16 Things TV Doctors Always Get Wrong

All those crises! All those sirens! All that panic! Not to mention the miraculous, life-and-death rush, and heroics (just before the commercial break, of course) of all those TV nurses and doctors.

Usually decked-out in full or partial scrubs, they sure look like real nurses and doctors, don’t they? And, despite the frequent techno-jargon, they seem to have the buzz down properly. Whatever they’re saying, it’s almost impressive and, at least for us lowly lay people, kind of believable. With the remote in-hand, little do we know that a lot of times, TV doctors and nurses are wildly and weirdly fake and wrong.

Here are 16 common TV doctor tropes that just don’t work that way in real life:

1. Backward stethoscopes abound

It may look more doctor-ish backwards, and it certainly adds a look of hospital-ish urgency, but many TV and movie doctors and nurses are wearing their stethoscopes backwards. (The stethoscope is the one located just beside the open pocket filled with tongue depressors and a thermometer they never use.)

Real stethoscopes rely on an airtight seal in order to transmit body sounds from the patient. So the flat side that gets pressed onto the chest or back of the patient should hang on the doctor’s or nurse’s chest — not facing out toward the camera — for ease of use.

Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com
Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

2. The charts are meaningless

Regardless of what the TV medical staff say when they look at “the charts,” the x-rays, charts and scan results on TV usually bear no resemblance to the condition the TV doctors and nurses are talking about.

Even though all medical dramas have at least one doctor advising the script-writers, they are still pretty loose with the facts and the truth and many of the diseases are wild (but impressive-sounding) fiction.

bikeriderlondon / Shutterstock.com
bikeriderlondon / Shutterstock.com

3. The flatline myth just won’t die

Few things are more standard fare in medical drama than the dramatic scene with the camera focused on the bedside monitor, usually with the buzzer going.

Big trouble. Panic ensues. Nurses and doctors come rushing. The patient has…flatlined!

Real doctors and nurses say the real flatline is never as flat as it looks in the movies. If it does look like that, it means the machine is not connected.

fivepointsix / Shutterstock.com
fivepointsix / Shutterstock.com
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