Diabolical doctors and notorious nurses

5 minute read

We reveal the final nominees for the most frightening (fictional) frontline health worker awards.

Welcome to the inaugural Frightening Frontline Workers Awards, recognising the contributions of fictional health professionals to the public erosion of trust in medicine.

Whether they’ve given inspiration to patients for defamatory Google reviews, provided fuel for recurring nightmares, or merely afforded you reason to send your kids to bed because the movie is too scary, these macabre medicos have in many ways crossed from the realms of their comic/novel/TV series into real life.  

Dr Jonathan Crane, psychiatrist  

Our first contender for most frightening frontline worker is recommended for his detrimental contributions to the field of mental health.

Dr Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow sprung from the minds of Batman creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane into an edition of World’s Finest Comics in 1941 and is widely regarded as a “source of misery” in Gotham City and surrounding fictional areas.  

Despite the already high levels of distress in Gotham, where Batman’s enemies wreak regular havoc on the local population, the eminent psychiatrist Dr Crane has taken it upon himself to increase the demand for mental health services even further by using people’s worst fears to terrorise them.

This has led to some disgruntled colleagues accusing him of adding to their workload and even double-dipping when Dr Crane later took on clients he had likely terrorised as his alter ego The Scarecrow.

However, proponents of Dr Crane’s work point to the considerable hours he spent terrorising civilians after-hours, for free.

His career has included a post in the psychology department at Gotham University and stint as a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum.  

Significant moments in Dr Crane’s career include: his invention of the hallucinogenic volatile substance “fear gas” that conjures someone’s worst fears; and helping perpetuate the myth that those trained in understanding the minds of others will then use that knowledge against them.

We give Dr Crane/The Scarecrow three out of five AHPRA notifications.

Qyburn, former maester/travelling healer

A nominee from the far-flung, Middle Ages-inspired land of Westeros, Qyburn is a controversial physician known for a blatant disregard of the ethical review processes and alleged dabbling in necromancy.

Like Beyoncé or Madonna, Qyburn goes by a single name; however, unlike Beyoncé or Madonna he tends to make unobtrusive entrances and favour rather drab outfits.

Qyburn was first introduced during George RR Martin’s novel A Clash of Kings having been stripped of his position as maester for pursuing disturbing experiments on living human subjects.

Notable moments in his career include: successfully cleaning the infected wrist-stump of Jaime Lannister and preventing the arm from following the fate of his hand; the revival/transformation of Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane; having his work come back to bite him. 

Unfortunately, the committee can’t give Qyburn a rating out of five, since the descriptions of his surgical escapades were too stomach-turning to read in full. 

The entire staff of Grey’s Anatomy 

Interns, residents, and attending physicians – at the fictional American Seattle Grace Hospital, frightening behaviour is a team effort.

Staff are incredibly resilient, frequently being involved in, and treating, victims of many kinds of crashes (a train crash, plane crash, bus crash, ambulance crash, ferry crash, car crash). Sadly for the patients, these incidents are often used to discuss the doctors’ love-lives, in front of multiple strangers and/or their bosses.

Notable ethics fails include: cutting the wire to a patient/love interest’s left ventricular assist device so they will be bumped up the transplant list; a doctor having sex with a ghost; initiating a relationship with a patient with amnesia and guiding their reconstructive surgery so they look like a former flame; and rigging a clinical trial so a friend receives the active agent rather than the placebo.

Points were lost for that time everyone sang, because it was frankly ridiculous.

We give the Seattle Grace staff 3.5 out of five AHPRA notifications.

Mildred Ratched, nurse

Nurse Ratched is widely regarded as perpetuating the stereotype of the battle-axe nurse, as being representative of the sexism directed at women in power, and for ruining orange nail polish for everyone.  

A head nurse at the psychiatric treatment centre Salem State Hospital and nemesis of patient Randle McMurphy, Nurse Ratched is often referred to as “Big Nurse” in Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Nurse Ratched’s career is distinguished by dedication to maintaining order, and a fondness for lobotomies and pharmacological interventions. Recent interest in Nurse Ratched’s personal life and early career has led to the creation of a Netflix series documenting her life before her supervillain status.

We give Nurse Ratched four out of five AHPRA notifications.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter, psychiatrist

In the competitive field of mental health, one nominee has achieved significant renown.

It’s been alleged that Dr Hannibal Lecter must not have been taking his monoamine oxidase inhibitors to have survived a high-tyramine meal of liver, fava beans, and Chianti – but this episode of non-adherence is considered an exception in the career of an otherwise dedicated man, who continued to correspond with peers in psychiatry during his incarceration at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

The doctor was first introduced to the world in the 1981 novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and is largely responsible for the idea that serial killers are fascinating geniuses, when the reality is more banal.

A member of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra’s Board of Directors, Dr Lecter is regarded as a highly intelligent, cultured man who enjoys art, wordplay, and gourmet meals.

Despite his disgust at bad manners in others, Dr Lecter is also known for playing with, and eating, his victims.  

Notable moments in his career include creative use of a mask during an escape from custody.

We give Dr Lecter five out of five AHPRA notifications.

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