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My first code. See, here's how it works: someone's heart fails, they beep everyone. The first doctor in has to run the room, tell everyone what to do, basically decide if the patient lives or dies.—J.D.
This involves dropping everything at the sound of an alarm. This is usually because the patient has entered cardiac arrest.
Sometimes, fiction shows us the world not as it is, but as we wish it could be. Such is the case when in a medical setting the silence around a patient's bed is broken by the shrill shock of a monitor alarm, causing all the medical providers in the area to immediately direct their attention to the problem which caused the alarm, which is invariably real and serious.
Expect to see tense doctors and nurses making tough decisions. If the doctor pauses for a second, a nurse will remind them that they have to make a decision quickly. This is usually followed by the Magical Defibrillator. The scene will end with a pulse returning, in which case everyone present will be greatly relived. Or the patient dies after many attempts.
Sadly, this is a clear failure. Bedside alarms are so pervasive in the hospital that the people working there learn to largely ignore them. "False positives" in the form of loose leads, sensing devices removed, tubing kinked, or insignificant perturbations of vital signs are far more common than acute emergencies. Nurses pay attention to the alarms of their own patients, but it's their job to determine whether a real problem exists, so the whole floor need not come running at the sound of every beep.
Sometimes the patient themselves, rather than being unconscious or dying, will call the nurse to report that an alarm is going off. Usually this is because it has woken them up, has been going long enough to get really annoying, or is making it hard to hear the TV.
- Averted in Archie Comics, of all things, when our heroes go to the hospital to look for Juggie. They happen to see an alarm at the unattended nurse's station, and rush to the room, to find that the patient has been calling the nurse to pick up a book he dropped. Then the real nurse comes in, and apologizes. When they find Jughead, he's volunteered as a candy-striper, and tells them about how the hospital is understaffed. Did I mention this story was published in the 70s or 60s?
- Played with a few ways on Scrubs:
- In the pilot episode, JD gets his first code. We see a shot of him running down the hallway, and in to a room. Turns out it's a closet where he has gone to hide. This also turns out to be a subversion, as Turk ends up shocking the guy, who turned out to have fallen asleep attached to a faulty monitor.
- In the episode "One in Three", we cut to response shots of the three protagonists as a single beep alerts them that their patients' hearts have stopped.
- In another episode, the Janitor pranks the doctors by creating a device that plays the flatline sound. Dr. Kelso is not amused.
- Happens all the time on Grey's Anatomy.
- Also happens quite a bit on House.
- ER, of course, is the granddaddy of 'em all.
- Hospitals are apparently so boring in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic that during a break-in, the doctors, the nurses, and even the mental patients will drop everything to help the security guards fend off the burglar.
- Okay, the mental patient will probably chase anyone, but the rest of them don't have an excuse.