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Laugh, cringe, facepalm: healthcare clinician reactions to medical TV

Click to any random channel – or open any of the various streaming services – and you won’t have to scroll for long before hitting a medical drama. They can be captivating, fun and suspenseful, but what are they failing to capture about how medicine works in real life? Tryon Medical Partners staff weigh in with some of their pet peeves about how healthcare is depicted in the media. 

Pet peeve #1: TV would lead you to believe that all healthcare professionals are in it for the money.

As it turns out, not every healthcare professional is zipping around in a sports car in between appointments. While many healthcare professionals can make a decent living doing their jobs, their motivation is primarily keeping their patients healthy and feeling good. For many healthcare professionals, it feels like a vocation. 

Dr. Barnard at Tryon’s Uptown location says it best: “Our profession is truly a calling, and one that takes an extreme amount of perseverance and hard work. For me, the greatest rewards are not material; rather, my satisfaction and joy comes from the ongoing relationships with patients over years and decades.”

Pet peeve #2: Difficult cases are not solved in the course of a day, as TV shows may imply.

Although it is satisfying to watch a difficult case resolve in a 45-minute episode, this doesn’t reflect realistic timelines. Oftentimes it takes days, even weeks, to identify the problem and address the symptoms. This can set unrealistic expectations for patients expecting their healthcare issues to be solved immediately. 

“I hate that the media makes it seem that all medical issues can be fixed with one visit, like one prescription or one test,” Olivia Furr, a medical assistant at the Matthews location points out. “Doctors are humans, not all-knowing gods. It could take time, but know that we all have your best interest in mind.”

Pet peeve #3: On TV, there are no sad endings.

Tryon specializes in primary and preventive care, the goal of which is to keep patients healthy and out of the emergency department. While providing care in internal medicine, endocrinology, dermatology and other essential specialties are important, they lack the life-or-death drama that drives ratings and viewership.

In real life, one of the most difficult parts of being a healthcare professional is knowing that not all patients will survive their illness or injury. TV and movies often avoid this truth. 

“Something that has always bothered me about healthcare in the media is the success rate of resuscitation, ” says Dr. Briones of the Ballantyne location, referring to a life-threatening medical emergency like cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. “On TV, the patient is always saved, it doesn’t always work out that way in the real world.”

Pet peeve #4: TV massively underestimates support staff required in day- to-day healthcare.

In movies and TV shows, the doctors and nurses are shown doing all of their own paperwork, tests and examinations. In reality, medicine is a team sport and there are plenty of individuals involved at every stage. Tryon’s care team approach, for example, is a system in which clinicians team up to provide an experienced and expanded practice. Instead of relying on just one clinician to provide your care, you can have a whole team behind you.

“What has always irked me is that TV shows only doctors and nurses and how they read and do everything,” Christine Sheveily, a Nuclear Cardiology Technologist at the Southpark location emphasizes. “There is no mention or highlighting of the rest of the healthcare workers like radiology, pharmacy, lab and all the rest.” 

Tryon patients know their care teams are among the best around, and they love to chat TV! Reach out to Tryon today to schedule an appointment.