Ranking the Most (and Least) Accurate Medical TV Shows

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Mikhail Varshavski, DO, who goes by “Doctor Mike” on social media, is a board-certified family medicine physician at the Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey. Watch him rank medical television show from least accurate to the most.

Following is a rough transcript:

Mikhail Varshavski, DO: Let’s get started. # 16, the least accurate medical drama that I’ve watched on this channel is “Attaway General.” Sorry to my Dixie D’Amelio fans out there, but the show just has inaccuracies galore. The uniforms aren’t right. They’re wearing hairnets at times. They’re having teenagers deliver medical care as volunteers.

I literally remember one scene when they were trying to save someone’s life where the doctor was like checking a pulse like this and the EKG monitor just has colorful stripes going across it that mean absolutely nothing. Just nothing makes sense on the show. I get that it’s young folks, they’re trying their first time at acting, and I support that, more power to them. I’m strictly talking about the medical accuracy.

#15 and the second-least accurate medical drama, “Doogie Howser.” I can’t believe it’s this low on the list, but the reality is it’s an older show so the medical accuracy is just not up to par to our current standards. Also, I really remember this one very awkward scene.

Older Woman: Doogie monster.

Varshavski: Whoa! Maybe that kind of stuff was okay back then, now it definitely freaked me out. # 14, “Nurses,” and I watched it with my good friend Nurse Bianca, who also was heavy critical of the show. There is just a lot of inaccuracies. They don’t follow a lot of the medical guidelines. Literally on the episode, they had one of the nurses attacking another nurse for treating someone who is a known criminal. We treat everybody in the medical space, so that made no sense.

Then in another scene, they had a doctor just say, “Oh, we ran out of O blood, so I’m just going to connect myself because I’m O blood and give it to the patient.” Like, “No, Sir. We don’t do that. That is highly inaccurate.” I’m calling BS. I love nurses. They’re the backbone of medicine. The show itself didn’t do them justice.

Lucky 13 is “Transplant.” I really liked the premise of this one. We have a Syrian refugee that’s thrust back into practicing medicine in Canada. I was really excited for it to work. However, in the very first scene you have an individual who is not a doctor in Canada drilling into someone’s head in order to save their life. Throughout the entire episode, no-one was doing chest compressions. They were talking about intubating people, getting cardiac consults. Where were the chest compressions? Chest compressions, chest compressions, chest compressions, folks.

For #12 we have “Royal Pains.” The medical accuracy is just out of this world. It’s almost like they’re functioning like an ER specialist, family medicine doctor, interventional cardiologist, toxicologist. It’s like they’re superhuman. He didn’t even look at her eyes. How does he know what her pupils look like? It sounds like he has x-ray vision and he could see from across the room. That is not how a medical diagnosis is made and I feel like it misguides people into thinking doctors have to know right away what’s going on. A lot of times we don’t and we have to investigate further.

By the way, all the medical dramas I’m ranking now and I’ve reviewed in the past are linked down below. If you want to watch one of those in more detail, check it out.

#11, we have “The Night Shift.” I know that there is a lot of fans on this show and they may be upset seeing their favorite medical drama this low on the list. It’s just not so medically accurate. At least, to be fair, the one episode I watched, they had one doctor completely lose his mind.

Like, there was just so much unrealistic actions happening by the staff that it made it feel not medically accurate. Again, the procedures they showed, the medical illnesses they showed, were so far out there that you probably wouldn’t even find them in a medical book. It would have to be a sub-subspecialist medical book in order to find these conditions.

# 10, falling somewhere in the middle of the list, is “Nurse Jackie.” Now, this show is darker than most medical dramas on this list and I actually really enjoyed the depth of the show. However, the characters were just so aggressive in their illegal action. If she forged his organ donor certificate on the back of his license, that’s crazy. Like, there’s just so many things that keep happening to make it seem outrageous, to make it interesting, it doesn’t feel quite realistic.

Coming in at #9, “The Resident.” I actually got invited by one of the cast members to be on the set with them, got a behind-the-scenes tour. It was super cool. All that’s linked down below. I think this show falls somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to medical accuracy. They use a lot of good medical terms that are accurate. Their procedures are performed with a decent level of accuracy. The one thing that I will say is the residents on the show are really like cowboy residents. They’re doing whatever they want…

Dr. Conrad Hawkins: You do whatever the hell I tell you, no questions asked.

Varshavski: … so that really isn’t realistic, and just like any good medical drama, the drama’s turned up all-time high. While I dig the drama, the realism falls somewhere right down the middle. Definitely one I enjoy, though, and I recommend you check out as well.

# 8, we have “New Amsterdam.” All in all, I think it’s a good show. It’s quality. It talks about really important systemic issues within healthcare. While I think it takes on important challenges, it also does it in a very unrealistic way at times.

Dr. Max: Will everyone in the cardiac surgical department please raise your hands? Great, thank you. You’re all fired.

Varshavski: Like, that is not realistic. Who’s going to take care of the patients in the meantime? I definitely want to check more episodes out of that show. If you have a specific episode of New Amsterdam you want me to watch, drop it down below.

Lucky #7 is one that I know I’m going to get heat for. Please don’t attack me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m saying it now, I’m sorry, “Grey’s Anatomy.” I know. I know it’s so … it’s not that accurate. I know it’s the most popular medical drama of all time, probably, and look, I’ve watched four episodes of it on this channel. I’ve probably watched maybe a handful more on my own and it’s just not medically accurate. Residents and interns are doing all sorts of advanced procedures with no oversight, romance around every corner, and heartbreak and drama, and I know why so many of you love it. I get it. I like it too. It’s [KISSES], but still, medical accuracy, just, it’s not there.

For # 6, we have “Scrubs.” Yes, the famous satirical medical show Scrubs. I honestly struggled with this one. I didn’t know where to place it. I know many of you at home, on forums, say Scrubs is the most accurate show. However, I do think that it is an accurate satirical explanation of what happens, or representation of what happens in hospitals, but it is not medically accurate.

Dr. Perry Cox: Get her to open her mouth, take a handful and throw it at her. Whatever sticks, that’s the correct dosage.

Varshavski: And it’s a comedy, so I get why they’re doing it and I enjoy watching it. But one of the things that kind of irks me with the show, maybe because I’m so defensive and protective of my patients, is I feel like they are mean to their patients sometimes. I know it’s a joke, but somehow it just gets in here for me.

#5, we have “Chicago Med.” A lot of these shows really just focus on doctors and “Chicago Med” really does a great job at showing nurses as part of the medical team. The episode that I watched, I couldn’t find almost anything medically wrong with it. It has good medical terminology, the procedures that they’re doing are accurate, and the fact that they had a nurse telling a resident how to do chest compressions properly, they were critiquing them, that got me hyped.

#4, we have “Code Black.” This is the surprising one on the list, the dark horse, the black sheep, if you will. I really fell in love with this show. It actually genuinely upset me to find out it was canceled. The show felt like it was written by medical professionals and then someone added a little drama, as opposed to someone that writes medical dramas and then they sprinkled some medicine into it.

I think that the real hard-hitting truth about the show is it does a good job at showing character development of medical professionals, the stresses we have, the struggles we have, how we go about losing patients and talking with patients. I think those were very real and clearly scripted by someone who’s gone through that process. Let’s bring it back. Let’s resurrect Code Black. Who’s with me?

#3, we have “House MD”. I know so many House fans wanted him to be # 1. While the show has incredible scientific rigor — like it talks about true scientific conditions, a lot of the zebra conditions that we’ve talked about on this channel, ones that warrant more attention — and while I think that’s great, I think the way that my man “House MD” goes about it is just reckless.

Dr. House: I want to check for Erdheim-Chester.

Varshavski: How does he know what that is? I’ve never even heard of it. He’s funny, he’s interesting, he’s wacky, he argues with people, but also the residents and the fellows that are with him they each bring their own unique spin on the show. I’m a huge fan. I want to watch more episodes of “House MD” and I have it third on my list. I wonder where it falls on yours.

We’re at the top two, folks. It’s getting serious. The competition is heating up. #2 is “The Good Doctor.” Dr. Shaun comes in with the accuracy, depicting a true medical professional who is diagnosed with autism but is still doing their job phenomenally. When they talk about medical conditions, the way that they talk about it in a reasonable, easy-to-understand way, but still using medical terminology, is awesome. I love that they manage to inject humor, even some of the most dark spots.

Dr. Shaun Murphy: Do you need me to listen to you anymore?

Dr. Aaron Glassman: No, Shaun.

Varshavski: That’s how real life works. That’s how medicine works. I actually just watched “The Good Doctor COVID-19” episode. It’s well worth a watch.

# 1, king of medical dramas, at least in medical accuracy, at least in my book, it is two letters, “ER” That’s right, folks. It’s an oldie, but it’s a classic. It’s so good, 20, 30 years later since its inception, it’s still binge-able. It’s still quality. It still tells real-life stories about humans. The issues that we run into hospitals to this very day still apply to the episodes that are found in “ER.” It’s truly one of my favorite medical dramas. The medical accuracy is really solid.

Don’t get me wrong, they sometimes go overboard and they make diagnoses too quickly or too dramatically, but the accuracy, the heart of the show, especially with how long the show has been around, how many careers it’s made — George Clooney — it’s #1 in my books.

I know you want to disagree with me. I know you have other thoughts and I want to hear your thoughts. Hit me in the comments down below. Tell me what your list looks like. Tell me which one of these you disagree with, because I genuinely want to know. If you love one of these medical dramas and you want me to watch a specific episode, don’t hesitate to drop that in the comments too.

I really enjoy all these medical dramas, so I’m linking them all down below for you or you could just click on this playlist here for my entire Doctor Reacts series. There’s medical dramas in here, untold stories of the ER, and so many more.

Last Updated January 20, 2021

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