What is the most accurate medical show on television?

Believe it or not, some say it’s Scrubs.

Aside from the goofy and absurd moments, I’ve always found that the anecdotes in the show hit the right notes of medical training. Far more than, say, House or Grey’s Anatomy.

Slate agrees in this essay, and explains why: “Scrubs . . . is mostly about what happens at hospitals between crises””the way doctors and nurses handle ordinary cases. And doctors say that as a depiction of the residency process, the show hits strikingly familiar emotional notes. J.D. narrates nearly every episode in a voice-over, setting up jokes and transitions between bits, but also describing his thoughts and insecurities. Doctors say they recognize in J.D.’s internal monologue the real thought processes of a young doctor at work.”

I have to say, that somewhat rings true.

(via Duncan Cross)

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  • roger

    While the show might hit the right emotional notes at times, it’s medicine is nearly as unrealistic as House. I don’t watch Gray’s, so can’t comment on that. To me, the most realistic show was ER. Sure, it compounded the cases in such a way as to be unlikely to occur at any one hospital, if you can imagine the show as a series of highlights about life in the ER, it was the closest to being realistic.

  • Anonymous

    yes… except that i don’t remember everyone in residency being upbeat and having a good sense of humor… all the time. most of us were perpetually surly and sleep deprived.

  • Anonymous

    I remember watching the first season of Scrubs during medical school and there was a scene in one of the first episodes that rang so true. Remember when JD is examing this older man in the hospital on his daily rounds and the guy is sleeping. His lunch tray is sitting there and JD is so hungry he grabs a bite of the sandwich sitting there. That’s when I knew that the writers truly understood.

  • Anonymous

    I hate when medicine is manipulated for the purpose of the story. The worst example from Scrubs is when they did a temporal artery biopsy before getting an ESR. The intern then learned a lesson about some crap.

    I was screaming “SED RATE” at the tv.

  • Dr. Mary Johnson

    In terms of a doctor’s feelings and emotions, I think “Scrubs” is very honest. As Anon 1:47 points out, the medicine is sometimes dubious.

    If anyone thinks that “House M.D” acurately protrays the practice of medicine in any way, they need their head examined by Dr. Phil – or better yet, by Jennifer Melfi.

    “ER” lost me early on . . . when studly George Clooney – a Peds ED fellow – cracked the chest of a baby with Left Hypoplastic Heart Syndrome in order to repair a malfuntioning shunt. He didn’t slow down to consult Neonatology, Cardiology, or CardioThoracic surgery (the viewer was supposed to believe/accept that delicious George had the training to muck around in a baby’s chest). As a good physician-friend of mine had recently lost her baby to LHHS (I knew she was watching), I was not amused at the totally irresponsible way the subject was handled.

    I think the show that most accurately depicted the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a big hospital was “Chicago Hope”. The larger-than-life personalities, the God-complexes and the lawyers all intertwined around the dramatic license in an amazingly realistic way.

  • Alex

    I’ve always told friends and family that Scurbs is the closest thing to what I do at work. I also like the how the seasonal progression keeps on pace with the yearly graduation rate for the interns to residents to fellows and attendings.

  • Anonymous

    by Family Doctor
    Well, that’s rather vindicating news. I’ve been saying this privately for years among my friends (none of whom happen to be doctors) and I’ve yet to get anything but a wary ‘arched eyebrow’ in response.

    I’ve always said that what goes on in JD’s head is closer to what actually goes on in my head, in a similar situation, than anything a character might be heard to utter aloud on any of the other doctor shows.

    After reading the lead, I got to thinking, If Scrubs portrays what the hospital is really like in between crises (and I think that’s not an unreasonable description) the other shows portray only the uncommon juicy gobbets – taking the one or two really interesting things that might happen at a hospital in a month, or over a year, or even over the course of a whole career, and they compact them all into every single episode. The distortion makes it appear as if life is sexy 95% of the time, and banal only 5% of the time, when actually just the reverse is really true. But this is just the standard form for all television drama: “TV is like life, except with all of the boring parts cut out.”

    When JD navigates an awkward situation I often feel like I’m right there with him, at least in spirit.

    In contrast it’s somewhat more unusual for me to commit felony breaking and entering into a hospitalized patient’s home so that I can rummage through his medicine chest.

    And honestly, even during residency, only rarely did I have hot steamy sex with a beautiful nurse or intern just behind a curtain in the emergency department.

  • wanna_be_DO

    It’s very interesting – I and most of my physician colleagues have always felt that Scrubs is the most realistic portrayal of medicine on television, especially its first few seasons. Yet most non-medical people I know perceive House or ER as the most realistic (thankfully pretty much everyone realizes that Gray’s Anatomy is ridiculous in this regard).

  • ChiefMyrtleBeach

    None of the shows are built for realistic hospital actions, they’re written for drama, the actual job takes back seat.

  • Kerry

    Must agree. Scrubs is hilarious and unrealistic, but the internal monlogue is very like my own. It’s sensitive and insightful to the weird surreal world of doctoring. Real gems at times

    House? Schmouse – awful medicine