manheimer, who was the medical director of the oldest public hospital in the U.S.” (Idato 2). The goal is to tell how it is to provide medical care in large hospitals. New Amsterdam deals with the funding and insurance concerns and tons of issues dealt with a real-life hospital. The show’s lead medical, Dr. Max Goodwin is played by Ryan Eggold he was drawn to the show because it has a sense of authenticity which is rare for a medical drama (Idato 3). The TV drama is based on real experiences with real patients and someone who is battling cancer, the main character in this drama has to deal with his cancer, while also running an enormous public hospital. New Amsterdam is realistic because it deals with the conservation these days about issues and health care. The director, Kate Dennis takes that which exists on paper and visualizes it, and makes it walk and talk and come alive. “The series also makes an unexpected observation about high-profile doctors in the era of professional celebrity, in Dr. Goodwin’s clash with the telegenic and over-scheduled Dr. Helen Sharpe in the opening episodes of the series (Idato 3).

Grey’s Anatomy like other TV medical dramas, does not depict real-life doctors and hospitals. A more recent show Code Black is realistic to a certain extent. A University of Pittsburgh medical student, Ryan McGarry was a resident at Los Angeles county hospital who filmed a documentary during a rotation at the facility. This is how Code Black was created since Mc Garry was a doctor, he was more able to make the drama real. New Amsterdam is another medical drama. It is based on a nonfiction book called Twelve Patients: Life And Death at Bellevue Hospital, some medical dramas are less real because it is on TV and viewers want to be entertained. The more realistic ones are inspired by sources with real medical knowledge.

Works Cited

  1. Health Enews Staff. “Just how realistic is Grey’s Anatomy.” 19 Jan. 2019,
  2. Hoffman, B.L “Use Of Twitter to assess viewer reactions to the medical drama, Code Black.” Journal of Health communications, vol. 23 , 2018, pp. 244-253
  3. Idato, M. “At last, an anatomically correct TV medical drama”. Fairfax Media publications Pty Limited. 28 Jan. 2019,
  4. Kirzner, A. “Grey’s Anatomy vs. Real-life residency: you already know how this turns out, The Do, 2014, pp. 1-3.
  5. Owen, R. “CBS Code Black tells the real ER story”. 30 Sept. 2015,
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Critical Reflection on Hospital and Doctor Roles in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
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