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11 Best Medical Documentaries (Must Watch Shows)

11 Best Medical Documentaries (Must Watch Shows)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Watching medical documentaries can actually be a brilliant way to get an unfettered insight into what working as a healthcare professional is really like without having to leave the comfort of your own home.

Each of the documentaries on this list provides a unique perspective into what working in medicine means to both healthcare professionals and the patients they’re treating.

If you’re an aspiring healthcare professional, watching a few of these documentaries could be a great way to give yourself a bit of background knowledge about what you’re signing yourself up for!

Junior Doctors: On The Front Line

Released2019
Series or StandaloneSeries
Length60 minutes
Why You Should WatchAn unfiltered view of the challenges faced by newly qualified doctors working in a busy south London hospital

This series follows a group of newly qualified junior doctors as they begin their work in a busy south London hospital.

The show provides an inside look at the daily life of these doctors as they navigate the challenges of working in a high-pressure environment, dealing with difficult patients and making life-and-death decisions.

A junior doctor helps to plaster a little boy's broken arm
A junior doctor helping to plaster a little boy’s arm

“Junior Doctors: On The Front Line” reveals the struggles that junior doctors face when starting their careers, the importance of teamwork and communication in a hospital setting and the emotional toll that working in healthcare can take on individuals.

The show also sheds light on the current issues facing the NHS in the UK, such as understaffing and overcrowding in hospitals.

I’d watch this documentary for a realistic and raw portrayal of the daily life of junior doctors, highlighting the importance of supporting and valuing our healthcare professionals.

The Great NHS Heist

Released2019
Series or StandaloneStandalone
Length126 minutes
Why You Should WatchA critical analysis of the privatisation of the NHS raising important questions about the role of private companies in healthcare

“The Great NHS Heist” is a documentary released in 2019 that explores the privatisation of the NHS.

The film investigates the impact of government policies and private companies on the NHS and how this has affected the quality of healthcare for patients.

The programme describes the history of the NHS, the impact of austerity measures on healthcare funding, and the role of private companies in the NHS.

It also highlights the concerns of healthcare professionals and patients about the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the potential consequences of this for the future of healthcare in the UK.

“The Great NHS Heist” highlights the importance of protecting and preserving public healthcare systems for the benefit of patients and society as a whole.

I’d recommend this documentary to anyone interested in the politics of healthcare and the impact of government policies on healthcare systems.

The Surgeon’s Cut

Released2020
Series or StandaloneSeries
Length60 minutes
Why You Should WatchA fascinating and inspiring look at the work of some of the world’s most talented and innovative surgeons and the incredible impact that their work has on the lives of patients

“The Surgeon’s Cut” explores the lives and work of four pioneering surgeons from around the world.

The series provides an inside look at the groundbreaking surgical procedures and techniques used by these surgeons to save lives and transform the field of medicine.

The series focuses on the importance of innovation and technology in surgery, the impact of surgical procedures on patients and their families, and the dedication and passion required to become a successful surgeon.

The show also highlights the challenges faced by surgeons, including the stress and pressure of performing life-saving surgeries and the emotional toll that comes with the job.

Watching “The Surgeon’s Cut” is a must for anyone interested in surgery or what the profession has to offer.

The series also offers insight into the future of surgery and the potential for new technologies and techniques to revolutionise the field.

Extremis

Released2016
Series or StandaloneStandalone
Length24 minutes
Why You Should WatchAn emotional and thought-provoking look at the complex ethical and moral issues surrounding end-of-life care

“Extremis” follows the difficult end-of-life decisions made by families and doctors in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

The documentary exposes the importance of communication and empathy in end-of-life care, the challenges faced by families and healthcare professionals in making difficult decisions, and the impact of medical technology on end-of-life care.

The show also highlights the need for greater awareness and understanding of end-of-life care and the importance of advance care planning and discussions about end-of-life wishes.

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Although an incredibly tough watch at times, I’d recommend “Extremis” to anyone interested in medicine and palliative care.

The documentary provides a powerful and moving portrayal of the experiences of patients, families, and healthcare professionals in the intensive care unit.

It also raises important questions about the role of technology in end-of-life care and the need for greater awareness and understanding of this important issue.

Making Rounds

Released2015
Series or StandaloneStandalone
Length63 minutes
Why You Should WatchA realistic and engaging portrayal of the challenges and rewards of working in healthcare from a cardiac critical care unit

“Making Rounds” follows a team of healthcare professionals as they make their rounds in a cardiac critical care unit at a hospital in New York.

The medical documentary focuses on the art of medicine as embodied and taught by physicians Valentin Fuster and Herschel Sklaroff, who believe that listening, consoling, and making the most of the data gained at the bedside are the best ways to treat hospital patients, rather than relying solely on the latest technology.

The film is well-conceived and edifying, shedding light on the importance of empathy and human connection in healthcare.

It provides a realistic and engaging portrayal of the challenges and rewards of working in healthcare and highlights the importance of teamwork, communication, and compassion in providing quality care to patients.

“Making Rounds” also sheds light on the current issues facing the American healthcare system, and the need for greater support and recognition of highly skilled healthcare professionals.

Diagnosis

Released2019
Series or StandaloneSeries
Length45 minutes
Why You Should WatchDiscover the challenges of diagnosing rare and complex medical conditions in this fascinatingly unique documentary series

“Diagnosis” is a documentary mini-series released in 2019 that follows patients with rare and undiagnosed medical conditions as they search for answers and treatment.

The show is based on the New York Times column of the same name, written by Dr Lisa Sanders, and features a team of medical experts who work together to solve each patient’s case.

“Diagnosis” explores the challenges of diagnosing rare and complex medical conditions, the importance of patient advocacy and empowerment, and the role of technology and collaboration in modern medicine.

The series also highlights the emotional toll that living with an undiagnosed condition can take on patients and their families.

The series provides a fascinating and inspiring look at the work of medical professionals and the impact of technology and collaboration on modern medicine.

It also sheds light on the importance of patient advocacy and empowerment, and the need for greater awareness and understanding of rare and undiagnosed medical conditions.

Fire In The Blood

Released2013
Series or StandaloneStandalone
Length84 minutes
Why You Should WatchAn essential watch for anyone interested in the politics of healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry and the impact of these forces on global health equity

This documentary explores the global struggle for access to affordable HIV/AIDS medication.

The film tells the story of how pharmaceutical companies and governments in developed countries have prevented access to life-saving medication in developing countries, and the efforts of activists and healthcare professionals to challenge this injustice.

“Fire in the Blood” exposes the politics of healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry, the impact of intellectual property laws on access to medication, and the importance of activism and advocacy in promoting global health equity.

The documentary also highlights the human cost of the lack of access to medication and the need for greater awareness and action to address this issue and ensure access to essential medication for all.

Confessions Of A Junior Doctor

Released2017
Series or StandaloneSeries
Length60 minutes
Why You Should WatchA raw portrayal of the realities of working in the NHS highlighting the importance of advocating for patient care and safety in the face of government funding cuts

“Confessions of a Junior Doctor” is a documentary series released in 2017 that follows the lives of junior doctors in the UK as they navigate the challenges and pressures of working in the NHS.

The series provides an inside look at the daily work of junior doctors and explores the impact of government policies and funding cuts on the healthcare system.

A junior doctor examining a little girl
A junior doctor examining a little girl

The documentary episodes highlight the emotional toll that working in healthcare can take on individuals, and the need for greater support and recognition of doctors in the UK.

It also sheds light on the need for greater support and recognition of healthcare professionals, and the importance of valuing and preserving public healthcare systems for the benefit of patients and society as a whole.

If you’re applying to medical school this year, you may also be interested in these 11 best podcasts for medicine applicants.

The C Word

Released2016
Series or StandaloneStandalone
Length89 minutes
Why You Should WatchA powerful and inspiring look at the experiences of cancer survivors, and the importance of taking a holistic approach to cancer prevention and treatment

“The C Word” explores the impact of cancer on individuals and society and the importance of taking a holistic approach to cancer prevention and treatment.

The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman and features interviews with cancer survivors, medical professionals, and experts in the field of cancer research.

The main themes of “The C Word” include the importance of early detection and prevention of cancer, the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors on cancer risk, and the need for a more holistic approach to cancer treatment that addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients.

The documentary also highlights the challenges and opportunities facing the field of cancer research, and the importance of advocacy and activism in promoting cancer awareness and prevention.

Watching “The C Word” is vital for anyone interested in the field of cancer prevention and treatment, and the impact of cancer on individuals and society.

24 Hours In A&E

Released2011
Series or StandaloneSeries
Length45 minutes
Why You Should WatchEssential watching for anyone interested in the field of emergency medicine and the daily work of healthcare professionals in the UK

“24 Hours in A&E” is a documentary series first released in 2011 that follows the lives of patients and healthcare professionals in the emergency department of a busy hospital in London.

The series provides an inside look at the daily work of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, and explores the challenges and rewards of working in emergency medicine.

“24 Hours in A&E” does a brilliant job of highlighting the importance of teamwork and communication in emergency medicine, the emotional toll that working in healthcare can take on individuals, and the impact of social and environmental factors on health and well-being.

The series also highlights the resilience and courage of patients and their families in the face of medical emergencies, and the importance of empathy and human connection in healthcare.

Lenox Hill

Released2020
Series or StandaloneSeries
Length50 minutes
Why You Should WatchA brilliant representation of the challenges and rewards of working in a busy urban hospital, highlighting the importance of teamwork, communication, and compassion

“Lenox Hill” is a 2020 documentary series that takes viewers inside the walls of the world-renowned Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The show follows four healthcare professionals – two neurosurgeons, an emergency room physician, and an obstetrician-gynaecologist – as they navigate the challenges and triumphs of their respective fields.

Through intimate patient stories and raw footage of medical procedures, “Lenox Hill” provides a realistic and unfiltered look at the healthcare industry.

Viewers can expect to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of healthcare, as well as the immense pressure and responsibility that comes with being a healthcare professional.

For aspiring healthcare professionals, “Lenox Hill” is an invaluable resource. The show offers a glimpse into the daily lives of healthcare providers, showcasing the hard work, dedication, and compassion required to succeed in the field.

The series also highlights the importance of teamwork and communication, as the healthcare professionals at Lenox Hill work together to provide the best possible care for their patients.

Final Thoughts

Medical documentaries offer a unique perspective into the healthcare industry, providing an intimate look into the daily lives of healthcare professionals and the challenges they face in providing quality care to patients.

From exploring the impact of social and environmental factors on health to highlighting the importance of empathy and human connection in healthcare, these documentaries shed light on important issues that affect us all.

Whether you are a healthcare professional or simply interested in the field, these documentaries are a must-watch for anyone looking to learn more about the field of medicine.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.