Diagnosing “Grey’s Anatomy” with 5 doses of BLS data

Editor’s note: Elizabeth Cross, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wrote this post.

A television series that blends the professional and personal stories of doctors, “Grey’s Anatomy” is one of America’s most-watched medical dramas. You may know everything there is to know about McDreamy and McSteamy, but there’s still plenty to learn about other facets of the show.

Here are 5 facts from BLS related to “Grey’s Anatomy.”

  1. The drama is set in a fictional hospital in Seattle, Washington. According to data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, there were 34 general medical and surgical hospitals in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, metropolitan statistical area in 2016.

Artistic image of doctors and a patient in an operating room.

  1. The show’s doctors and nurses rarely discuss their income or wages, but data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey offer clues. Those estimates show an average annual wage of $90,780 in May 2016 for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, metropolitan statistical area. That was more than the average annual wage of $79,160 for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations nationally.

Artistic image of a medical chart, stethoscope, calculator, mobile phone, and money.

  1. The series has been praised for its racially diverse cast, but that small-screen diversity doesn’t always match occupational reality. According to the Current Population Survey, 71.6 percent of employed physicians and surgeons in 2016 were White, which is about on par with the current “Grey’s Anatomy” cast. But 7.5 percent of physicians and surgeons in the United States were Black or African American and 19.3 percent were Asian, compared with about 31 percent and 0 percent, respectively, in the current cast. Similarly, 38.2 percent of physicians and surgeons in the United States in 2016 were women, while around half of the drama’s main characters are women.

An artistic image of a diverse group of six doctors.

  1. The show’s writers seem keen on killing off its characters in dramatic fashion. Most of those casualties have involved plot lines away from the hospital, but the few that have occurred onsite may imitate real life. According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 7 of the 11 on-the-job fatal injuries for physicians and surgeons nationwide in 2015 were due to intentional violence by other people or self-inflicted injury.

An artistic image of a gravestone with flowers.

  1. Although some characters have met a bleak end, new ones are always being added to the series. Planning for new workers to fill openings may be grounded in fact: Employment Projections data show that about 290,000 job openings for physicians and surgeons are expected between 2014 and 2024. About 190,700 of those openings are projected to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently.

An artistic image of a hospital, ambulance, and medical helicopter.