A man leaning forward smiling with a skeleton wearing an NHS badge in the background
Doctor Ed Hope runs the YouTube channel Dr Hope's Sick Notes, with 480k subscribers. Image credit: Ed Hope.

“One month, you’re just seeing people normally. And then the next month, you’re in the red zone in full PPE.”

40-year-old Doctor Ed Hope is a junior doctor in the UK, who gained popularity on YouTube by starting a channel in 2017 explaining the medical jargon often found in TV and movies.

During the pandemic, he filmed regular vlogs, speaking to other hospital workers, and showing what was happening behind closed doors in medical settings.

He says he still doesn’t know how he feels about everything that happened.

”With lots of people coming in with the same thing, it was pretty scary early on. But then in the end, it was just like, ‘when is this going to end?’

”You had times where the job just again, felt very normal. It was only really for a few weeks at a time at my hospital that were really bad. But then a lot of the time, it wasn’t that ICU was still full. When I say full, they increased the capacity three times, and it was still full.”

He says that the pandemic was defined by personal loss, and it tainted how people looked back on it.

“That kind of personal impact is what you think about, isn’t it? We had three staff members at the hospital that that died from COVID. So that was probably the hardest thing and the most difficult thing to go through.”

He says that the 2021 episode of the soap Casualty that focused on COVID-19 managed to encapsulate this well.

“They just covered so many things that you know exactly what we’ve just gone through.”

Ed, 40, started his channel in 2017, making educational videos about medicine to help people understand all the jargon, as he believes doctors are ”traditionally good at gatekeeping the profession and not sharing things.”

The channel’s popularity picked up when he included his love of TV and movies and began to explain the injuries that people’s favourite characters sustained, and comment on what they got right and wrong.

“I love TV and films. So I thought, a lot of people learn about stuff through TV and films, but TV and films don’t always get it right. So it was a good way to entertain but also to bring that educational aspect.

“If I was going to put it on a spectrum, maybe 75 per cent entertainment, 25 per cent education,” he says.

Now, he has over 480,000 subscribers on YouTube, and has reacted to hit shows and films such as The Last of Us, The Batman and several Marvel movies.

‘a lot of people learn about stuff through TV and films, but TV and films don’t always get it right’

Managing his time as a doctor and his channel has become a balancing act. When he started, he was a medical teaching fellow, teaching students two days a week alongside working two days a week in A&E.

At that point, he did the channel in his spare time.

Once it took off, Ed had to devote one day a week to it, recording, editing and uploading videos, which can sometimes take him up to 15 hours. He continues to work part time as a doctor, else the channel wouldn’t be viable. “It’s basically become part of my career,” he says.

In the six years Ed has spent critiquing shows for their medical accuracy, he highlighted two that stood out to him as being most representative of medical practice.

When he watched the first episode of the 1994 TV medical drama ER, he was taken aback by medical accuracy.

“From a medical point of view, I think they absolutely nailed it.

“The cases weren’t too crazy. Normally with medical dramas, it kind of looks a bit too slick. And every single case is so insane,” he said.

Another medical drama that got things right is Scrubs. While some of the medical side of it is inaccurate, Ed said that it gets to the heart of the job.

“It gets that balance right between the lighter side of medicine and the serious side and that is basically what your day to day life is like.”

There are some shows that don’t live up to scrutiny, and for Ed that’s House.

He was a big fan of the 2004 show before he started his medical career, but when he watched it back once he was a doctor the medical science fell apart.

“The medical science, once you know about it is not quite up to scratch. You can’t really defend that some of the medicine, it is a bit wild.”

The cases in House are based on real life, but Ed says that the problem is that there are too many convenient moments, such as a CT scanner conveniently blowing up when a diagnosis needs to be made with it.

Man puts stethoscope to a DVD copy of House
Doctor Ed Hope still loves House even for all of its medical inaccuracies. Credit: Ed Hope

Despite the medical inaccuracies, he still loves the show.

Shows are made for entertainment first and foremost, and often their role isn’t to give a perfectly accurate medical picture.

“All the ones I’ve mentioned, are doing entertainment in their own way, and are doing it brilliantly. If they wanted to make it 100 per cent accurate, they could do, easily, but it wouldn’t be the story they’re trying to show,” he says.

Ed said he regularly gets positive feedback, and that helps him to keep going.

“You’ll see people time and time again, commenting on the same thing or interacting with the videos. And that makes it super rewarding.

“If you just had the views and not the comments, it wouldn’t be the same process. The comments really help you figure out what people like and give you some good positive feedback.”