Is Emergency Medicine Anything Like TV Shows (Grey’s, House, Etc)? - Prep For Med School

Is Emergency Medicine Anything Like TV Shows (Grey’s, House, Etc)?

Is Emergency Medicine Anything Like TV Shows (Grey’s, House, Etc)

Fact vs Fiction – How medical TV dramas fare in imitating the reality of everyday life at the hospital. 

Despite the long hours I spend at the hospital as an emergency medicine resident, I am still guilty of getting sucked into a good medical drama. One of the biggest questions I get is whether the hospital is truly like the way they are portrayed on television? Here are some of my favorite guilty medical drama pleasures, and some commentary on how they fare against the real world!

Grey’s Anatomy

Hospital Relationships

When you spend this much time in the hospital with your co-workers, love is bound to happen. And it does happen in the hospital! Relationships come and go in the hospital, and at least in mine, there’s really not that much of a stigma of individuals dating within the same level – IE resident and resident, or attending physician dating an attending physician.

If there’s a ‘boss’ dating a junior – referring specifically to the most quintessential couple in medical drama history – Derek Shepherd and Meredith Grey, all hell breaks loose. And that’s probably why they kept it a secret to bypass the gossip! There are always whispers that this occurs in the hospital, but it’s pretty rare and never validated. 


 Fiction – There’s relationship drama in the hospital, but not THAT much drama. 

Work Hours

Grey’s Anatomy follows Meredith Grey from residency to an attending physician. The representation of residency is quite true, especially for surgical fields. Surgery residents often stay for 24+ hours at a time in the hospital, managing care for 20-30+ patients sometimes. 

Living accommodations are commonplace in teaching hospitals such as Seattle Grace, where you can shower and sleep if time permits. The attending lifestyle is much better, hence the transition to a clearly less stressed Grey in terms of her career. 


Fact. Grey’s Anatomy does a great job of representing this. It was nice that this was acknowledged in the early seasons of the show. 

House, MD.

The Problem-Solving

House, MD was made for the medical school nerd. My classmates and I used to try to solve the medical mystery before House did – we almost always lost. The unique thing about House is the way teamwork is presented. House has a team of physicians that work under him, from an array of different specialties pitching their thoughts on the case. 

I’ve worked at a variety of hospitals – county, inner-city, academic, and suburban community hospitals. Generally, a patient will be under a primary-care team, such as internal medicine or an ICU team, and specialty services will be consulted to offer their advice on how to approach the specific question that they were consulted on.

 Although there’s a lot of teamwork going on in House, from everything to roundtable discussions and bedside procedures they perform together, this isn’t the case for real-life medicine. Physicians instead communicate through the medical record, and more times than not, physical communication doesn’t even occur. 


Fiction. Unfortunately, the drama and the intensity of in-person medical problem-solving isn’t all that it amounts to be in real life.

The Resident

The Politics

In the first season of the Resident, the main character is at war with some sort of academic director/attending. Throughout the first season, he fights with this adversary, in a manner similar to Batman vs. ‘insert enemy here.’ They fight on topics from political inequalities in the hospital hierarchy to medical ethics. 


Fiction. First off, this is one courageous resident! The main character consistently defies his superiors, and in my experience, this rarely happens. It is true – medicine is an art. At times I may not agree with my attending physician and will make an alternative suggestion.

In the end, it is the attending physician’s decision to agree or deny my suggestion. 

As for the political inequalities associated with residency? Of course it happens! Most hospitals are operated under a large corporation where changes aren’t possible unless a policy is voted upon. 

What medical drama is your favorite? What aspects of medical dramas do you enjoy the most? Knowing that everything isn’t always to the book in these shows, does this deter you from watching? Comment down below with your thoughts.

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