January 25, 2007, 5:55 pm

The Rules of “Emergency!”


“Hello, 911???”

“There’s a naked guy sleeping on a green blanket in the middle of the street!”


Obviously the medic with the blanket is initiating the “Butt Cheek Cover” maneuver.

The other guy is preparing to do an emergent cervical spine manipulation.

See what happens when you don’t wait to take your Ambien until you get home?


As I’m sure you’re all aware, working night shift is pure unadulterated hell and non-stop running from the time you run through the door until the time you drag yourself home at daybreak.


Okay, sometimes it’s not so busy.

Sometimes the CT is down and you can’t take any ambulance traffic.

Sometimes the last patient is discharged, the rooms are stocked, the drugs are ordered and the IV trays are all filled by 0100.

Sometimes you’ve read every nursing journal there is to read, have read over all pertinent policies and memos and have refreshed your memory on everything JCAHO could possibly ask should they pop in five minutes later.

(That was for the benefit of my manager……)

And once in a blue moon there is a laptop computer nearby.

A DVD-playing computer.



If you are now, or ever have been, involved in the EMS system in any capacity, you must get this DVD! Better yet, view it while you are sitting in an ER.

(Not that I would know what that’s like, of course.)

I laughed so hard, I had tears running down my cheeks.

No, it wasn’t meant to be a comedy, and was quite popular in its day. But viewed over thirty years later, it is one hilarious time capsule!

Here are the “rules” of “Emergency!” as ascertained by yours truly:

  • All firehouses must have ashtrays on every table.
  • All rescues involve a car, or a fall down into a ravine.
  • All scenes in the ER must have people in the background with gauze taped to their faces staggering around with a nurse at their elbow.
  • When confronted with a patient who you think may be drunk and collapses on you, leap over the body in your high-heeled nursing shoes and run down the hall, yelling.
  • “A defibrillator is not an aspirin.” (Per Dr. Kelly Brackett as told to Medics Gage and DeSoto)
  • When dealing with a woman who is having acute dyspnea with tachypnea,
    • do not put her in a gown,
    • do not auscultate her lungs,
    • do not take any vitals,
    • lay her supine on the gurney and have the head nurse look at her with concern while
    • two doctors stand to the side of the room and discuss the dangers of hyperventilation.
    • Have one doctor pull a paper bag out of nowhere and cure the patient with three breaths into the bag.
  • Dixie McCall, RN, has the BEST.CAP.EVER.
  • Approximately fifty percent of the nurses at Rampart Hospital went to the same nursing school as Dixie, as they are all wearing the same cap.
  • Dixie McCall, RN is forbidden to change her facial expression at any time during her shift.
  • There are only two rhythms you can have in the show: Sinus Rhythm or Ventricular Fibrillation.
  • CPR at Rampart Hospital consists of:
    • Dr. Bracket, Dixie McCall, RN and unidentified orderly. That’s it.
    • Five chest compressions, approximately 5 seconds apart
    • Placement of an ET tube that juts out from the patient’s mouth at a 90 degree angle (off camera).
      • There is no ambu bag attached
      • There is no respirator attached
      • There is no oxygen source attached
      • There is, however, an orderly with a huge afro looking on in a concerned fashion
    • Two defibrillatory shocks of 400 watt seconds each,
      • thereby frying the already dead heart and
      • everyone around the patient because Dr. Brackett does not yell “clear!”.
      • He never would have passed ACLS…
    • No response. Code called.
  • If you do survive being shocked at 400 watt seconds in the field,
    • you get 50mg of Lidocaine and two amps of Bicarb.
    • That’s after the medics get permission to start your IV,
    • which they don’t even set up for until they get the okay from Dr. Brackett,
    • who never seems to have a life outside the hospital
    • while Dixie poses at the nurse’s station waiting for the calls from the medics.
  • If you are a nurse on a ride-along with the medics, you wear a white pantsuit with white heels, your nursing pin and your name tag.
    • You do not take your cap.
    • You roll around in the mud in the ravine and you never even get a bit of dirt on your uniform.
    • You dive into a car balancing on the precipice of a hill to drag out a victim, hit your head and become unconscious.
    • After the commercial break, the bleeding laceration on your forehead is totally healed.
  • The only people sent out on any rescue call are two medics. That’s it. No engine company, no police, just Gage and Desoto in the ravine.
  • C-spine precautions must have been invented in the ’80s ‘cuz they are nowhere to be found in the repertoire of Rescue 51!
  • The only normal characters are Gage and DeSoto. Everyone else over-acts, under-acts or is a cartoon representation of real life.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I am now going to purchase the complete set of this series and I suggest you do the same.

You think “Scrubs” is funny?

You ain’t seen nothin’ until you’ve seen “Emergency!” from the vantage point of the 21st century.

But do yourself a favor and watch it with your co-workers.

You’ll be living off the laughter-induced endorphins for a week!


  • Alyson

    January 25, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    OMG, Emergency! was my favorite, FAVORITE, favorite show when I was a kid. I loved when they would call in to Rampart, I always wanted to be the one taking the call from the handsome medics 😉


  • ERnursey

    January 25, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    I loved this show when i was younger. Now, I can’t stand to watch medical shows. For cryin’ out loud, spend a few bucks on a consultant. Have you ever noticed that all patient rooms have a ventilator sitting beside the bed? Just in case I guess. Usually they are the old MA-1’s with the bellows. Sometimes the bellows are going up and down but the patient is not on the vent LOL

  • PaedsRN

    January 25, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    “Dixie McCall”? Oh, c’mon. Really?

    I like the shows where they have one of those “accordion in a bottle” vents going, and you hear appropriate sound effects, then they pan to the patient who is wearing nasal prongs.

    Or they show a baby with an ETT secured by one loose strip of transparent tape. I have to restrain myself from diving to grab the tube when I see that stuff.

  • NurseWilliam

    January 25, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    OK, look. I was a hot-blooded young buck when Julie London parked her lovely form in a nurse’s uniform. Let me tell ya, sports fans: there was a whole lot of things about Julie London in a nursing uniform that impressed me; her cap was NOT one of them. Savvy?

  • dribear

    January 26, 2007 at 3:34 am

    OMG… Thanks for the laugh!

    When I was a kid I lived for Emergency!

    I even had the Emergency! lunch box…

    But don’t tell anyone… shhh

    Dr. ibear

  • NurseWilliam

    January 26, 2007 at 4:32 am

    And oh, by the way… do you know hwo wrote the cool song “Route 6?”

    Bobby Troupe. As in, “Dr. Joe Early.” As in, MISTER JULIE LONDON.

    Dang. I wish I could do that. Of course, Ms. London is probably in her 70s now and would fill a nursing uniform in a less, shall we say, spectacular fashion…

    Oh, never mind.

  • NurseWilliam

    January 26, 2007 at 4:34 am

    To amend my slightly disjoined post:

    “Route 66.” The rest is okay, I guess. It’s 0430 and I just got home from work. I’m a little bright-tailed and bushy-eyed. Sorry about that.

  • Robin

    January 26, 2007 at 4:58 am

    We’ve been watching these dvd’s on and off for months now. My wife, who’s the nurse, gets quite a kick out of it for all the reasons you mentions.

    I, personally, am quite taken with Dr. Brackett’s muttonchop sideburns and five pounds of eye makeup! Now that’s a style that I hope comes back soon!

  • Carol

    January 26, 2007 at 8:33 am

    My grandmother’s TV lineup: Emergency, Little House on the Prairie, Gentle Ben, and Bonanza. With a little Waltons added for nostalgia. Damned I’m old.

  • missb

    January 26, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Emergency! Yeah! It was ALWAYS a car in a ravine!!
    What was up with that?

    You think Emergency is a lark? At work we have a nurse who brings in these insane soap opera-type movies originating from Nigeria that are so low budget that they seem not to even have scripts at all. They have titles like “Blood Sister 2” and “Beyonce: President’s Daughter”.They are almost always about people who commit bad deeds and are subsequently haunted by ghosts and there are always hospital scenes that are totally nuts! IV bags hanging but not attached to the patient, bandages that switch arms somehow, people getting “50 Liters of Oxygen right away!” via nasal cannulas that are attached to nothing and simply trailing on the floor, etc.

    My personal favorite scene involved a haunted woman in labor in a hospital bed for 4 days with her doctor mystified by the fact that she would dilate to 7 centimeters one day then be 3cms the next.


  • N=1

    January 26, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Emergency! (don’t forget the exclamation mark) was produced shortly after Seatlle first put its metro-wide CPR policy into effect. LA County was an early convert to incorporating EMS into the FD. Even though the show never passed technical accuracy muster, it was the first to nationally highlight first responders.

    I’m so old that I remember Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare. And for those who like the mutton chops – I vaguely remember Medical Center’s star having those and looking ever-serious while fighting medical crisis du jour week after week.

  • scalpel

    January 26, 2007 at 11:47 am

    I too was a HUGE fan of Emergency!

    I especially liked the three horn signals that went off in the firehouse: BEEEEEP….Braaaaaap….BRRRRAWP! “Engine 51, there is a child with his finger stuck in a bottle on 15 South Main Street.”

    Cool website with pics: http://www.guildernet.com/emergency/cast.asp

  • scalpel

    January 26, 2007 at 11:54 am

  • Susan

    January 26, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Okay – first (to NurseWilliam) I knew the Bobby Troupe thing, and that he was married to the lovely Julie London.
    Second, let me show you my Dixie McCall RN impression. *ahem*
    Freeze all facial features. Pull both shoulders as far back as possible, so breasteses protude at an eye-poking angle. Then saunter slowly, swinging your shoulders alternately with each step. Keep eyelids at half-mast.
    And make sure you’re wearing heavy liquid black eyeliner, false eyelashes, and a cone-shaped brassiere.

    My god, I wish I could be Dixie!

  • DisappearingJohn

    January 26, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Oh, the memories!!!

    I loved emergency!

    Thanks for a great run down memory lane, now I’m gonna have to buy that

  • Mama Mia

    January 26, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Oh yes. This was my show, and I still love it today.Paramedics rock!

  • NurseWilliam

    January 26, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Susan, You have it down to a fine art. But you forgot one thing: the low, soft, breathy, sultry voice. Yikes.

  • Trauma Junkie

    January 27, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Those were good times. I watched some of the DVD’s with a physician friend of mine… we both got a good laugh. Only once in a blue moon will we have a chance to have a Emergency!night in the ER…. I am so buying the second season.

  • Shannon

    January 28, 2007 at 11:38 am

    I loved that show when I was a kid! My brother and I used to sit in front of the TV with dinner on TV trays totally engrossed in the show! Maybe that is why I ended up as an EMT and then a nurse in the ER…..hmmmmmm

  • Type-B Premed

    January 29, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Do they perform compressions by bending at the elbows? Oh my, how I love that!

    I will see if this is on Netflix and check it out.

  • Trauma Junkie

    January 29, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    We must not forget that EVERY bleeding patients automatically recieves 2 units of Type O-… and EVERY headache gets a spinal tap and head x-ray.

    Interesting side note… the Ward La France fire engine (seaons 3 and beyond) that “played” Engine 51 in the show is now in service as a line fire engine at Yosemite National Park… apparently the owner of the studios who produced Emergency! also owned the consessions / stores in the park… the consessions have since been sold, but the engine is still in service, staffed by paid on call firefighters. It is set to go to the LA County Fire Museum to join Squad 51 upon its retirement.

  • Jo

    January 30, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    I have GOT to see that! Thanks for the referral.

  • TC

    April 18, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    You have no idea

  • As Seen on TV, part 2 » PixelRN

    April 30, 2007 at 9:29 am

    […] later I was enjoying Kim’s Emergency post and I came to the part about Nurse Dixie McCall. Unfortunately my reaction was: “There was a […]

  • Rayne

    July 22, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Emergency! is one of the best shows you will ever find,It was a groundbreaking show,I don’t find this funny at all and this is coming from a kid from the internet and ipod world.

    P.S. Dixie McCall was and still is one of the best damn nurse for tv!

  • Ol' Guy

    January 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    What a hoot. Although no one seems to have posted since 2008 I’ll take a chance… After having watched every episode of “Emergency!” as well as it’s forerunner, “Rescue 8”, I received my PM cert in 1979 and spent more than 30 years rescuing the residents of L.A. County from all manner of odd-ball situations. “Emergency!” “Night Drills” were common in my early days. We would sit around the station TV picking out the errors and using it as an opportunity to improve our own performances. Both shows were great PR pieces, but frequently a bit short on reality. If anything, “Emergency!” and our EMS system seem to have made people more dependent than ever on government. It was a good job for me, but I shudder to think what my great-grandparents would think of this cradle-to-grave bureaucracy.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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