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pranali's avatar

Do you think the actors who play doctors or nurses in hospital series know ANYTHING about the medical terms they flaunt, or the emergency/surgical procedures they carry out?

Asked by pranali (75points) August 22nd, 2015

Do the sitcom producers hold even a rudimentary course where real doctors “teach” the actors about medical terms and procedures?

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13 Answers

Buttonstc's avatar

Generally speaking, no. I’ve heard several of them on talk shows (this is a common question they’re asked) and they are quick to state honestly that no one should ever assume that they know anything about medicine beyond what the average person would know. In other words don’t expect them to respond to “is there a doctor in the house” request in a genuine medical emergency. That would be a dangerous assumption :)

Some have commented about the difficulty of memorizing and properly pronouncing most of the terminology required to make them sound authentic.

All these medical shows employ real MDs as consultants but this is to teach them how to properly hold various instruments or pretend to perform certain procedures so that they look realistic.

They also advise on scripts and try to keep them as realistic as possible.

These TV shows have such a hectic schedule of memorizing dialogue, rehearsals, camera positioning and shooting the footage that there really isn’t much time left over to train actors the way real medical personnel would be.

However, there are several directors of military films who send their cast to a shortened version of the bootcamp training required of all soldiers.

I remember several actors commenting on how tough it was.

But I just don’t think that TV has that kind of time because if you think about it, a one hour show is shooting the equivalent of 6–10 full length movies per several month season. That’s a lot. I’m amazed they get as much accomplished as they do.

zenvelo's avatar

No, not even.

Would you want to be treated by Dr.Drake Ramoray?

JLeslie's avatar

I think they know more than the average person if there is a medical consultant helping out. Just being around medical situations and using the terms, most likely they learn something, and some actors might be curious enough to read up on the medical conditions.

Do I think they are actually able to give medical advice like a doctor? Big fat no. They would be like a friend who has heard about a treatment or heard about a condition, much like most if us on fluther.

sahID's avatar

@pranali Welcome to Fluther. We’re glad to have you with us.

Not even close, given that their dialogue is written by one of the writers & then handed to them. Besides, could you stand to have acerbic Dr. Gregory House on your case?

Buttonstc's avatar


Ha ha. I don’t think too many people wanted. To cozy up to House.

But back in the ER days, George Clooney (Doug Ross) used to get people asking him about medical stuff all the time.

The same for Anthony Edwards. They sounded so convincing on that show :)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Not usually. That’s where the technical director comes in. A nurse or doctor experienced in whatever part of the medical field that is being depicted—emergency medicine or obstetrics, for example—sits for hours in rewrite and on the set as an advisor. It’s usually an on-call job and pays very well and quite often the advice is ignored for the sake of the story.

Pachy's avatar

Really dedicated actors do lots of reseach into any role they play, so yes, some do know something about medical procedures and diagnoses. That said, I wouldn’t want one of them to lay me open.

longgone's avatar

Jennifer Morrison, who plays Dr. Cameron on House, says she started out trying to learn about the medical cases her character participated in. That turned out to be too difficult, though.

The cast of House on medical vocabulary.

Kardamom's avatar

I have read interviews with some of the cast members from the TV shows M*A*S*H and Doc Martin. Those particular shows have had real doctors come in as consultants, to explain terminologies and to show them how to hold various instruments. I guess it just depends on the show.

Here’s some Doctor Consultation Info from M*A*S*H.

Here’s some info written by the Real Doc Martin who is the consultant for that show. As I recall, Martin Clunes mentioned in an interview, that in England, they have to conform to certain laws regarding the actual terminologies used when discussing medical stuff on TV shows. In England, medical shows have to use real terminologies, they can’t just make up stuff like they do in America.

Maybe one of our Brits could confirm this.

Buttonstc's avatar

I seriously doubt that there is any medical show which does NOT employ at least one real life MD as a consultant. That would be a pretty foolish thing to overlook.

I do know that cast members and producers for the Doc Martin show have stated that they get lots and lots of letters from American MDs praising them for getting it right (unlike many American shows which sacrifice more for the sake of dramatic license.)

I thought that was an interesting contrast.

JLeslie's avatar

Alan Alda knew what surgical procedure he needed, because he had dealt with it as Hawkeye on MASH.

ibstubro's avatar

Given that Will on “Will and Grace” was straight and went on to successful straight roles, I think the biggest strength of actors is, well, acting.

I like @Buttonstc‘s “ER” reference. They were sure convincing.

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