Depiction of Medicine

Depictionof Medicine


Medicinehas had a long and dark past exhibited by trial and error and a lotof social issues which affected its depiction in society. During thelast 20 years the television industry in particular has released manydocumentaries which provide very interesting depictions of medicinein general. Interestingly enough, these depictions whether positiveor negative have been internalized by general society. The accuratedepictions of medicine are a source of enlightenment for society andmedical professional as well. Thinking about how medicine has beendepicted in the past can definitely improve the work of medicalprofessionals. The objective of this essay is to argue that medicalprofessionals can use these depictions to improve human resourcemanagement, to invest in holistic treatment strategies, to cultivatefunctional cultures within health care institutions, and to work withthe media to improve the public’s perception of the medicalindustry in general.


  • Depiction on Television

OnAugust 2014 Cinemax released a medical drama called the Knickwhichis short for Knickerbocker Hospital. The hospital was one of thefirst healthcare institutions to offer surgery during the turn of the20thcentury (Deng, 2014). The television series depicts hospitals as aplace to be avoided at all costs because it serves as a place oftorture before death. In the drama the patients are essentially testdummies for the many different treatments and surgeries. One theother hand, the doctors and nurses are depicted as psychoticindividuals who view patients as mere bodies meant for variousexperiments. Death and screaming in the drama are quite common andthe medical professionals perceive this occurrence as normal and partof daily life. Another interesting medical drama is known as Grey’sAnatomy. Inthis popular series the medical professionals are the main focus andthey are depicted as anxious, dysfunctional, and tense individuals(Beck, 2014). Houseisanother popular medical drama and the main star Dr.Houseis depicted as cold, drug-abusing, and rude but manages to get bywith his career due to his medical brilliance (Beck, 2014). Suchdepictions of medicine on television have shaped how societyperceives the world of medicine to the point where patients no longertrust medical professionals.

  • Medical Training

TheKaiser Health News website released an article on their website inDecember 2015 indicating that medical students perceive medicalsupervisors and trainers as monsters (Rovner, 2015). These are realclaims but at the end of the day they end up being used in medicaldramas and movies. The article also points out that the harsh natureof medical training has been the reality for as long as anyone canremember. The harshness is meant to be a wakeup call for traineesthat one mistake could cost the life of a patient (Rovner, 2015).However, a closer look reveals the contrary since such an experienceduring medical training has been linked to mental health instabilityamong many medical professionals. Simply put, this means that manydepictions of medicine in the mass media are correct and they do havea root. It’s quite disheartening about how many medical students gothrough so much extensive schooling compared to other careers andthen face such frightening circumstances during medical training.Nevertheless, this is an area which medical professionals can work toimprove.

Improvingon Human Resource Management

Clearly,the depictions of the medical industry observed in popular media arequite accurate. Surprisingly, there are studies which actuallysupport the above mentioned depictions of medicine in popularculture. According to a study published in the Journal of HospitalMedicine, most doctors admit to behaving unprofessionally in theplace of work. Statistics indicate that 7 out of 10 doctors haveparticipated in more than one manner of unprofessional conduct (Rau,2012). Consequently, human resource management in healthcareinstitutions needs to take drastic steps to ensure such behavior isdrastically minimized. For example, the study indicates that 3 out of10 doctors admitted to making withering comments when making hospitalrounds (Rau, 2012). Such behavior is very unprofessional especiallywhen taking into account that the 3 out of 10 were the doctors whowere willing to admit to such unprofessional behavior. Human resourcemanagers can take the role of promoting a culture which exaltsdecency among all employees and especially in regards to how patientsare treated emotionally and psychologically. As a result, medicalprofessionals will be able to shape how patients think about them.

HolisticTreatment Strategies

Asmentioned above, there are depiction of hospitals being very scaryplaces to attend even though there are cases of people undergoing alot of pain and even death. For example, it is almost entrenched inpeople’s minds that individuals with terminal illnesses mustundergo a lot of pain during treatment and eventually die (Henneghan&amp Schnyer, 2013). Nevertheless, many healthcare centers haveinvested in holistic treatment strategies for their patients. Studiesindicate that this has actually increased the quality of life of suchpatients and many have actually gone to live for longer thanexpected. Unlike conventional treatment strategies, holistictreatment strategies are aimed at providing the patient withall-round personalized treatment (Henneghan &amp Schnyer, 2013).This means medical professionals provide patients with the bestpossible treatment which will allow them to live comfortably feelingas little pain as possible. Studies have indicated such treatmentsare quite effective for elderly and cancer patients.

CultivatingFunctional Cultures

Asmentioned above, the realm of medicine is one full of stress since itdeals with the well being of human lives. Today, more than everaccording to the Kaiser Health News website, medical students areundergoing a lot of agony as supervisors are applying a lot ofunnecessary pressure on them (Rovner, 2015). As a result, thesestudents are subject to depression even when dealing with real lifepatients. Interestingly, even the depictions on television alsoattest to this as generally doctors are according to the Atlantic,constantlydepicted as anxious, cold, nervous, tense, and unfriendly (Beck,2014). Julie Rovner’s article on the stress of medical trainingindicates that the stress on medical students transfer’s over tohow patients are cared for within healthcare institutions. Thearticle is supported research conducted by researchers fromCambridge, Harvard, and Yale medical schools. The studies indicatethat:

“..Thestress of training can cause depression. And it’s not just thedoctors themselves who suffer, patients should worry, too. Depressionin residents has been linked to poor quality patient care andincreased medical errors…” (Rovner, 2015)

Theseverity of the problem is deeper than most people perceive it sinceaccording to Dr. Michael Green who is a professor of internalmedicine at Pennsylvania State, its part of tradition (Rovner, 2015).Medical trainers treat their students the way they treated when theywere undergoing medical training.

Nevertheless,this is a huge problem because it is only feeding into the negativedepiction of medicine in popular culture. After taking this intoaccount it is quite obvious that there is a need to provide a lotmore personalized training for students after medical training. Thisinvolves as move towards dedicated instruction and mentorship.Interestingly, the doctors who do the training should essentiallypractice what they preach to others. Students have to be taught inways which facilitate good mental health, coping mechanisms, andwellness (Rovner, 2015). Hospitals already have a lot of stress sinceso many patients who come in for treatment have serious conditions.Subsequently, doctors and other medical professionals have addedstress to ensure that such patients get the best treatment or have todeal with the death of patient while on duty. This is where teachingcoping mechanisms can be of great help because the medicalprofessional can be adequately prepared since they are as human asanybody else.

Creatinga functional culture is very important and it starts early in thecourse of educating, training, and eventually in the employment stageof medical professionals. This is a great course of action because itwould aid many other various problems faced by the faculty within theworkplace. For example, the study published in the Journal ofHospital Medicine concerning doctors admitting to unprofessionalconduct, 40% of the doctors in the study admitted to mocking anotherdoctor to colleagues (Rau, 2012). Around the same percentage ofdoctors also admitted to bad mouthing doctors in the emergency roombecause they failed to properly diagnose a patient’s medicalcondition. Such behavior is dysfunctional and actually this is thekind of depiction epitomized by medical dramas on television.

Workingwith the Media

Muchof the depictions concerning the nature of medicine have been carriedout by the media. Realistically, the medical industry has simply satback and watched. However, this should not be the case since themedical industry has vast resources which can be invested to create anew perception in the public’s eye. For example, the industryshould feature television programs which focus on different medicalissues which are affecting people from all walks of life. As aresult, medical professionals can offer various input and insight onprevention and treatment strategies for the diverse medicalconditions. This is important because many people have resorted toconducting their own research via the internet. But this is quiterisky because people should always consult medical professionals asopposed to attempting to play doctor. In fact, in a country like theUnited States this collaboration between the medicine and media wouldbenefit a whole lot of people dealing with deadly diseases such ascancer and heart disease. From this point of view the medicalindustry can actually shape public perception towards medicine.Television is full of fictional material which only inspires distrustand also ingrains negative stereotypes among viewers. While suchmaterial does increase television for respective programmingproviders, it only continues to breakdown the social fabric needed topresent helpful information to people around the world.


Inconclusion, medical professionals can use depictions of medicine toimprove human resource management, to invest in holistic treatmentstrategies, to cultivate functional cultures within health careinstitutions, and to work with the media to improve the public’sperception of the medical industry in general. Research indicatesthat these depictions actually emanate from real life scenarioswithin the industry. However, with the right attitude and commitmentfor change it is very possible to use these depictions in a mannerwhich improves the work of medical professionals.


Beck,J. 2014, Healthcare in the Time of Grey’s Anatomy. The Atlantic.Retrieved March 3, 2016 from: greys-anatomy/379087/

Deng,B. 2014. How accurate is the Knick’s take on medical history. TheSlate. Retrieved March 3, 2016 from: medical_history_on_the_cinemax_show_from.html

Henneghan,A. M., &amp Schnyer, R. N. 2013. Biofield therapies for symptommanagement in p alliative and end-of-life care. AmericanJournal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Rau,J. 2012. Doctors admit to unprofessional behavior in study. Medscape.Retrieved March 3, 2016 from:

Rovner,J. 2015. Medical training so dark many students depict supervisors asmonsters- Literally. Kaiser Health News. Retrieved March 3, 20161from: monsters-literally/