CPR in the Media: How Grey’s Anatomy and House Incorrectly Depict the Practice

CPR in the Media: How Grey’s Anatomy and House Incorrectly Depict the Practice

Lauren Diffendarfer

by Lauren Diffendarfer

Medical Educator

posted on Aug 27, 2015, at 8:57 pm

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greys-anatomy-screenshotMOST OF US HAVE BEEN THERE: so engrossed in the weekly drama of a television show that we dedicate an entire weeknight to watching. For some, this show takes place in a hospital and delves into the very personal (and sometimes glamorous) lives of the surgeons, specialists and nurses. These popular medical dramas, such as House, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice have been created to directly mimic the look and feel of a hospital. Often, viewers might forget that these “doctors” are actually just actors without an actual medical degree.

In fact, the realness and probability of success of medical interventions and treatments featured on the show have actually been studied for decades. In the past, researchers have found that survival rates after administration of CPR on patients in television shows were far higher than that of actual real-time rates. With the constant advancement of medical technology and healthcare education, researchers recently have decided to conduct a similar study to see if the findings have shifted into a more realistic outcome.

In the study, Jaclyn Portanova, Irvine Krystle, Yi Jae Yoon and Susan Enguidanos from the Davis School of Gerontology in Southern California independently watched all episodes (airing from 2010 to 2011) of Grey’s Anatomy and House. The assistants watched for CPR intervention, all found that CPR was portrayed 46 times within the 91 total episodes viewed. The outcomes of the CPR were significantly higher in the shows than the actual average stats. The study found a survival rate of almost 70 percent in the shows, while the actual in-hospital CPR survival rate is about 23 percent in adults (according to the 2013 AHA update). Medical dramas portray a CPR survival rate of almost triple that of actual statistics.

CPR has been around since the 16th century, but it was not until the 1960s that it was introduced to American medicine for treatment of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). CPR, which is commonly referred to as a lifesaver, is becoming more and more necessary among those who are not in the medical profession. In fact, out of hospital cardiac arrest is much more common than in-hospital cardiac arrest (359,400 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests reported in the U.S in 2013). Because of this alarmingly high number, CPR certification for laypersons and CPR recertification every two years is becoming more valued among employers, neighbors, babysitters and more.

Online CPR Certification for Laypersons

CPR certification is not necessarily new. Weekend classes dedicated to obtaining a CPR certification have been offered to medical professionals for years. With modern technology however, CPR certification is now available online. Online CPR certification and online CPR recertification are aimed at being convenient for the modern, busy professional. It is often valued for its ease and flexibility, and is becoming more and more popular.

CPR cannot be learned through Dr. Grey. It is a complex practice that requires some training. All in all, nearly everyone can and should obtain CPR certification and hold the knowledge separately from the nightly binges of marveling over Dr. House.

What’s your favorite TV medical drama?

Check out this rather impressive scene from Grey’s Anatomy featuring CPR only using compressions and the popular song “Stayin’ Alive”!

Study:
It isn’t like this on TV: Revisiting CPR survival rates depicted on popular TV shows
Portanova, Jaclyn et al., Resuscitation

About Lauren

Lauren works as the Medical Educator for the Disque Foundation and has worked closely with us since 2014. She is a full-time student pursuing a BS in Biology at Indiana University as a recipient of the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship and hopes to attend medical school to become a physician in the future. She is certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and she is also a certified Basic Life Support Instructor for the American Heart Association. She stays heavily involved with health care in and out of her local community, helping plan and coordinate Disque Foundation events, teaching lifesaving skills to the communities and organizations that we serve and volunteering at her hometown hospital in the Birthing Unit.

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