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Below: David Epstein, MD, addresses what TV medical dramas can offer us as to what it is like being a doctor, in their own special way.

There’s the old saying about art imitating life or life imitating art.

Either way, there is always some reflection of truth about the one or the other.

In medicine, this is also the case.
I see some truth reflected in TV medical dramas about medicine.
So, what can TV medical dramas teach you about being a doctor?

TV Medical Dramas Capture Attention

TV medical dramas are aimed at creating a sensational perspective of medicine to make it exciting and action-packed.
The creators want to capture people’s attention and create dedicated viewership.
There is nothing wrong with that.
However, one could spend an inordinate amount of time pointing out the vast number of medical inaccuracies seen in each episode.
TV medical dramas aim to present mysterious medical diagnoses, pressure-filled and life-and-death medical scenarios, and a vast array of interpersonal interactions among the medical staff, patients, families, and others to create drama.
While these dramas churn out a dizzying number of intense scenarios that an average human would be traumatized by if they had to deal with them day-in and day-out, there is some truth to the foundations of these creations.

Real Emotions and Interactions are Portrayed

While not every person on the medical team is romantically involved with one another, the interpersonal interactions and personal feelings portrayed in a drama can be quite accurate at times.
The interpersonal and personal themes that we encounter as physicians include, but are not limited to, conflict, joy, sadness, confusion, self-doubt, anger, love, hate, apathy, anxiety, depression, connectedness, disconnectedness, and many others.

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The point is that these dramas reflect the human condition and try to convey real human interactions and emotions.
Doctors are human and are subject to everything that comes with being human.
So, as extreme as TV medical dramas can seem with regard to the manufactured drama, one must realize that the scenarios and interpersonal interactions did not materialize out of thin air.

Art Imitates Life

There is a basis for how humans behave and interact with one another in these dramas.
Doctors are human and are subject to everything that comes with being human.
So, in these cases, art does imitate life…although a bit sensationalized at times.
TV medical dramas can be a window into the world of medicine and show a little about what being a doctor is like.
Nevertheless, one would be surprised at how truth can be so much stranger than fiction and how real-life medicine can be so much more sensational than that of the medical dramas seen on TV.
Do you feel that TV medical dramas somewhat accurately reflect what it is like to be a doctor?

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David Epstein, MD, MS, FAAP

Dr. Epstein is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric critical care medicine. He has a passion for community education and advocacy online and focuses on acute care pediatric topics.

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