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As we prepare to wrap up the fifteenth season of Grey’s Anatomy, I’m reminded just how much impact it’s had on our culture. It completely changed the way we define good television. It convinced people that a network TV show could compete with Hollywood. And it inspired a lot of people to join the medical industry.
But if you think you want to lead a life like what you see on Grey’s Anatomy, take a pause first. The show got a lot of things right, but there’s plenty it left out. Before you take out an expensive loan to afford medical school, read these five things that Grey’s Anatomy didn’t tell you about being a doctor.
1. You Won’t Spend as Much Time With Patients as You Think
In most episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, we saw the doctors and surgeons spending what seemed like hours talking with each patient. While it’s essential that doctors take the time to discuss a patient’s condition with them, you won’t be doing it for hours. You’re going to have far too heavy a caseload for that.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimated that doctors spend an average of just 15 minutes with each patient. If you thought you’d be guiding a patient through each harrowing step of their treatment, guess again. That’s a nurse’s job.
2. Just How Easy it Is to Lose Your Job
If the characters on Grey’s Anatomy were fired after their first completely inexcusable mistake on the show, none of them would still be around. The medical community prides itself on being a network of hard-working professionals who abide by a strict set of rules. If you operate on a child without the parents’ permission in the real world, even if it’s “the right thing to do,” you’re going to lose your license. Period.
Additionally, they never talk about how easy it is to lose your job for things that aren’t even your fault. If a surgeon permanently injures their hands in the real world, guess what? They can’t operate anymore. This happens more often than you think. If you’re serious about being a doctor, you’ll need to take steps to protect yourself from loss.
3. You Can’t Do It All Alone
Every doctor on the show seems like a superhuman who can do everything by themselves. This isn’t accurate. You need radiologists to examine x-rays, dermatologists to treat skins conditions, and pediatricians to focus on children. The medical community is full of specialized skills and it takes a team approach to succeed.
4. You Won’t Progress as Quickly as You Might Think
In just a short time, Maggie was promoted to the head of a department. She’s five years younger than Meredith, yet they made department head at the same time. That just doesn’t happen.
Don’t count on gaining a major leadership position for many years.