Documentary series Emergency Room gets inside look at Vancouver General Hospital

Vancouver General Hospital is B.C.’s largest, most specialized hospital, providing care for about 600,000 patients each year. Now, people interested in what goes on at VGH, particularly in the emergency trauma department, can have a closer look.

Emergency Room: Life and Death at VGH is a six-episode documentary series, premiering on the Knowledge Network tonight (January 21) at 9 p.m.

The show shot entirely at VGH is produced by Lark Productions, the Vancouver company responsible for other local reality shows like Gastown Gamble and The Real Housewives of Vancouver.

There is no need for added drama in Emergency Room, however. Within the opening moments of the hour-long first episode, it’s clear that the series will be intense and not for the squeamish. The types of traumas presented range from broken bones and cuts, to atrial fibrillation and stab wounds.

“There’s no typical day in emergency,” one doctor says to the camera, explaining that many people choose to work in the emergency department because they thrive on the adrenaline rush that comes with unpredictability.

About a dozen VGH employees are featured in the series, including emergency and specialty doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists, social workers, and support staff. What makes Emergency Room more than just a show about how injuries and health issues are detected and handled, however, are the revealing interviews with staff members. Doctors talk honestly about their fears of being wrong, nurses are candid about what aspects of the job are boring and routine, and hospital employees discuss how it ultimately feels to see a patient die.

Amid the seriousness (and sometimes, tragedy) in the emergency room, there are moments of comedy. Friday and Saturday nights seem to be the busiest times at VGH, with inebriated patients lining the waiting room. On the first episode, a young woman is wheeled into the emergency room on a stretcher, having fallen off playground monkey bars at midnight and broken her arm. Yes, she was drunk and her accident was completely preventable. As an emergency doctor explains to the camera, most of his job is “essentially preventing Darwinism”.

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