Finding Comfort in Unlikely Places: TV Medical Dramas

Jessie Ace avatar

by Jessie Ace |

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I have a weird secret.

I’m sure it’s not the norm for someone with a chronic illness to enjoy this as much as I do, but it always occupies my free time: I love medical dramas.

They leave me enthralled with their technical and medical jargon, and their portrayal of the human body’s complexity.

It’s not real, I know.

The ways in which TV programs portray illnesses do not always reflect real life, which can lead to confusion. I haven’t found a storyline yet that portrays multiple sclerosis in a realistic manner. I understand this lack of realism, though, because MS involves so many symptoms.

I think production companies probably exaggerate some of the symptoms a particular character has so that the audience can clearly see there is a problem. It might also depend on how familiar an actor is with a particular illness, or whether they have the ability to portray the situation accurately.

In reality, I think MS is too complicated to portray on screen without generating confusion and probably complaints from the MS community.

The most realistic part of many of these storylines, in my opinion, is when a doctor walks into a cubicle, clipboard in hand, and looks over a pair of glasses with a furrowed brow. “You have [name of illness],” the doctor barks at the patient before walking out of the camera shot.

That’s pretty much what happened during my diagnosis eight years ago, except I had an added order to “go home and Google it.”

I don’t watch medical dramas just to see how MS is portrayed, I also pay attention to the other illnesses that are mentioned, and I research them later.

Grey’s Anatomy” is my favorite show, followed by “New Amsterdam.” But a surprising number of other hospital dramas are out there, too.

It amazes the people around me how much I love these shows. I love them because I’ve experienced illness and hospitals firsthand. I’ve faced some of the same realities and understand how the characters are feeling.

For a moment, the shows allow me to escape my reality and step into someone else’s. Strangely, and probably selfishly, they make me feel grateful I’m not in the character’s situation.

A medical career always intrigued me when I was growing up. I remember thinking I wanted to be a brain surgeon, because I’m obsessed with the brain and all it does.

But after watching these shows, I think I might have dodged a bullet in terms of my career path. I don’t think I could have coped with the stress and long hours it would have entailed, especially not with my MS fatigue and brain fog.

So, I’ll just continue to live out my fascination with all things medical through TV hospital dramas.

Do you watch hospital dramas on TV? Which are your favorites? Please share in the comments below. 

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

J bradley avatar

J bradley

New Amsterdam 100%

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Afeisha Charles avatar

Afeisha Charles

I loved me some Grey's anatomy too.twinsies. oh and i myself am an actual person living with MS.

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Brenda Driessen-Criss avatar

Brenda Driessen-Criss

Love New Amsterdam, also the Good Doctor:

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Penny-Marie Wright avatar

Penny-Marie Wright

I used to watch Grey's religiously but got away from it for some reason. If I'm awake at 1 or 2 in the morning been watching Diagnosis Murder with Dick Van Dyke & his brother, I think. I also watch House but I find him so stupid that I don't know why I still watch it. I get annoyed with all of the shows that right of the bat they say it's MS. Don't research it or do tests just MS right away. I have MS also & I know it's varied from 1 person to the next.

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Lisa Ann Rombes avatar

Lisa Ann Rombes

Binge watching ER! The best, in my opinion. Some of the situations and attitudes do not hold up well in 2021 as they relate to, for example, workplace dating, but there is raw societal commentary that does.

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Jessica Grant avatar

Jessica Grant

Another great article
Thank you for writing what we are all feeling
I love medical dramas too

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Christine Brown avatar

Christine Brown

Not ME but brain-related, I think the way Grey's Anatomy portrayed Meredith's mother Ellis Grey's Alzheimer's (Kate Burton) was absolutely brilliant. Fascinating.

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Michelle avatar

Michelle

I am a retired emergency/trauma nurse who ultimately had to retire secondary to physical disability secondary to MS.
I love watching House - he is so obnoxious but it is fun to try and guess where he is going with his diagnostic process. I also used to love ER.
As a nurse, I found so many discrepancies in these shows. In House, the medical residents are radiology technicians, nurses, phlebotomists, laboratory technicians, etc., etc. In ER, nurses commonly practiced outside of their scope of practice. However, one must remember it is just television!

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Rebecca Valdiserri avatar

Rebecca Valdiserri

Amazing article!!! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart! I personally love medical drama's, I too have Ms and believe me before I was dx I worked in the medical field as a Phlebotomist!

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Gail Alexander avatar

Gail Alexander

Yes! I also find comfort in medical shows. I am a very retired nurse and enjoy trying to follow the jargon and drama. New Amsterdam and the Good Doctor are ones I enjoy currently. Years ago I had a crush on Dr. Kildare!

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Helen Weber avatar

Helen Weber

I had to smile when I read your post as I am just like you in this respect, and for the same reasons!

Here in the UK there are so many medical programmes. I particularly like the fly-on-the-wall documentary type. Channel hopping it's possible to binge (possibly all day - I've never tried as too busy) for several hours. There's 24 hours in A&E [Accident & Emergency], Casualty [the old name for A&E that many still use] 24/7: Every Second Counts, A&E after Dark, 999: [UK emergency no] Critical Condition, and that's before you get onto programmes about paramedics, both in the air and on the ground, as well as other specialist programmes / documentaries, many showing scenes of surgery from the routine to ground-breaking. I am in awe of these wonderful, talented people (and the equally committed back room men and women who work tirelessly to support such fine endeavours) and, like you, thank my lucky stars that I "only" have MS (one which is, mercifully well managed, for now in respect of pain).

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Christine avatar

Christine

I also am a fan of New Amsterdam. When I was in a large ER last year, with non MS issues, I asked one of the nurses if it was anything at all like what is depicted on TV. Expecting a ‘no way’ in response, I was surprised by the answer ‘ it can be, sometimes’. I now watch with a different perspective.

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Jan Greenberg avatar

Jan Greenberg

I also watched Grey’s.

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Becky avatar

Becky

I have had MS for 40 years…now secondary progressive MS. I started watching medical shows many years ago, starting with General Hospital, Ben Casey, Dr Kildare, and St Elsewhere. Later: ER and Grey’s Anatomy. I now enjoy New Amsterdam, The Good Doctor, and Chicago Med. Oh, and I’m a nurse too…been on disability for 10 years. It’s always interesting to compare TV drama to reality! It’s amazing how the actors can be specialized in so many fields and work in multiple departments, while diagnosing unusual ailments in record time!

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Leanne BroughtonII avatar

Leanne BroughtonII

I watch most medical shows, going back to St. Elsewhere and further. I was an RN before MS. All my nursing friends watch medical shows. A favourite, as you, is Grey's Anatomy-the name of our Anatomy and Physiology textbook

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Jeanne Vilneff avatar

Jeanne Vilneff

I love medical dramas, always have going back to St Elsewhere. I never really got into Grey's Anatomy (not sure why).
I love New Amsterdam.
I think watching the medical shows and seeing the variety of ailments depicted takes my mind off of my MS issues.
When the storyline involves MD I am curious to see how it is portrayed and usually find the surface is barely scratched but I get that, how can a disease with so many varied symptoms that affect everyone differently be accurately portrayed?
I have had MS since 1977, SPMS now.

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Allison Morgan avatar

Allison Morgan

Marcus Welby, M.D. was the first medical drama that I can remember. I have watched them all, although like Jeanne, I never really got into Grey’s Anatomy. The Good Doctor, New Amsterdam, Chicago Med are all programmed into my PVR. But my obsession with blood and guts (as my husband calls it) has generalized to paramedic and life-saving shows from Britain and Australia, and to vet shows, Dr. Pol, Supervet, The Highland Vets, Animal ER, just to mention a few. Can’t get enough of it! BTW, here in Canada we have a couple of new shows based in Toronto, Nurses and Transplant. My obsession allows me to escape my MS issues, and sometimes it helps when I’m watching Jeopardy!
MS back to 1997, SPMS since 2011.

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Magda Kabouri avatar

Magda Kabouri

Dr. House. I wanted to cry when the series stoped, I stil miss him !!!

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