Tuesday, May 8, 2007

This I believe... (a few short posts in one)

I believe that:

* Scrubs is the most realistic medical television show of our era, and an informal but long-lasting and multi-city poll I've been taking of other medical students and residents suggests that many agree.

* Scrubs are the clothing of the hospital as factory floor--the hospital as a production process with teams of workers working together--and their persistence and popularity suggest that more and more healthcare workers see their work in roughly those terms.

* Ties should be eliminated from the work clothing of male doctors, and I used to think they would disappear because we would follow the "creative" sides of the business, research and technology worlds. But I have come to think that I will wear a tie for a long time to come, and so will most of my colleagues. But perhaps not mostly for the reasons of "respecting patients" that most of us will use to explain the choice. We will wear ties because part of what the doctor is offering is the power he will wield on your behalf. We will not admit the extent to which this power is an illusion, perhaps even a dangerous one.

* Women in medicine will continue to struggle to find the right outfit that expresses what it means to be a doctor, without clear rules and with much criticism for breaking unclear rules. Men in medicine should continue to struggle to find the right outfit that expresses what it means to be a doctor, but they will stick to clear rules and not give it enough thought. Transgendered people in medicine will be too cautious to innovate in the workplace.

* The trashy semiotics of medicine--the television shows, the clothes--are more important than they first seem. They are the visible signs of unspoken ideas of our culture.


Arash Mostaghimi said...


I agree--Scrubs is the most realistic show on television. The absurdity of that statement comes to light when you realize that about a quarter of an average episode consists of JD's ridiculous fantasies.

I'm not sure what to make of the effect of this type of show on the public at large. Will House make people more forgiving of physicians who are skilled in the science of medicine but not the art of care? How will patient's perceptions of us be different now that everyone knows what an intern is from Grey's Anatomy?


Joe Wright said...

I think the main take-home from Grey's Anatomy is that people think we're constantly hooking up with each other. I have had one or two patients ask me, "So, is it like Grey's Anatomy?" especially when there are attractive young female students or residents working with me. At least once this was asked with a kind of lewd, "So, do ya guys feel each other up" suggestiveness. The fact that we're all walking around in our pajamas doesn't help matters in this department.

Also, once I was bumbling about and couldn't get my act together while in a patient's room, and said, "Sometimes I think I'm like George on Grey's Anatomy" which earned their sympathy and reassurance. Pathetic. Also a lie. Because I recently took the "Which character are you most like" quiz and I was Miranda Bailey. (Admittedly, George wasn't one of the options.)

Anyway, what I get from JD's absurd fantasies is that the show is a kind of extended coming-of-age story: we're watching JD grow up. He's still trying to figure life out, even while he's trying to figure medicine out. This strikes me as one of the most realistic parts of the show--and why the absurd fantasies almost make it more realistic.

Joe Wright said...

also you should write about your trip on your blog. wedge it into your topic somehow.


Chris said...

That's SO FUNNY!! My brother-in-law, a 2nd year resident at a hospital in Salt Lake City, UT told me that SCRUBS was the most realistic medical show on television and I just PRAYED he was kidding me!

Now THATS methed up!

Joe Wright said...

I tried to mention this theory at every residency interview I went to this year, and I got agreement every time I said it. Not even a, "yeah, I guess I know what you mean, but for me, House is really..."

Just, "Yeah, absolutely."

But when I was doing a rotation with overnight shifts in the ICU, we all scurried back to the nurses' lounge to watch Grey's Anatomy--laughing at all the medically ridiculous parts of it, and soaking in the juicy gossip so we'd be spiritually replenished for the rest of the call night.