Television review: Medical shows

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Medical television series like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “ER” and “Nurse Jackie” keep fans engaged with their quixotic plot lines. However, what many of these shows fail to depict or even touch on is the stark reality of the healthcare industry. “The Resident,” starring Matt Czuchry, is about a third-year resident who is faced with a multitude of challenges as he attempts to navigate the tumultuous industry of medicine. The show raises important ethical and financial concerns about the current U.S. healthcare climate.

Czuchry’s character, Condrad Hawkins, becomes an advocate for patient-centered care and safety throughout the series. He is continually met with resistance from the CEO, Randolph Bell,  portrayed by Bruce Greenwood, who pushes for excessive procedures and surgeries that generate a profit for the hospital, Chastain Park, even if that means engaging in unethical behavior. 

The beginning of the series starts by showing Bell – who is revered for being a world-renowned surgeon – kill a patient on the operating table and cover it up to the disciplinary board. Medical errors, patient safety and unethical conduct become the premise of the show from here on out. 

The show does not depict the main characters as being infallible, which contributes to the complexity of the plot. Hawkins’ coworker and girlfriend Nic Nevin, portrayed by Emily VanCamp, engages in unethical behavior when she seeks to buy a kidney on the black market for her sister who is dying of kidney failure. Bell begins selling products from a medical device company that cuts corners by manufacturing in China even though they claim that are built in the U.S. Bell fails to cut ties with the device company QuoVadis even after one of their products almost kills a child. 

Other medical show series fail to address medical errors, which have become an epidemic in healthcare today. 

“According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer,” according to a CNBC study.

What is even worse is that many cases of death resulting from medical errors are silenced by hospitals or healthcare organizations that seek to settle with the families who have lost a loved one. The buy their silence. 

Often these medical errors do not occur because of one negligent  individual, but a series of breakdowns in the health care delivery system, which is often due to barriers in communication. This is depicted in the show when one of the top profit-generating surgeons, Barrett Cain, ignores Nevin about postponing the spine surgery of a patient. She continues to communicate her concerns that the patient does not need the surgery while Dr. Cain is more focused on conducting an operation that would engender $2 million for the hospital. 

One study found that roughly “37 percent of all high-severity injury cases (including death) involved a communication failure, and this poor communication also contributed to $1.7 billion in malpractice costs.”

It is important that communication barriers are addressed in this series because it greatly reflects a major contributing factor to medical errors and safety risks that are inflicted upon patients in healthcare today.

“The Resident” is an enthralling series that has more than just an engaging plot line. It addresses realistic dilemmas and concerns that healthcare professionals endure in today’s current healthcare industry. It also reiterates the importance of the patient and that quality should not be impeded in order to engender profit. 

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