Myth 1: The hospital corridors are filled with Doctor McDreamy and McSteamy
Firstly, Dr McDreamy doesn’t exist (except for my husband of course – can we please ensure he sees this?). Secondly, if this doctor does exist he is usually over worked, exhausted and prematurely balding. In reality, the doctors roaming the hospital are more like Dr Webber – an ageing man who looks like he’s worked 20 hours every day for the past 16 years. And usually, he has done exactly that.
If there does happen to be the Unicorn (as I refer to them) he is usually aware of his effect on those with a beating heart, which dulls the shiny appeal. McDreamy, as true fans will know, was an all-round decent kind guy (skip the part where he had an affair whilst married to the super-hot Dr Montgomery which let’s be honest, I would have picked over Meredith- just saying). He was charmingly attractive with flecks of grey hair that gradually became more and more prominent as the seasons wore on; and somehow, he only got more attractive – the first thing that is strikingly different to real life. The other reality; the Unicorn is usually physically attractive but with serious personality flaws, or he’s just not that good at his job. This all round decent bloke who looks like George Clooney and cuts out brain tumours without breaking a sweat just isn’t how it is – sorry guys. So, before you purposely fall over to get into a hospital and snag the McSteamy, think again – you’re more likely to get a prematurely ageing moderately nice guy; but if you’re not picky, go for it!
Myth 2: Being a hospital doctor is glamorous
If only the hospital life were as glamorous as Grey’s Anatomy. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I saw a doctor in a clean pair of scrubs –there’s usually blood, urine, faeces or a portion of their lunch on there. Usually the bodily fluids are not their own; the key word being usually – after 20 hours straight in the hospital it’s hard to know sometimes. Honestly, (please don’t get upset) I don’t like Meredith Grey – I find her irritating and the notion that she is destined for greatness because her mother was a great surgeon is preposterous. I have, however, always enjoyed the producers attempts to make Meredith look slightly dishevelled but still glamorous– they chuck her hair in a low pony tail (that is somehow still perfectly wispy) like she’s just rocked up to work like any normal on-call doctor. Mate – I can tell you she looks better on her worst day then most of us in the hospital look like on our best. The lighting is the main issue – yes, I am going to blame the lights and not the ridiculous hours you work and subsequent fatigue. You could be Miranda Kerr but those hospital lights all day every day start making you look grey. I’m brown, and even I started to look grey when I worked in the hospital.
Christina and Meredith used to have some pretty cracking lunches in the cafeteria- they would debrief over fancy salads and smoothies. To be honest I survived on Bega cheese during my internship – the fridge in the doctor’s lounge was loaded with the stuff so constipation and reflux were a normal part of my life back then. A smoothie was unheard of – firstly, where the hell do you get it from? And secondly, if you are THINKING of leaving the hospital to get 1 you’re either on a cruisy psychiatry rotation or not doing your job properly.
Myth 3: These doctors can do it all – literally; have a love life, operate on the entire body and do tequila shots!
Perhaps the most unrealistic part of the show is the wide scope in which each doctor practises. It seems Maggie Pierce (you know Meredith’s long-lost half-sister?) can fix a fractured ankle, drill a hole in the skull, put a chest drain in and intubate the patient – all whilst whinging about the fact that the guy she likes actually likes her sister who is still in love with the ghost of her dead husband (this is not an exaggeration, this is the story line I have watched play out on my television screen). Let me tell you, in reality we doctors are all so subspecialised and constrained by bureaucracy (and medical indemnity) that no one would dare step into anyone else’s area. If Dr Hunt put a hole in someone’s skull to drain a bleed around the brain I can assure you Dr Shepherd would have strangled him – crossing territories DOES NOT happen. If you’re the orthopod fixing the leg you stay down there. They would never dare cross the threshold of the waist and fix the nerve laceration that the plastic surgeon is working on (and honesty, you don’t want them to – you want each doctor staying in their small territory of practice!). Oh and no one can intubate the patient but the anaesthetist (in between Sudoku and crosswords of course) – Dr Hunt and Dr Shepherd and every doctor in Seattle Grace throwing tubes down throats is hilarious. This multi-talented “I can operate on any part of the body” doctor simply doesn’t exist.
The other thing I have to mention given we often don’t talk about this as a profession (and if we do it’s on 60 minutes and generates a flicker of discussion before we go back to our old ways) –there is no way that you would ever have these numbers of women in surgical training. Grey, Torres, Robbins, Bailey, Wilson, Kepner, Grey (the little one), Shepard (the neurosurgeon sister of McDreamy– what a talented family just quietly), Edwards, Montgomery, Pearce, Teddy (the only one I’ll refer to by her first name because it’s just such a goodie – remember Christina’s mentor there for a while?) – you will never ever find this many women in surgery in the real world. Blunt Preeya for a moment – firstly, it’s a seriously hard life and part-timing with a family is nearly impossible – the women who have done it are the true Unicorns and I take my hat off to them! Secondly, it’s an incredibly hard battle in a male dominated field – do these women not get into training because they are women? Once they get in (if they ever do) do they have a very high-powered microscope on them because they are in fact a “woman”? I know that as a profession we desperately want to believe that it is all equal – but I think if we are honest we know that women in surgery cop it much much more than their male counterparts. Unfortunately, if you’re looking at the show thinking “wow women are right in there cutting shit up” – it isn’t the truth – sure there are women but they’re not flooding the air time like you might think (but then again, perhaps this is just a microcosm of a much broader issue in society).
Myth 4: Love is in the air in the hospital; its thick and steamy and foggy with love right?
Remember Izzy and Denny? He was the heart transplant patient she fell in love with. Sorry to burst the Izzy-Denny bubble (because I know how much everyone loved that story line), in reality you would be reported to the medical board for crossing the boundary with a patient. So as opposed to flash-backs and love scenes you would get a letter stating you were under investigation and there may also be hand cuffs involved (and not the good kind). Falling in love with a patient is a big no-no in the real world.
The best part of Grey’s for me was the social banter; the scenes at the house (when the gang all lived together back in the day) and the pub. They would get drunk and debrief on their patients and love lives. Truth be told, we used to do this – so perhaps the show is indeed based on fact! We did get drunk on most Friday nights the minute the pager stopped beeping. In hindsight (because I’m now older and wiser) it was self-medication – it was an attempt to numb the fatigue and anxiety (did I somehow contribute to that patient’s downfall? Should I have prescribed the potassium? Should I have given that patient some stronger pain relief?). The hospital I did my internship at had a doctors’ bar on the top level – I say the word “bar” loosely – it was a room with a fridge full of beer and ‘wine’, a pool table and some seriously unhygienic couches (which you would inevitably nap on during night shift waking with an itchy face from where your bare skin had touched it). My goodness the interns and residents would relish the Friday night drinks – sometimes a training physician (Alex Karev like) would join us and roam between the mere interns like a God. You would rarely see a surgical registrar in there – usually they were still actually working at 8PM on a Friday!
In fact, reality is the complete opposite to Grey’s Anatomy – where the show is focussed around training surgeons and their work and love life; reality is that the training surgeons don’t have one – a life that is. And for me, that’s the funniest part of this whole thing! The notion that McDreamy and Meredith would lie in bed talking and debating their marriage is preposterous. Don’t even get me started on Avery and Kepner, Owen and Christina or Owen and little Sherpard being items – this many surgeon + surgeon couples is unheard of and unsustainable (which is probably why only a quarter of them actually stayed together). If a surgeon is married to a surgeon in real life the chances of them sharing a bed and discussing anything at all is remote, trust me. One is usually going to be on call, interstate, operating, writing a paper or just making a junior doctor’s life hell – and one will be in bed thinking about all the stuff they need to do tomorrow.
Myth 5: CPR is easy-peasy and when a code is called smoking hot doctors run from cupboards, stairwells and cafeterias to save you
Will and I love watching the scenes on any show where they do CPR effortlessly – talking to each other and bouncing around the chest like Emma Wiggle on steroids (yes our family is in the Rock a Bye Bear phase – if you don’t know this reference you’re just not a true Wiggle fan and I won’t be humouring you). CPR is hard work. I can do a maximum 3-4 minutes and when I collapse next to the body I’m usually panting and sweaty – I don’t look like Kepner with her flowing hair and glistening cheeks and I’m not certainly not wearing a white coat (um no one really does I hate to tell you; and if you do most of the hospital are pissing themselves laughing at you behind your back). You can’t carry out a conversation whilst doing CPR. And you certainly don’t go as fast as they show you on the TV show – you don’t give the blood enough time to exit the heart and perfuse the brain if you’re too quick! (Let’s be serious for one moment. The compressions alone are unlikely to start the heart – the drugs we give, the shocks we deliver – that’s what gets the heart pumping again. The compressions are to keep the brain and heart muscle somewhat perfused with blood so that if we succeed with the resuscitation these organs are viable. OK, that’s the serious part over.)
There you have it – the show deconstructed for you, by someone who has worked in the system. I’m sorry to burst the bubble but Grey’s Anatomy certainly isn’t reality, it’s not even close, but truth be told I love the show, I still sometimes tune in to season 109 to see Meredith talk with her high-pitched whispery voice and Karev still act like the bad boy despite being 45 years old. A part of me, despite having worked in the system, still thinks maybe there are places where it’s like that – smoking hot doctors running around sleeping with each other and operating on the brain and ankle at the same time. Sometimes I wonder if I bombed out with the hospital I did my internship at, should I have applied to Seattle Grace instead? But deep deep down my soul who has worn scrubs flecked with urine (let’s not get into whose it was) and nursed an anxious stomach for 12 hours as I roamed from bedside to bedside as an intern knows, it just isn’t the case.
And I know what you’re all desperate to know, “Preeya, who would you have been on Grey’s?” – it’s a tough question and I can feel the pressure and scrutiny you will place on my answer. But if I had to choose – Dr Addison Montgomery. Nothing to do with being an obstetrician because I quite like having a life and delivering babies is seriously stressful, but because she was cool, had a kick arse name (and hair), loads of attitude and I would really like my own spin off show. Her next show Private Practice was MUCH more realistic –smoking hot doctors working in private practice together in a beachy town, sleeping with each other and still maintaining professional relationships whilst also maintain stunning hair and makeup. That show was far more realistic!