“Scrubs:” True to Life with Its’ Characters, According to Hospital Staff

“Scrubs” actress Judy Reyes and Margie Barron.

“Scrubs” actress Judy Reyes and Margie Barron.

There are a lot of great hospital shows on the air now: “House,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “ER,” and “Scrubs,” etc. But which is true to life? What show is seen by health caregivers who recognize themselves and their colleagues?
For more than five weeks I had the chance to observe doctors, nurses and hospital staff while my husband Frank had his (very successful) quadruple bypass. In order to pass the time, I found an entertaining way to amuse myself during a few precious moments that didn’t include medical procedures and worrying. I conducted an informal survey with the hospital staff at the great VA Hospital West LA. An ER doctor in the cafeteria line one morning was very chatty and told me, of course, that he loved NBC’s “ER,” “because that’s what it’s like in the trenches. Their procedures are very accurate.” But when he goes home to relax, that doctor admitted he tunes in to “House.” “I love that guy,” he said. “House,” starring Hugh Laurie, was the top choice for most of the doctors, who described the series like a great mystery with interesting stories that uncover what-dunit instead of who-dunit. Some young interns rotating out of UCLA Medical reported they feel pretty good when they can make a diagnosis before “House” and his team identifies the ailment of the week. (I think it’s important to note that all the docs mentioned that they have trouble with House’s bad behavior. No one would get away with that nonsense, but they love the cranky pill-pusher anyway.)
It was funny to hear that the hospital staff wasn’t crazy about “Grey’s Anatomy” because it was more of a soap opera with too much personal drama. “All that McDreamy stuff gets old pretty fast,” said a doctor who looked like a young Denzel, a real McDreamy himself.
With all the great dramas to choose from, the sitcom “Scrubs” was the top choice for making its characters “true to life,” according to most doctors and nurses. I was surprised, but I certainly agree. “Scrubs,” now seen Wednesdays on ABC, is a show I’ve always enjoyed because of its mix of intelligent comedy and fantasy. It has crazy, lovable characters who take you on a journey through heart-tugging storylines that focus on the very serious business of hospital life. That’s just like real life.
“Scrubs” is now in its eighth season, a testament to the outstanding writing that has been the hallmark of the show, which deserves to take its place next to the classic “M.A.S.H.” The cast also deserves kudos. Zack Braff stars but it’s more of an ensemble piece, with each actor and actress equal to the task of making the most outrageous situation (and there have been many) totally believable. I saw many familiar characters when I was by my husband’s side at the Veterans Hospital. I looked around and saw folks who filled the roles of the eager young doc J.D. (Braff), surgical stud Turk (Donald Faison), the smart blonde Dr. Elliot (Sarah Chalke) and Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), the tough mentor who cares but doesn’t let it show. That’s so true; doctors rarely let you get a glimpse of their tender side. Even the “Scrubs” Janitor (Neil Flynn) has the multiple personalities that I saw in the army of hospital maintenance men who are proud of their importance in the scheme of things.
My observations also focused on the nurses who are the heart and soul of the medical profession. With all the zaniest goings-on in every episode of “Scrubs,” it’s the nurse Carla (Judy Reyes) who usually provides the voice of reason. Judy told me that she gets fan mail from nurses who appreciate the dignity and compassion she brings to her role. She has been the strongest character on the show. And in real life, during our time in the ICU and post surgery wards, I saw a lot of “Nurse Carlas.” God bless those angels on earth.