Emergency: NYC, directed by Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash, follows emergency calls fielded by first responders such as EMTs, paramedics, flight paramedics, emergency physicians and nurses, as well as trauma surgeons. In each episode, a few cases are introduced, and we see how each of these people contribute to getting patients the best care possible, as well as follow them into the operating rooms and the waiting rooms where emotional family members are waiting to see if their loved ones will pull through.
EMERGENCY: NYC: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A woman stands at the door of a helicopter hangar. Then an alarm goes off, indicating an incoming call.
The Gist: The personnel that are followed are part of New York’s massive Northwell Health system, the state’s largest healthcare provider. Among the hospitals that have let the cameras in are Lenox Hill Hospital in Upper East Side of Manhattan, Lenox Health in Greenwich Village, North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, and Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.
Among the cases: A 29-year-old opera singer suffers a stroke at a wedding and hits her head on the ground when she collapses. She’s airlifted from a hospital on Staten Island to Lenox Hill; on the copter, she’s treated by nurse Mackenzie Labonte. At Lenox Hill, neurosurgeon David Langer pulls out a massive clot in her brain that had ruptured. At Cohen Children’s, Dr. Jose Prince leads a team that includes transport nurse Donald Darby taking trying to save the life of a 17-year-old with gunshot wounds whose heart stopped at the community hospital where he was first taken.
We also follow paramedic Kristina McCoy and EMT Vicky Ulloa as they are dispatched on a couple of cases, including a senior citizen who fights with her husband while being treated.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Given the fact that Emergency: NYC is from the same producers as Lenox Hill (Dr. Langer is in both shows), it would follow that the two shows are similar.
Our Take: Unlike Lenox Hill, which concentrated on the every day at that one massive New York hospital, Emergency: NYC takes a look at emergency responders throughout the healthcare system, at least the healthcare system as seen by Northwell Health.
Looked at the health care system without a jaundiced eye, Shatz and Barash show the near-miraculous way that the dedicated personnel in every aspect of emergency medicine come together to get critical cases the timely help they need. It’s good to see this process happen from beginning to end, instead of just when the EMTs wheel a patient into the ER and the doctors and nurses take over. Everyone in the chain is critical if the patient is going to have a good outcome, and this show makes that clear.
It shows these people making split-second decisions, being firm in those decisions, and still having enough of a bedside manner to comfort patients and family, who as Labonte says, are enduring “the worst day of their lives.”
The reason why we say we’re looking at this with a jaundiced eye is because the first episode makes the healthcare system in this country look like something it isn’t. So far, there’s an uncritical look at the care these people are getting, no matter what means they have to pay for it. There’s no self-examination of just what these patients are going to endure once their loved ones come home, and we don’t mean the fact that these patients’ lives will be forever changed, as Dr. Prince mentions about the teenager with the gunshot wounds. We’re talking about the bills, the debt, the fact that that kid’s parents may be saddled with medical debt so crippling that they’ll have to declare bankrupcy.
We’re not sure if the subsequent episodes will even go into these topics, even a little. The filmmakers will likely lean hard on the dedication and skill of the staff and the good outcomes that can happen when all of these people come together on a tough case. It’s frustrating, but somewhat understandable. Why bum people out with reality, right?
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: As the teen with the GSWs gets treated, Dr. Prince wonders to the filmmakers if they’re going to be able to pull him out the next time his vitals take a nosedive.
Sleeper Star: All of the first responders that are followed in this series do thankless, low-paid work, and they have to deal with patients like the senior who is fighting with her husband as they’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with her and how she should be treated.
Most Pilot-y Line: Dr. Langer tells the operating team “let’s do a good job” on the opera singer because she’s a “sweet lady” and her husband is an orthopedic surgeon at North Shore. Wouldn’t they always want to do a good job?
Our Call: STREAM IT. Emergency: NYC shows compelling cases and healthcare providers who understand the gravity of their jobs. We just wish it took more of a critical look at the healthcare system.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.