Aside from being a writer and game designer, my secret identity is as a critical care nurse. I’ve been wanting to write this post for the past couple of years, but a couple of TV shows this week caused me to pulled the trigger. Arrow is the first episode I’ve seen on TV where they ran a Cardiac Code even close to what I would expect. Unfortunately, the previous week’s Flash had its entire storyline revolve around bringing people back from the dead like Frankenstein.
It’s a familiar scene: a key character in the show you’re watching is on the operating table and their heart stops beating (ie: they “flatline”). Maybe the doctor yells for a medication. If the character is lucky, someone starts doing chest compressions. But 99.9% of the time, before anything else is done, the doctor will grab a pair of paddles and yell “CLEAR!” before sending a jolt of electricity through the patient that causes them to jump off the table. Sometimes the heartbeat will come back. Sometimes they’ll shock them one more time, unsuccessfully, then give up and call the time-of-death.
Dramatic? Sure. Effective medicine? Absolutely not.
Shocking a flatline in a patient is one of the things in popular culture that drives every medical professional out of their mind. It is so pervasive that most people on the street would agree that the most effective way to restart someone’s heart is to grab whatever electricity-generating device is nearby and throw volts through their chest.
Without taking anything else away from this post, I’ll break it down for you:
Never, ever, for any reason, have your “medical professional” shock a flatline.…