In the real ER, babies aren’t born, patients don’t walk around with arrows in their heads, chests aren’t cracked open every shift, and nurses don’t smooch with doctors.
At least not very often.
Ask the people who man Spokane emergency rooms what they think of “ER,” the nation’s toprated medical drama, and get ready for an earful.
Most complain the TV show’s non-stop action isn’t realistic. Everybody claims to have spotted at least one blooper.
But a whole lot of doctors and nurses are watching or videotaping every Thursday night.
That goes for ER nurse Sherlyn Cevera, who does late-night duty at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
“I’ve never been here when they’ve delivered a baby,” she says. “If there were two major traumas in a night, that’s a busy night. On the show, they have a million things going on. If that was the pace every day, I’d work one day a week.”
With that out of the way, Cevera says she likes the show. A lot.
She arrives at work early and watches on the TV in the employee lounge (“ER” in the ER) before slipping on her green scrubs. “I like the characters and their personalities,” she says.
Other stethoscope-toting fans agree.
“It’s entertaining,” says Dr. Ed Stroup, who has handled medical emergencies at Holy Family Hospital for 11 years. “But you get 11 years’ worth of excitement in one episode.”
“Some parts are ridiculous,” says Stroup’s colleague, Dr. Bill Lockwood. “They jump to the diagnosis within 10 seconds of entering the room.”
And another thing: The patients look too healthy, and they leave the ER too soon. In Spokane ERs, the average stay is three hours. In many cases, specialists are called in, lab work is done, X-rays are taken, Lockwood says.
That doesn’t keep him from watching, either.
Stroup finds the show’s feverish romances amusing. In real life, doctors and nurses are a close-knit, hard-working family, he insists. They don’t sneak into broom closets to make out.
“We have a real camaraderie here, but our private lives are our own,” the doctor says.
“Ah, the romance,” says Penny Armstrong, a Sacred Heart ER nurse. “I don’t see any of that here. That’s more like a soap opera.”
Of course, the public doesn’t know that.
These days, “ER” devotees walk into the real ER (they are now called emergency departments, by the way) and get upset when things are dull. Patients scold nurses who don’t do things “like on TV.”
That frosts Dr. Russ Roundy of Sacred Heart’s ER. “TV is TV and people have to realize that,” he says.
Roundy is one of the dedicated non-watchers.
“It holds absolutely no interest for me,” he says. “I live it. Why would I want to watch it?”
Ditto nurse Brenda Whelan.
“Why would people in an ER want to watch an ER show? Why would people want to watch something that reminds them of work?” she asks.
“I don’t read medical thrillers for the same reason.”
Whelan isn’t finished.
“Another thing that gripes me about the show - why are we getting off on watching a show that depicts people’s lives being shattered? Why is that a No. 1 show?”
That’s a minority opinion. Most people who work in ERs say “ER” honestly captures the daily spectrum of emotions they deal with.
“Funny things do happen here,” says Maria Baker, a secretary in the Sacred Heart ER. “Tragedy and comedy.”
“ER” is broadcast Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.