Watching St. Elsewhere

I looovvveeed St. Elsewhere on its first go ’round from 1982 until 1988. Now, here I am watching it in 2020 on HULU and it is stunning how much different medical care is now from the then-state-of-the-art care.


  • St. Eligius did not have a CT Scan, there was only one in the city.
  • The doctors and nurses wore no gloves except in surgery. This was right before AIDS became a household word and they did wear gloves in the AIDS episode, but otherwise, none in the ER or with patients.
  • Needles! Needles and syringes were handed around like licorice instead of potential needle sticks. I mean, NEEDLES 6 inches long. I can only imagine how many times they were poked just making the show. Universal Precautions were not even created until 1985.
  • People walked around with bloody gowns (especially Ehrlich who was played by Ed Begley Jr.).
  • People serving food licked their fingers. ACK!
  • Issues like the The Troubles in Northern Ireland were prevalent.
  • Ism’s abounded! Sexism (women were smacked on the bottom all the time… nurses, candy stripers, doctors, all), Ableism (show about a deaf man and patient demonstrated how easy it was to discriminate against people who were different at that time), Homophobia, Classism, Racism of all kinds… just stunning how blatant it was not so long ago.
  • Babies of the doctors (Jack Morrison, played by David Morse) were in playpens on the patient floors, back in nurses’ stations, but still.
  • Phillip Chandler (Denzel Washington in one of his first roles), stopped for Running While Black. Sadly, still an issue today.
  • Breast cancer was just getting traction in the news, a major storyline on the show.
  • Mark Harmon (Bobby Caldwell) was yummy as ever, even after he was attacked by razor blades.
  • In the AIDS episode, the patient was put in an isolation ward and Dr. White (Terence Knox) was permitted to not take care of the guy because he was married and had kids. That would never happen today.
  • Howie Mandel (Wayne Fiscus) represented a new wave of doctors that were amusing, kind and not always professional. Docs swung that way for awhile, but then it went to far and it is seriously in the professionalism quadrant now.
  • The shows that discussed rape were archaic compared to how rape cases are treated now. However, I will tell you even today’s care could use a serious upgrade.

I just started Season 3, so am sure I will write more as I watch more.

After St. Elsewhere, it is on to ER! I can hardly wait!


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