Code Black: TV Drama versus real life emergencies

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - CBS's latest medical drama Code Black focuses on a critical moment when a hospital is overwhelmed with patients, and all behind the scenes drama among hospital staff.

However, does art imitate life? While the television drama may capture the teamwork and fast paced nature of emergency care... real life is far less, well, dramatic.

To start, the term "code black" which the show uses to describe a scenario when the hospital has more patients than resources is not necessarily a real hospital term. While hospitals do have a variety of codes and protocols to cover everything from a hurricane to an active shooter, those codes are unique to each hospital.

"The typical day for us is not what you would see on TV," said Our Lady of the Lake trauma surgeon Dr. Michael Fahr.  "The actual experiences and some of the drama the comes from outside the hospital, everyone d rops that when they come to the hospital to take care of people."

As for running out of resources, it's the job of the Louisiana Emergency Response Network or LERN to make sure that does not happen.

"Just like the TV show, things do get a little out of hand at time, but we were kind of prepared for it," said LERN Administrative Director Chris Hector.

Among its many responsibilities, LERN is home to a communications center that keeps a finger on the pulse of every hospital in the state, and an eye on paramedics in the field. When emergency strikes, like a car pileup or plant explosion, LERN helps direct the patient flow.

That ensures each person gets the care they need from the best suited facility without overwhelming any one hospital.

For example, after the 2013 Williams Olefins plant in Geismar injured dozens of workers, LERN helped disperse those patients to hospitals throughout the region. The most critical went to the Lake's trauma center and Baton Rouge General's burn unit.

Early communication meant that the staff in each location was prepared long before the first ambulance arrived.

"Years ago they would find out from the first ambulance transporting to the hospital," said Hector. "Now you may get 20 minutes or longer of a lead time to prepare for patients."

However, if there's one thing the scripted TV drama does get right it's the team approach that's required to save lives and the passion to keep fighting.

"The joys are when you do get them through, when you do get the thank yous when you get them through something you know they shouldn't have survived," said Fahr.

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