If I’m going to bingewatch a medical drama, it better have some strong female characters in it. While so many medical shows highlight some strong or eccentrically brilliant men (I’m looking at you, House), I’m drawn to the ones where the women are just as tough as the guys.
Luckily, there are tons of medical shows out there. Tons. And plenty of them feature strong ladies I can get behind. Here are my favorite three to bingewatch, plus one must-read book:
OK, admittedly this show gets a little nuts the longer it stays on the air (that plane crash! Electrocutions! All those half-sisters!). But the first few seasons, when Meredith and Derek are still circling each other and we find out he’s secretly married, are still pretty amazing. It’s hard to believe the show has been around for 10 solid years. While the cast is still one of the most diverse on television, and McDreamy has become a household name, it’s really the women who shine in this medical drama. From emotionally damaged Meredith Grey to plucky Izzy Stevens and badass Christina Yang, the women are dynamic and realistic, with real desires and problems. Also, these ladies are smart, competent, and they know how to save a life.
At this point it would be almost sacrilegious to talk about medical dramas without mentioning ER. Running for 15 seasons, characters came and went, stories ranged from realistic to insane, but it was always entertaining. And there were plenty of tough female characters to get behind. Who could forget Abby Lockhart, or Carol Hathaway? The women of ER had romances of course, but it never undermined their strength, their medical training or their ability to perform under pressure. If you’re looking for strong female role models in medicine, there’s no better show to binge watch than ER.
This underrated HBO comedy deserves so much more hype than it gets. Set in an extended-care clinic in a California hospital, the predominantly female staff helps geriatric patients as they near the end of their life. It doesn’t sound funny, but trust me, it is. Laurie Metcalf shines as uptight, narcisstic doctor Jenna James. And veteran comediennes Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash perfectly play off one another as nurses with varying degrees of competency. Hilarious, emotional and filled with interesting characters, Getting On is a must-watch.
For a feel-good medical novel, try Binchy’s Heart and Soul. It tells the story of Dr. Clara Casey, who creates and runs an underfunded medical clinic on a rural island in Ireland. Torn between modern medicine and old-world charm, Clara struggles to find her place in the community while also dealing with her adult daughters and divorced husband. The book focuses on her practice, but also on the lives of her staff and how they relate to each other and the other islanders. The novel is a must-read for fans of romance and family drama—with a little medical talk thrown in for good measure.