Grey’s Anatomy – Teaching Hospitals and Psych Wards

An average of ten million viewers tune into Grey’s Anatomy a week, and in a recent episode we saw a glimpse into what the producers and writers of this acclaimed series think about inpatient psych treatment.

Grey’s Anatomy Season 9 Episode 2:

“I said no more damn restraints.” 

“She doesn’t even belong on this floor. She’s violent, uncommunicative.”

“She just hasn’t talked yet.”

“There is nothing physically wrong with her. She belongs up in psych.”

“Ok, ok. It’s time. It’s time to get up. They are gonna take you upstairs. They are gonna pump you with antipsychotics and you’re gonna go slap jawed and cookoo’s nest. And you’ll never be you again. Christina, please. I am begging you please. You have to say something Christina, please. Do you hear me? Say something please.”

Yes, this is a TV show but having worked close with treatment teams of two Los Angeles County hospitals, I can say from real life experience that fiction has its hands in truth when it comes to inpatient psych wards. 

In my two year stint working as a case manager and discharge planner in county wards I witnessed far too many patients at the mercy of drugs being administered recklessly; particularly in teaching hospitals. In that particular setting you have students learning about psych treatment and often times end up having an exorbitant amount of control over a patients care and play too firm a hand in determining medications. In treatment meetings, residents would randomly throw out ideas on medications and dosage. If something doesn’t work they try something else. As a result, patients involuntarily become guinea pigs and if they are not med compliant they will be forced to take their meds. 

Due to the outrageous method of medication and treatment some patients end up hiding their medications in their mouth, or taking them then throwing them up in the bathroom. The situation is a total mess. And there is one word to describe the crux of this problem: Immoral. 

Psych wards are overmedicating and patients that end up in one are at the mercy of a system that is beyond flawed and borderline immoral. They are at the mercy of a student learning about psych treatment in their rotation. 

Fans adore Grey’s Anatomy. I wonder what viewers would think if those cameras were “up in psych.” What kind of reactions would we get if we saw Christina in seclusion on a psych floor. Sure, it doesn’t fit the template of the show but, would be interesting regardless.

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