TV drama films in Yale-New Haven ER

The scene is a familiar one: Doctors at a city hospital struggle to treat a newly admitted trauma victim. There is much tension and uncertainty in the air and, close by, a cameraman captures it all.

Only this is no prime-time TV drama with interwoven scandals and love stories. This is the real thing.

For the past three weeks, The Learning Channel’s documentary series “Trauma: Life in the ER” has been filming at Yale-New Haven Hospital for two upcoming episodes. The Emmy award-winning program, which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m., films trauma patients as they are treated in the hospital to capture the intensity and emotion of a real emergency room.

“The show gives viewers an authentic picture of life in the emergency room and what people in the ER do,” series producer Brian Seligson said. “It puts people in the shoes of hospital staff and what they have to go through.”

The filming of incoming patients usually begins in the hospital bay outside the emergency room. A video journalist with a hand-held digital video camera follows the action as the patient is transported to the appropriate section of the hospital. Under most circumstances, one of three video journalists is on hand 24 hours a day during the month of filming.

Penny Fearon, producer of the New Haven “Trauma” shoot, said the crew has blended in well with the hospital staff and patients at Yale-New Haven.

“The staff is completely used to us and now don’t even remember we’re here,” Fearon said. “The staff has been fantastic, and we couldn’t have done this without their help.”

Lisa Maciejak, a registered nurse at Yale-New Haven, has seen the crew in action.

“The cameramen are right in there with us, but they’re never in the way,” Maciejak said. “It’s been very exciting, and I’m eager to see what they put together for a show.”

The show selects highly respected trauma centers that have high volumes of patients and tend to have diverse medical cases to maintain viewer interest. Seligson said these were among the reasons program officials selected Yale-New Haven Hospital as the first facility in New England to be filmed for the show.

“Yale-New Haven Hospital is a prestigious facility,” Seligson said. “We also have never done the show in Connecticut, which is appealing because we go to all regions of the country to film.”

Seligson added the program, now entering its sixth season, prefers filming at teaching hospitals that work with universities, and Yale-New Haven’s affiliation with Yale University provided increased incentive.

Hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio said The Learning Channel’s selection of Yale-New Haven is a testament to the quality of the hospital staff.

“This is an opportunity to showcase the truly amazing work that gets done on a daily basis,” D’Antonio said. “The program shows that our staff are the real heroes at the hospital.”

Prior to agreeing to host the television series, hospital officials expressed concern about whether patient confidentiality would be an issue during the filming. Patients at Yale-New Haven Hospital must give consent before any videotape in which they appear can be used.

Fearon said the program’s staff was able to ease those concerns.

“Patients or their families must give us express written consent before we use the footage,” Fearon said. “The well-being of the patient comes first, and we are very respectful of them.”

The first of two episodes featuring Yale-New Haven is set to premiere in October.

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