Medical Dramas and Covid-19
Admittedly, I watch a lot of television shows. I sometimes look for new shows, find some that I can’t miss, but others I have been watching for years and I have grown to love the characters and the stories they tell. I want to share some thoughts I have been pondering about as I enjoy my nighttime dramas this season.
With the ongoing pandemic, I have noticed distinct writing styles in the medical dramas I watch. They each have similarities, and of course, their differences too.
I want to applaud the writers and actors for going back to work and using their craft to be relatable, and sometimes right over the top, like it used to be. The shows that started in the fall have had a few months to develop a storyline that deals with the pandemic head-on.
The shows have had the medical staff fighting as the essential workers we have all heard about and are reflecting the reality from behind the front lines, bringing the harsh truths into our living rooms. When Grey’s Anatomy started up for the seventeenth season, I was in tears as I watched the first episode. It made it real for me, someone living in a small province in Eastern Canada. I haven’t experienced the devastating losses I have seen on the news from other parts of the world. My sister is an ICU nurse, and I have worried about the impact it has on her, and on others who are essential workers on the front lines. A year is a really long time to be on high alert, and it can’t be easy on any of them. Grey’s Anatomy really hit home for me when I saw the portrayal of the first episode. It continued to hug at my heartstrings for fall, and I am eagerly counting the days until it starts up again, on March 11th.
The Resident, another one I watch, gave us a glimpse of what it was like, and has glossed over the pandemic. It is moving forward with stories of serious drama. The tone for this show has always been calm and professional, even though the stories they tell have a lot of underlying themes of the financial side of running a hospital, and the Hippocratic oath is a thin line. When a hospital runs as a business instead of a place where the patients are seen as people, not dollar signs, the complications are bound to arise and be plentiful.
Chicago Med started with a fresh approach. Covid-19 has affected the storyline, and it is highlighting more of the mental health issues arising from going through what we are all living through, and learning how to cope with. If something positive can come out of the pandemic, creating awareness and dialogue around mental health issues is certainly a good place to start. People are not equipped to deal with the stresses caused by a pandemic, and we are only just now seeing what the aftershock is going to be. We aren’t in the clear yet, and so many people have lost their fight with Covid-19 it is unimaginable to some to move on without their loved ones, many of whom never got the chance to say goodbye.
New Amsterdam started this week, with the opening and closing of the show tying together the beginning of the pandemic, and where we are now. The small montage that opened the show had me in tears as it hit the same feels I had when Grey’s Anatomy started in the fall. Since they just started up, it is a year after this whole thing began, and it feels right to be telling the story with a nod to what happened as the newer stories unfold. They are also focusing on mental health, which is extremely important, but they are simultaneously highlighting some things which are wrong in the hospital systems.
There has always been a lead doctor on this show who has thought outside the box to cover every issue he has faced in the hospital and in his personal life outside of it. He is now hinting at branching out to fix what he sees as an ongoing issue in the medical community. Instead of working independently, he spends the show doing what he does best, solving problems. By the time the show was over, he had arranged a trade of medical goods and drugs between four other hospitals and got the drug he needed for his hospital by opening a line of communication between them all.
Another doctor is struggling to go back to working in the emergency department after the pandemic is subsiding. She became so involved with patient care in the time of crisis that she is having a tough time handing patients off to other departments, as things were before Covid-19. It brings a new depth to the term essential worker, by highlighting the loss of responsibility for her and having a colleague reminding her she is still helping and saving people every day differently. As a former addict, this character struggles with a new addiction this season, not to painkillers, but to adrenalin.
In all the shows, the masks and safety equipment are visible, and we can see the strain on the faces of the actors. Some have makeup depicting wounds on their faces from wearing the masks continuously, again something that evokes a response from me. They are doing their jobs, showing us what it is like inside the hospitals, what people like my sister and other essential workers are going through and have been for almost a year. I have an enormous amount of respect for the essential workers, who are doing more than just their jobs, they are separating from their families to keep them from catching this virus. With only their colleagues as their companions for them, day in and day out, it would be an extra strain on them on top of everything else.
Something I have not seen yet in much of these shows is the effect of people not getting the medical treatment they need because of the world holding its collective breath as we fight this disease. It is something I have seen in my small province, and I have also heard of this happening to other people who live far away. It is a subject that I feel strongly about. There are people who live here without a family doctor, and the walk-in clinics are overrun with people who need to see a doctor. It has been an issue since I moved here, almost 20 years ago. A family doctor can keep your medical history and is important to have, especially for chronic conditions. People have been turned away or sent home from the hospital without getting the support they need, whether it is for mental or physical health issues even before the pandemic. Our healthcare system is one of the best in the world, but it is not perfect and this is something that needs to change for the better.
I remember when the pandemic was just another game to play on game night. I miss game nights, and the friends we used to hang out with playing board games. We had been getting together less frequently over the last few years, growing older and becoming more responsible and well, Covid-19 caused a complete halt to game nights for about a year now. With a vaccine coming out, I have hope that it will be something to resume again when it isn’t weird to be around people like we did before March 2020.
Featured Artwork and Photo by Tish MacWebber via Canva.