Who does not like those great looking doctors on TV. Plus, medical television shows are filled with drama, romance, and life-and-death situations. While these shows can be exciting, they’re often not representative of what really goes on in hospitals. Here are five myths about doctors and medicine that Hollywood frequently puts out there, along with four surprising tropes it often gets right:
Being a doctor is all about diagnosing and treating patients
The paperwork and red tape are endless! Dealing with insurance companies is a much bigger part of medical life than is shown on TV. In real life, doctors have to deal with a massive volume of bureaucracy. Obviously that does make a great TV story. Tons of charting and paperwork also comes with the job. For example, a primary care doctor might spend a good portion of each day completing forms for patients, calling insurance companies for authorizations, or talking to pharmacies about patient prescriptions.
A hospital is not such a great place to have a romance
With all of the romantic intrigue and affair going down in so many TV medical shows it’s fair to ask how some of these physician protagonists have any time left over to treat patients. Of course, romance can happen between doctors in real life. However, most of them just don’t have the time to hook up in empty hospital rooms between shifts. Also, inappropriate behavior in the hospital could probably really hurt your career. There is a code of professional conduct and official regulations governing staff behavior at every hospital or medical center. Most doctors adhere to and respect these rules of professional behavior. Also worth pointing out that despite what you see on television, not all medical teams are composed of young, attractive singles! Finally, Hospitals and medical centers have explicit rules governing the relationships between healthcare providers and patients. Doctors on TV might flirt with their patients, but real-life doctors almost certainly don’t.
Physicians are not magicians
Most people don’t fully understand medicine. For example, Doctors on medical shows often seem to diagnose rare conditions based on just a few conversations with the patient or a simple blood tests. In many cases, it’s not likely that a single doctor or test will be able to pinpoint the problem at a glance. Fictional depictions of medicine can make it look more like magic than anything else. Hollywood doesn’t understand just how specialized the medical field is. All too often, TV programs depict a doctor performing all types of duties that would often be spread among a handful of specialists and other health care professionals, such as physicians assistants and nurse practitioners. These “jack of all trades” doctors live only in the imaginations of screenplay writers.
In real life the doctor mostly just asks questions. The nurses and various techs do the majority of the hands on stuff. TV shows often feature a doctor giving medication, drawing blood, performing an EKG, CPR, even being in the same room during any given radiological procedure. The do indeed have the knowledge and training to provide very important answers. Medical shows often show doctors and surgeons sitting with patients at their bedsides, monitoring their vitals, and helping them walk around after treatment. In real life, however, nurses and other medical staff take care of the majority of bedside care.
Medical shows don’t show the high cost of medical care
Medical costs are the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the US. It is hard to find TV any discussions or conversation about the cost of treatment. Perhaps those are not very sexy conversations. It’s also rare that medical programs show patients filling out reams of insurance paperwork. The healthcare systems in many countries, however, can mean that patients are often saddled with massive medical bills as a result of their treatment. This is sadly a real-life part of healthcare that isn’t normally depicted in television shows.