What Soap Operas Get Wrong About Hospitals

No one wants to spend any time in a hospital – unless you are having a baby or an elective surgery you’ve planned for yourself. They’re sterile (obviously, this is not a bad thing, but you know what we mean), they’re cold, and they’re impersonal. They’re also emotional, and they are filled with people who are dealing with some of the worst days of their lives. From finding out they’re losing a loved one to worrying endlessly about a surgery to wondering if their lives will forever change with one test, hospitals are generally not happy places to spend time. However, they’re also not much like you see on the television screen. From soap operas like “General Hospital,” to primetime shows to medical movies, television – the soaps, particularly – tend to get a lot wrong when it comes to hospitals. So, what aren’t they don’t right?

The PAC

Way back when – meaning the 1950s – television studios formed something called the Physician’s Advisory Group (the PAC) to help them figure out how to most accurately portray a medical setting, how to have their doctors and medical professionals speak, and so on. That trend has evolved in the past 70-something years, and it’s turned into shows and studios simply hiring their own consultants from the medical field. These consultants work to ensure that medical dramas and scenes are as accurately portrayed as possible, and that’s how they do things.

Soaps and Medical Dramas

The simple fact of the matter is that soap operas are meant to be nothing short of dramatic and entertaining, and few people are as unconcerned as those who work in soaps if things aren’t quite accurate. After all, they’re the ones telling you that you can literally steal someone’s face to put over your own and peel it off at will after tricking their friends and family for months on end without even a hint of suspicion.

That’s the first thing hospitals are not accurately showing in soaps. They’re, plain and simple, not as worried about accuracy as a medical drama might. For example, the people filming shows like “ER,” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” are likely more concerned with the accuracy and representation of a hospital than “General Hospital,” staff. It’s all right; it’s not meant to be super believable.

What’s Wrong?

Blood is always wrong on a soap. It’s not nearly as dramatic as it is on television when it happens in a medical setting. When a surgery goes awry on a soap and someone hits an artery, for example, it’s going to bleed fast and furiously, but it’s not going to splatter across masks and gowns and faces. It’s all more dramatic on television.

Surgeries just anywhere are not realistic, either. Sure, there are times when an emergency surgery is planned in a hospital, but you won’t really see a doctor on a plane or in a car or on the side of the road performing emergency surgery to help a patient survive while using whatever they have at their disposal to do it.

Bullet removal never just happens at the scene of a crime, either. That bullet is in the body until the patient is in the hospital, in a sterile and safe operating room. A doctor in a public setting might do anything they can to stop the bleeding, to keep a patient from passing out, etc., but they are not removing anything from the body in the moment.

Emergency tracheotomies with straws and whatever is on hand? It’s completely inaccurate. In fact, medical professionals state that while doctors and medical pros are taught to perform an emergency trach not in a hospital setting, they have kits they should keep on their persona at all times. They forget them in the soaps, though, so a straw often has to do.

Instant shots that take patients down don’t happen. In fact, when real doctors have an agitated patient – like a prison inmate – those injections take as many as 10 minutes to knock out a patient and make them calm. Soaps make it work instantly, but it doesn’t.

It’s All in Good Fun

There are so many things that happen when you’re watching television that would never happen in a real hospital. For instance, doctors performing whatever procedures they want without any repercussions? Not happening in real life. Doctors and nurses being impersonated by people who aren’t medical professionals in the middle of surgeries and whatnot? Yeah, that’s not happening either. The one thing that we know soaps get right is the interpersonal relationships between those who work in their hospitals. That, and this is something I’ve heard from people I know who work in hospitals as nurses, doctors, admins, etc., happens more than you might imagine. So, there you go. It’s not all wrong.

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