What we learned from watching Grey’s Anatomy



We’ve been watching lots of TV during the pandemic, some for pure enjoyment and entertainment and some to keep us abreast of news events.

Among the longest running series we’ve sat through, Grey’s Anatomy has given us enough medical knowledge almost to earn our M.D.s. (Full disclosure: Barbara watches the series nightly, while Margaret has seen only a few episodes.) Regardless, as a result of watching the show, we’ve both become quasi knowledgeable about livers, brains, hearts, appendages and what to do if legs or arms must be amputated. It’s also heightened our awareness of the kinds of questions to ask a medical professional and the importance of trusting your physician before going under the knife. Snip! Snip!

But wait. This series offers more. Each episode shares life lessons about people, professions, how they spend time when not in an operating room. Some of these lessons may be useful in our lives and yours.

Here are some of our favorite takeaways.

TV doctors—or this cast–have very active libidos. Most on the show seem to spend a lot of time making use of them in on-call room beds. Don’t wander into one of these spaces unless you knock first.

Beware of medical professionals who hit the medicine room too often. Their proclivity for this section of the hospital might be a red flag and beyond getting medications for patients or dipping their hands into the narcotics vials.

Surgical interns and residents are highly competitive, fighting to participate in the most unusual learning procedures. Have something minor like an ingrown nail and you may fall by the wayside. Brain, liver or heart problem or more than one, and you’ll get lots of attention from a top doc and their assistants.

Try to maintain some boundaries when thinking of becoming involved with a work colleague. This is a workplace and gossip in a hospital can spread faster than a virus. Nobody seems to observe rules of confidentiality. And certainly, don’t get involved with a superior; it complicates matters more.

Yet, find a best bud, or what the show calls “your person.” Nurture that relationship. Swear them to secrecy and have each other’s back.

Know that nobody’s job is more important than another person’s, whether in a personal or work relationship despite what Big Cheese Dr. Derek tells wife Meredith (Grey). You’re part of a team.

Think twice or three times about sharing your house with colleagues or even rooming with one. It rarely turns out well; again, those boundaries get messy. But if you do, certainly avoid seeking sympathy by getting into someone’s bed to have some company. It can lead to, well, you know what.

If you share holiday meals, know how to cook some basic dishes. One character seems to thrive on baking; not a diet the doctor ordered. She also left the show early.

Don’t be surprised to learn you have a half-sibling here or there or a biological parent you didn’t know about. Be open to the possibility of forming a relationship.

Don’t fly in small airplanes, unless the company has been vetted.

Be careful when driving, especially when you haven’t had enough sleep or when getting into your car on a major road after helping to save lives.

If you’re in an accident, ask–if conscious–to be taken to a major teaching hospital with a trauma center and be sure they do a brain C-scan before operating.

Don’t go to a hospital of any kind if it’s in the midst of a takeover; wait until it falls through and the doctors become the owners.

Become a regular at a great neighborhood bar where you can go to celebrate happy and sad times and know you’ll see friends and maybe meet a stranger who becomes a friend or more. Better yet, choose a bar with a bartender named Joe. Note: even if the docs imbibe and overdo it, they seem to be able to circumvent a hangover and operate the next day.

Know that women doctors work just as hard and are just as skilled, if not better, than their male colleagues.

When a doctor approaches and says, “I am so sorry,” you know it’s going to be the worst news—it’s the death knell.

Always check your pulse; if you have one it means you’re still alive. Thanks, Derek, for that info.

If you’re sad about favorite cast members who get bumped off or leave a Shonda Rhimes series like this one, don’t be. There’s a good chance that she’ll recast them since she often recycles favorites.

Give yourself time to watch this series for it goes on and on for 18 seasons, longer than it takes to get through medical school. This is why Barbara binged and watched more than one episode per night!