Workshop 15: Medical Mayhem: Strategies to Accurately Depict Medical Facts
Jordyn Redwood (right) is a nurse with vast experience in the medical field. Her lively presentation had us all on the edges of our seats in this informative and interactive session.
She began by clearing up the question of what the role of a nurse is and what it’s not. Nurses are licensed professionals who act as patient advocates and report pertinent findings to physicians. They have a symbiotic relationship with doctors but are not an extension of them. The role has emerged over the years to one where nurses are part of the team and may not always agree with physicians, but work alongside them for the best patient outcomes.
Common medical mayhem in fiction
- Medical culture: Redwood provided examples where details were misconstrued (needles are not recapped, patient/health professional transactions are not recorded)
- Anatomy: Get it right! It’s easy to Google and find the right body part in the right location.
- Medical equipment: Common problem areas are with ventilators and needles (example: patients cannot speak when on a ventilator)
- Feasibility: Is your scenario believable?
- Interaction with other agencies: Find out the latest protocols, especially if you are using an actual medical site.
- Preservation of evidence: Chain of custody must be maintained.
- Legal and medical issues: Sources include EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) and HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). There is some variation between states, for example, on obtaining blood alcohol levels and on statute of limitations.
Strategies for accuracy
- Research. Be specific when using Google.
- Ways to approach search: Look for protocol for ____ or Management of ____. Be aware that protocols change every few years (especially true for the American Heart Association).
- Protocols for treatment are called algorithms. Internet sites that give these are often found in medical journals and books. They can vary between institutions.
- Scope of practice: What physicians can or cannot do is managed by licensing boards.
Approaching medical issues in fiction
- It is best to find three sources that agree for consistency.
- Have a medical person review the scene you’ve created. One with current experience is preferred, since medical issues and treatments are constantly changing.
- A practitioner in the specialty required for your story is a great idea!
- Merck Manual
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
- Family Doctor
- Medical libraries (many hospitals have them)
- Poison Control Center: But don’t call the emergency hotline for general queries!
- Pharmacists for drug-related questions
- Google Books
Redwood blogs about medical issues and invited participants to ask her questions there.