Name of Book: The Real Grey’s Anatomy: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Real Lives of Surgical Residents
By: Andrew Holtz
Publisher: Berkeley Trade
Copyright Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 336
Format: nonfiction, pop culture
Reason for Reading: I ❤ Grey’s Anatomy
Source: purchased through my Kindle (in 2011)
“Fans of Grey’s Anatomy will learn about the reflections of that intense reality that are seen in the flickering images of the immensely popular TV series.
We grant surgeons extraordinary trust and authority. They have license to cut and burn and sew and staple people in order to repair injury or mitigate disease. Interns like the young characters on Grey’s Anatomy have their medical degrees already in hand. They are M.D.s with a limited license that allows them to diagnose and treat patients under supervision. It is the five or more years of residency that transforms them into surgeons.”
Andrew Holtz followed surgery residents around at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for several months to give readers the background for-real scoop on what life is like as a real life surgeon-in-waiting as opposed to their TV counterparts.
Oh, this book just fills my need for pop culture nonfiction indeed. Scenes from Grey’s Anatomy peppered throughout the text, acting as a backdrop to the information that Holtz imparts. Some of the scenes dramatically show where TV gets it wrong for the sake of entertainment, and other scenes reflect things taking place in real hospitals.
This book is filled with a ton of information. However, it never gets dry. Holtz’s writing style is very accessible to the layman. Each chapter ends with a list of additional reading-articles that expound on the information already laid out in the preceding chapter. There are also intern profiles giving us a glimpse into the lives of the individual residents that we become acquainted with in the text.
Three interesting facts I learned (among many):
-The episode where Chief Webber gathers all of the residents bellowing that they are no longer allowed to work more than 80 hours a week was a blip on my radar. I had no idea this was based in actual fact. In 2003, the ACGME instituted work rules stipulating that residents are not to work more than 80 hours a week. This dramatically cut down the time that residents spent in the OR from the previous 120 hours a week. Holtz’s text investigates the challenges of the new limitations.
-Do doctors really get it on in the on-call rooms? Not really; however, the love fests happening behind closed doors were not so far-fetched a few generations ago when doctors practically lived at the hospitals. They had little time for interaction outside of the hospital, let alone for meeting people that were not surgeons. So yes, a little romance did indeed blossom in the hospital corridors once upon a time.
-Organ donation plays a prominent role on the show. However, there were a couple of episodes that upset organ donation advocates. The behavior of the doctors soliciting organ donation from their patients was a fictionalized detail to maximize dramatic and comedic effect.
“In ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (5-13), Chief Webber sends George O’Malley to comb the hospital for patients who are on life support or ‘brain dead,’ in a search for organs for a dying boy.
O’Malley, be sensitive to the families, the chief instructs. –We need organs for this boy, but we can only ask, we can’t pressure, we can’t coerce. Understood?
The behavior of the surgeons in this scene would not only be counterproductive but also in violation of the rules governing organ donation in the United States.”
Doctors cannot ask patients in their care to donate their organs. Their job is solely that of the care of the patient, not the donor recipients. It is illegal. Also, transplant teams are not aware of potential donors nor can they seek out donors from the ICU.
A fascinating peek into life as a surgery resident.
“None of them have bags under their eyes. They all leave the hospital dressed cute, with their hair done and makeup on. That is so far away from the reality of interns. You are just dragging your butt, trying to stay alive. You don’t have time to do your hair. You don’t have time to put on makeup. Every surgery intern has bags under their eyes.”
-Fourth-year resident Karen Zink, M.D.