Monday, January 5, 2009

"Scrubs" and Palliative Care

I recently caught a very palliative care rerun of Scrubs that I had previously forgotten about. For those of you not familiar with this comedy, it premiered in 2001 and follows three interns and their friends through residency and now into their careers. In 2001, I was a medical student and I watched the show through my residency. It always seemed to capture some of the emotions I was dealing with at the time.

This episode entitled "My Five Stages" is about dealing with the death of a patient. In the clip below, the concept of the five stages of grief is introduced to a dying patient by a very interesting grief counselor. The episode goes on to follow the two doctors, JD and Cox, as they go through these stages themselves and come to terms about the loss of one of their favorite patients. Note the description JD gives about what it's like to die.



I have often thought Scrubs is the most realistic medical show. I never really got into any of the other medical shows because I hated all the drama. (How many bombings and shootings can one ER have anyway?) I know Scrubs is a comedy, so definitely exaggerated, but there is usually an element of truth in all of their humor. The situations and conversations may be over the top but I think it gets the emotional aspects right (always in a funny way).

Because it deals with the day to day struggle of the medical staff, there are frequent palliative care topics that come up. This scene from "My Long Goodbye" addresses the difficulty we have delivering bad news.



Another episode, "My Number One Doctor" deals with the ethical dilemma one of the doctors has when she discovers that her ALS patient had attempted suicide and was planning on trying again.

Scrubs is still coming out with new episodes but has changed networks from NBC to ABC. If you're interested you can see old reruns frequently on Comedy Central and other networks.

9 Responses to “"Scrubs" and Palliative Care”

dethmama said...
January 5, 2009 at 1:25 PM

"Bad News Robot"... that's too rich! I'm envisioning MD's throughout the country tinkering in their garages attempting to make one of these things. Great post!


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
January 5, 2009 at 5:42 PM

I keep trying to find a way to work that clip into a presentation. Isn't there so much wisdom in Scrubs? Thanks for your comment dethmama.


Ty Meyer, MD said...
January 7, 2009 at 9:05 AM

I agree that Scrubs is the most realistic (in comedic way) medical show. It really hits home with us interists. The second episode of Season 8 that aired last night at was also focused on a palliative care topic. I won't be a spoiler, but they are re-airing it tonight on ABC at 9:30 EST.


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
January 7, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Ty, I saw the Scrubs episode last night. It was very palliative care oriented. I won't be a spoiler either but the conversation about fearing death was very interesting. About how doctors fight death and don't want it to know that we're afraid of it.

One of my favorite lines:"Maybe in the end all you can really hope for is that your last thought is a nice one". It kind of made me want to go drink a beer. (You will understand if you watch the episode.)

Just some trivia, that last song was Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You into the Dark." That is the same group Christian posted on earlier for "What Sarah Said". Christian made me fan.

Thanks for your comment Ty.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
January 7, 2009 at 6:12 PM

Yeah, as soon as I watched that (on DVR) last night I thought of running here to the comments section. There were a lots of great lines in the second episode.

[no huge spoilers follow]

I have to kind of cough at JD describing dying as starting with 'having more trouble breathing.' But the rest of it was pretty apt. I am glad they showed the absurd contrast between the intern 'Jo' and her cutting remarks, and Turk and JD spend a little time actually getting to know the patient.

I think I will need to start a steak night though. (watch the episode) (Maybe after Grand Rounds next week Amber?)


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
January 7, 2009 at 6:13 PM

Good pick up on the song Amber. I am thinking of writing that one up soon for the blog. "Dibs!"


sarah said...
February 10, 2009 at 9:06 PM

Hi,Amber. I completely agree with you about Scrubs. Other medical shows are about crazy cases and melodrama, but have very little to do with real life. And while Scrubs may be a comedy, there is an emotional core that runs throughout the show. There is a lot of emphasis on the relationships the medical staff have with patients and with each other, as well as their own internal struggles. I have certainly found it much more emotionally compelling than any medical drama.


sarah said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

Hi,Amber. I completely agree with you about Scrubs. Other medical shows are about crazy cases and melodrama, but have very little to do with real life. And while Scrubs may be a comedy, there is an emotional core that runs throughout the show. There is a lot of emphasis on the relationships the medical staff have with patients and with each other, as well as their own internal struggles. I have certainly found it much more emotionally compelling than any medical drama.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

Yeah, as soon as I watched that (on DVR) last night I thought of running here to the comments section. There were a lots of great lines in the second episode.

[no huge spoilers follow]

I have to kind of cough at JD describing dying as starting with 'having more trouble breathing.' But the rest of it was pretty apt. I am glad they showed the absurd contrast between the intern 'Jo' and her cutting remarks, and Turk and JD spend a little time actually getting to know the patient.

I think I will need to start a steak night though. (watch the episode) (Maybe after Grand Rounds next week Amber?)