Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How realistic are emergency-room scenes in movies?

Filmmakers are often too consumed with a movie’s story, production, and cast to worry about minutiae. As such, police chatter, corporate lingo, and other shreds of technical jargon are often made up on set, usually based on what they’ve heard in other movies, who were also probably making that shit up. Nowhere is that more true than in a film’s emergency room, where actors in scrubs tend to yell shit like “we’re losing him!” or slap patients in the face to wake them from a coma or something.

Because it’s fun to point out the ways in which films get this kind of tossed-off chatter wrong, Wired has recruited Annie Onishi, a general surgery resident at Columbia University, to offer up her own expert take on what Hollywood gets right (very little) and wrong (so very, very much). Commenting on everything from experimental horror (Dead Ringers, The Knick) to network drama (Grey’s Anatomy, House) to broad comedy (The Hangover, Mr. Bean), Onishi cycles through hypothetical situations involving adrenaline shots, operating galleries, bullet wounds, and Junior Mints.

That Grey’s Anatomy scene where the doctors take selfies in the operating room? Yeah, that’ll probably get you fired. That one where they argue about music in the OR, though? Accurate. Also, nobody yells “we’re losing him,” but doctors do ask for a patient’s vitals about as much as they do in the movies. Also, it’s not just a bit of broad comedy: People get stuff stuck in their butts all the time—Carrots, eggplants, wine glasses, cans of Axe body spray, Onishi’s seen it all. The one thing she’s never seen done right in a movie or TV show? The shaving process. Razors, she says, are a big no-no.


Faring the best, surprisingly, is Canadian police drama Rookie Blue, which gets a surprising amount of small, seemingly insignificant details correct. Weird Al’s video for “Like a Surgeon,” on the other hand ... well, it’s very funny.

Send Great Job, Internet tips to gji@theonion.com

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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