What TV Shows get wrong about Emergency Rooms

What TV Shows get wrong about Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms on TV are always buzzing with action and drama. Doctors of the silver screen can diagnose patients just by looking at them; telling nurses to get things ‘stat’ while they sit atop a patient’s chest, hand in the chest cavity, keeping them alive.

But according to the real-life doctors and emergency staff who work the wards of real, everyday hospitals, these overdramatised scenes are nothing like what they in fact experience at work.


You know that machine that sends electric shocks through the heart, while everyone stands back, being sure not to touch the patient? Every movie, sitcom and series has the same scene that includes an anxious nurse squeezing KY Jelly on a patient’s chest, while a doctor charges up two paddles and shouts ‘CLEAR’ as he tries to restart the patient’s heart.

Yeah. That’s fake. The machine wouldn’t work on a patient if his or her heart has already stopped, because there is no electrical activity in the heart to “reset” it into a normal heart rhythm.

“The defibrillator only works on specific heart arrhythmias. Asystole (aka a flat line) is not one of them. This always makes me laugh when I watch TV or movies. You only defibrillate ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation,” Dr Snehalata Topgi of ParaDocs Worldwide told INSIDER.


In most shows, doctors are portrayed as staying with the patients, visiting their bedsides several times a day. In reality, doctors have too many patients to see during their shifts, so each patients is usually dealt with once a day. The rest of the care is usually left to the nurses on duty, or junior doctors and interns who work under the main physician.


Many scenes that show labour and contractions are definitely unrealistic, says Janelle Cooper, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. “You always see the woman roll into labour and delivery, she’s taken to a room and then gets ready to push a baby right out,” she told Reader’s Digest. “In reality, the timing for actual labour can range and it depends on how many babies you’ve had before, if you’ve ever had a C-section, and how long you wait before coming to the hospital.”

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