Um…TV as Research. Just say No.

I was at a conference last week…had a lot of fun.

One workshop, though, kind of had me going…*blink*

The author (and please, don’t ask who…it’s not about who…it’s about why this is a bad idea) mentioned that she was writing a book with an ER doc as the heroine and she went out and bought seasons 1-8 of ER as part of her research.

I kinda sort, probably irritated the author giving the workshop when I said, “That’s probably not a very good resource.”  (I was being polite-it’s actually a lousy resource, IMO).  “It’s not a particularly realistic portrayal of the medical field. You’d be better off talking to a nurse…” or something like that.

And I mentioned I was a nurse.

I was kind of brushed off and that’s fine.

Now it’s not a secret that I don’t like medical romances.  I just about loathe them.  It’s also not a secret that I’m a nurse.

Some people are surprised when I outright admit that I hate medical romances.

Why do I hate them?

Easy.  Too many people get the easiest crap wrong.

They don’t touch on confidentiality.  They have all sorts of clandestine little hookups happening.  It’s always rush rush rush. Or it’s this. Or it’s that.  There’s little focus giving to the most mundane thing, but something that’s absolutely crucial in the medical field and if you’re writing a medical romance?  It damn well better be at least addressed, even in an offhand manner or those of us in the know are going to know one crucial thing-the writer didn’t research.

If you’ve got a heroine who is a nurse or a doctor and she mentions her patient’s current troubles to her friend?  Big Fat N.O.  Patient confidentiality breach in the extreme.

Talking about said patient outside of work?  When it doesn’t pertain to care?  Big Fat N.O. These are things that can get health care providers sued.  And I’m not just talking the doctors.  I’m talking the nurses, the lady who dumped the trash, all of them.

Having a doctor give information about the patient’s health to the patient’s husband after the patient was in a car wreck?  Did the patient sign the paperwork?  If the patient didn’t sign the paperwork or if it’s not mentioned, I can tell you, I’m going to wonder.  Just being the husband isn’t enough anymore.  The patient determines who gets that information and they can decide the husband doesn’t have access.

Do your nurses and doctors knock when they go in and out of the room? Do they discuss the expected plan of care with the patient before hand or just let it rip?

The health care field isn’t what it used to be and these are just some of the inner workings.

Having a doctor think his patient’s sexy and hey, maybe they can hook up?  This is such a big, big, big bad…so many lines gets crossed and so many ethical issues there…

The nonstop hookups between the nurses and the doctors and the nurses and the nurses and the whoevers…I can honestly tell you, it doesn’t tend to work like that.  Occasionally.  You see it occasionally.

You want to watch ER?  Watch it for fun.  Watch it for inspiration…maybe.  Watch it to get an idea of some of the medical lingo.  But, please, please, please do not watch it for research.

RWA is full of people in the medical field and we’re no more busy than anybody else.  Find somebody who can answer a few questions.  Talk to nurses.  Maybe you can find one to be your beta reader…that wouldn’t be a bad idea, because if you send bits and pieces off as you’re writing, you can fix the small problems before they become major plot issues.

10 Replies to “Um…TV as Research. Just say No.”

  1. I hate medical romances too. I’ve always thought them to be so fake. No doctor or nurse has the time to be screwing in the supply closet. For awhile there I thought I was the only person in the US that didn’t watch Grey’s Anatomy. Glad I’m not alone :).

  2. *deadpan* You mean I’m not going to breeze through med school if I watch ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and… what’s the newest one – Combat Hospital?

    But why not? :X

  3. Yup. I love medical TV (Grey’s Anatomy is an addiction >_>) but I’ve commented at length to my husband how such-and-such is bloody impossible and that the entire cast would have been fired five times over and never been allowed to continue their medical career if it had been real life. At least Grey’s usually does touch on the ethical issues, even though the characters often have no real consequence for their actions.

    I’d be gobsmacked at someone telling me they were going to use TV shows like that as research. WTF.

  4. Personally, I haven’t seen ER, Grey’s Anatomy, or any of the modern medical shows. After M.A.S.H., why bother?

    I’ve never been too fond of medical romances either, but not because of them missing out on the real life of the medical field, just because most of the ones I’ve read were poorly written. But I read them anyway. I was desperate for something to read!!



  5. I’m a peadiatric critical care nurse. And I write medical romances for HMB. I like to think I get it right.
    I absolutely adore medical shows on television – warts and all. Do they get it wrong? Hell yes. Am I impressed when they do get it right – hell yes. Do I care that much – not really. Not even House who seems to work in a hospital with ABSOLUTELY NO NURSES WHATSOEVER. Because like with any book/movie/show, if you can engage me in the characters, then I’m okay with the rest.
    If you can’t, then the inaccuracy of the medical detail will bug me a LOT more.

  6. Amy, medical romance written by medical professionals can actually become diehard faves for me. 😉 They can actually get it right, and the medical field already has a lot of twists and turns and drama…(ie: stress)

    I know some in our profession don’t seem to mind as much…I just get hung up on the details, and after having so many of the books end up as wallbangers? Unless I know it’s somebody who can get it right? It’s just not worth it for me.

    And yes, I’ve noticed that thing about House-I used to watch it a lot, and I loved it, mostly because of House-I think it’s that characterization thing.

    One of my big issues with the ‘using TV as research’ thing-hell, I can’t figure out a way to put this without looking like I’m trying to bash somebody, and I’m not trying. I have no desire to attack the writer who suggested this, but she used this in a workshop-suggested it to a room full of other writers. And then when a medical professional points out that it wasn’t exactly good research-(Ie: so far from reality, it’s not even funny), she acts like it wasn’t relevant.

    If somebody is going to research… they should actually research … not just watch TV. TV can be educational, and it can be inspirational, and it’s definitely entertaining. But shows like ER, House, Grey’s Anatomy, etc… those can’t be used as reliable research into the medical field. Somebody on twitter said that would be like thinking watching CSI leaves one experienced enough to solve a crime. And that’s not a bad comparison. Talking to medical professionals will do a lot more for the strength of a book than watching TV.

  7. I agree Shiloh – the fact that House has no nurses is irksome but his character is so compelling it doesn’t stop me from watching.
    I also agree that using a tv depicition for reserach is dumb especially when you have so many other resources available today.
    I wonder if said person has ever heard of the www? 🙂

  8. Good post. I cannot think of ANY subject I would research from TV. I might get an idea and make a trip to the library…but TV as my primary source? Uh, NO. Thanks for the very interesting take on the subject. 🙂

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