ID compared to House, MD

It is Medical Monday, yet again.  Actually, I feel like it has been a long time since the last Medical Monday.  Either way, it is time to hook up with some other medical related blogs for some medical and Monday-ish goodness.

As some of you who read this blog regularly know, I am currently on an Infectious Diseases rotation and I have likened it a bit to the TV show House, MD.

I have been giving it some thought (and noticing the continued strange popularity of my post General Surgery Is NOT Grey’s Anatomy) and decided that it is time I both prove and dispel some more TV related medical show perceptions, this time referring to House, MD.

First of all, why House?

For starters, it is one of the other medical shows I watch(ed).  Also, when I think of real medical specialties that are kind of like “diagnostician” I think Internal Medicine and, more specifically, ID or Rheumatology because they get to see some of the weird and wonderful.  And I am sure in some big places, someone really is a diagnostician specializing in the really complex cases.  That being said, it isn’t a residency or a common position.  At least, I don’t know any, so this is my reasonable facsimile.

The similarities:

  • There really is a gaggle of people who deal with the complicated cases.
  • People do sit in a group and bounce ideas off of one another complete with internet and journal searches and a white board, or more commonly, a sheet of paper.

    Image from

  • Someone who is generally much smarter than everyone else does lead the pack (and sometimes bosses people around).
  • Often times, much of the staff are not fans of the person in charge of the hospital.
  • Patients do lie.  For reals.

    Okay, not everybody. Image from

  • The days can be crazy long and chaotic, but also interspersed with mind numbing waiting and boredom (or time for other antics).
  • When you just think you have someone or something figured out, there is a twist (sometimes).

    Image from

  • Sarcoidosis, lupus and obscure infections are often somewhere on the differential.

    Or is it? Image from

  • You do have to work in places you don’t always like to or want to in order to keep the hospital running and such.

The differences:

  • Patients do tell the truth.
  • One does not generally have a team of fellows who were staff in every other area of the hospital.  Those people often just stick to their own jobs.
  • You can’t just go around running your own lab tests, diagnostic scans and procedures all willy nilly.  There are people specially trained to do all of those things better than the doctors on the show.
  • You would lose your job for screwing around with a clinical trial, stealing drugs, blatantly endangering patients, etcetera.
  • A good start to making a correct diagnosis is a good history and physicial.  They tend to skip that step.
  • A next important step to a correct diagnosis is doing the correct diagnostic test.  Most of the scans they do aren’t appropriate and then the images are not actually of the scan they claimed to order.  In fact, they often put the patient in the incorrect machine.
  • You can’t order everything STAT.  That would make “STAT” routine.
  • There are more staff in the hospital than the “Diagnostician” and a lone oncologist who happens to treat EVERYONE (including children) with cancer.

    I do quite like their bromance, though. Image from

  • As a consultant, you consult, not make all the decisions.
  • People don’t code that often.  At least they don’t code that often and survive.
  • Patients die.
  • Sometimes you just don’t figure out the answer and the person either dies or gets better and you don’t know why.  That isn’t a failure.  Just life.
  • Breaking into someone’s home, car, workplace and so forth is a felony, not medicine.
  • It takes much more time to figure out complicated and novel cases.
  • You can’t just throw drugs at people (or take them away) and expect them to get better.
  • If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck, not a zebra.  House almost always gets the zebra.
  • Sometimes, it really is lupus or sarcoidosis.

    Image from

  • Nobody would let you practice medicine on that many drugs.  No matter how good you are.
  • You can’t just go taking over in the OR, bursting into the OR or really, doing anything in the OR if you are not currently practicing as a surgeon.

    No. Just, no. Image from

  • There is a financial and ethical limit to how much you can and should do.
  • Doctors aren’t immune to whatever the guy in the bed has.

10 thoughts on “ID compared to House, MD

    • Glad you liked it!
      I loved House for the first few years, although I kind of stopped watching when I started med school and didn’t have cable. As much as I pick it apart, I still like to watch an episode when they are on in re-runs.

  1. Happy New Year! Visiting via MM Blog Hop – love your comparisons to House – a medical show that I actually watched as well. My husband, a radiologist, always ruined it for me though – he’d come in, listen for a few minutes, call it all impossible, and walk out! Ugh!

    Thanks for shedding the truths from the fantasy here!

    Ray Doc Wife

    • Glad you liked the comparisons.
      I ruined House for some of my friends. I worked as a Nuc Med Tech before med school and used to point out how the scans weren’t right. It was a game for my school friends and I. Then, med school came along and I was forever arguing with the TV.
      It might be impossible, but it was entertaining.

  2. I have a confession to make… I’ve never watched HOUSE! I think it may be time I watch it on Netflix, huh?? I feel super guilty about it!! Thanks for linking up… that was a fun post!!! Happy 2014!

    • Ha! Don’t feel guilty about it… It is an interesting show, but not the be all end all by any means.
      But, that being said, if you have some spare time, check it out just to see what the hype was about.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Umm yeah thanks! People always ask me about tv shows and if its like real medical life…nope. My husband is too exhausted to be going out drinking after work and hooking up with nurses in the custodians closet 😉

  4. You covered everything but one.. Are there really some doctors who work while taking Prescription narcotics? I would assume no but given they had a medical problem such as House does than maybe.. I just always wondered this.

    • Interestingly and unfortunately, substance abuse is an issue amongst physicians. They warn us of it in conferences and in school. I have been fortunate to never had a run-in with someone House-like, but it does happen, sadly. D Thankfully, there are more and more avenues for people with addictions to seek help (or for those who suspect or are concerned about someone else having addictions issues to report concerns) these days.

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