It is no secret that television tends to exaggerate. After all, good stories tend to need more than reality, right? The problem with that idea is that sometimes a profession can be wrongly represented to the point that it affects public perception and actually impacts those working in the field. For example, criminal investigators and prosecutors have coined the term, “CSI effect” to describe the unrealistic expectations jurors often have because of television shows like CSI: Miami. In some instances, court cases have been overturned because the prosecution can’t present the kind of fanciful evidence jury members have come to expect from television.
Healthcare administrators aren’t typically depicted much at all in popular culture. But, in medical drama House, one of the main cast members plays a Dean of Medicine in the hospital where Dr. Gregory House, the title character, works.
While the show does exaggerate certain facets of how a hospital works, there is a remarkable amount of accuracy in its portrayal of health administration, especially in the relationship between administrator and doctor. Dr. Cuddy and House frequently are in conflict, though she is technically his boss.
Another thing the show gets right is her title, Dean of Medicine. Since hospitals are often associated with or funded by universities, it is not uncommon for the healthcare administrator to have the title of Dean.
In addition to overseeing the doctors and nurses working in a medical facility, healthcare administrators serving as Deans oversee medical students working as fellows in the hospital. Cuddy does this, and is also integral to the hiring process of new fellows under House.
There are a couple of inconsistencies between Cuddy’s character and real life hospital administration, her appearance and demeanor for one. Some reviews of the show berate Edelstein’s character for being a bit lewd for someone in charge of a hospital. Edelstein was mostly unfazed, and said it didn’t matter much that the portrayal was a little inaccurate. “She doesn’t care what people say … She’s a television character, and I’m an actress playing a hospital administrator, and I don’t want to be in frumpy clothes. I want to be a hot hospital administrator.”
That aside, her depiction of the profession is more accurate than some might think. At the very least, it is certainly more accurate than CSI: Miami.