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Dogen: What do you think's wrong with my brain, doctor?
Dr. Loboto: How should I know? I'm a dentist! But here's what I do know: if a tooth is bad, you pull it!

When a character is shot or has some other lethal wound, but the next hospital is 100 miles away or the police are after them, an alternative is needed. It doesn't matter if they find a vet or a dentist; as long as they know how to hold a needle, they will do.

And they will do just fine! In most cases, not even a scar will remain.

To a very limited extent this is justified, as medical doctors in different specialties do all go through basic medical trainingnote , and some of the skills of one discipline cross over. A bit.note  Oftentimes a subtrope of Closest Thing We Got, if the dentist's employed in an emergency. Compare Back-Alley Doctor, who may or may not be a licensed practitioner of medicine, but could still save your life if worst comes to worst. Compare/contrast with Super Doc when you can actually find a genuine doctor who is more like medicine's answer to the Omnidisciplinary Scientist. See also Surgeons Can Do Autopsies If They Want.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Black Jack. Operating on animals is one of the least outrageous things this man has done. He's performed successful "surgeries" on a supercomputer and a ghost.
  • Franken Fran will stitch together any "patient", whether a human, an animal, some weird hybrid, or a 40-meter giant that forced her to use a two-handed surgical knife.
  • Subverted in Fullmetal Alchemist with regards to Dr. Knox. Introduced as a medical examiner, it seems that later decisions to visit him for treatment are strangepotentially . In fact, Knox had originally been a highly skilled physician but after taking part in medical experiments on captive Ishvalans he felt he was only fit to handle the dead.
  • A massive car crash in the Pokémon: The Series episode "A Chansey Operation" anime results in a full Pokémon Center that is forced to send excess Pokémon to a human hospital and a doctor who prescribes superglue for everything he can get away with.
    • Of course, this is the first and only time when we can see that modern medicine in-universe isn't limited to Pokémon. Local herbs and remedies have been used to cure ailments (specifically Stun Spore) on both Pokémon and humans throughout the series.

    Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo and the Knights of the Golden Circle: Robo encounters Doc Holliday while trying to save a man dying from gunshot wounds. Holliday is able to keep the man alive long enough to pass on some crucial information, though he dies shortly after.
    Doc Holliday: Pennsylvania Dental College neglected to include bullet wounds in its curriculum. Regretfully.
    Marshal Reeves: Mouth's a hole. Bullet's a tooth.
    Reeves: How he looking, Holliday?
    Holliday: No cavities. Otherwise, dying.
  • Subverted in one Crossed story where a Red Shirt character hiding inside a survival bunker dies from a botched appendectomy performed by the only doctor in the bunker: a dermatologist.
  • Doctor Strange is sometimes roped by his fellow superheroes into carrying out medical procedures on the wounded in emergencies, usually over his fervent protests that he's a neurosurgeon specifically, and years out of practice besides (he had to retire after a car accident maimed his hands and left him unable to hold a scalpel steady; accordingly, when forced to do surgery nowadays, he has to use magic or give instructions to others). He's usually able to serve adequately enough, though he tends to also insist that his patient seek proper care once the current crisis is resolved.
  • In Hack/Slash, Cassie and Vlad usually go to their friend Lisa — who is a veterinarian — to get patched up. In her defense, Lisa usually comments that she is not qualified to work on humans, but Cassie and Vlad prefer not to have their injuries treated in hospital.
  • Secret Wars (1984): After Molecule Man is badly injured in the initial battle between heroes and villains, the other villains are at a loss for what to do and badger Doctor Octopus to help him in the basis that he's the only doctor present. Otto angrily points out that he's a physicist, not a medical doctor, but gets overridden and so has to try his best to treat Owen's wounds. He's able to manage some very basic stitches, but that's it, and he complains the whole time that Owen needs an actual medic.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), the Anti-Mobius version of Doctor Robotnik is Doctor Kintobor, a vet. In a related matter, the Evil Alien Xorda also once said the Mobians are 90% identical to humans in their genealogy, although lord only knows how the internal anatomy of a Mobian is arranged...
  • Spirou & Fantasio: After one of the Count's inventions turns some of the inhabitants of Champignac black, the mayor refuses to call in a doctor, fearing what's happening might leak out. So instead he has one of the victims examined by a former vet who happens to be at hand. The only thing he can contribute is that the victim has a shiny coat, which is a good sign.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Because Transformers are giant robots, the boundary between "engineering" and "medicine" is naturally somewhat porous. This is best exemplified when Whirl, a former watchmaker turned Blood Knight, performs the equivalent of a heart transplant on a freshly constructed Megatron, out of spite. For bonus points, since he hasn't had his empurata surgery reversed and never does, he's performing said surgery with only one eye and using hands that are basically just scissors. It works perfectly.

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise: In "Million Dollar Game", a vet is shot in the thigh in a position he cannot reach. He talks Modesty through the procedure for removing the bullet.

    Fan Works 
  • Downplayed in the Sherlock Holmes fanfic All Gods Little Creatures. Alfie asks Watson if he can help a hurt kitten. Watson notes that to a boy, all doctors probably seem alike. The wound is such that Watson can fix it, despite not being a veterinarian.
  • In Conversations with a Cryptid, Recovery Girl's hero license only allows her to give first aid on crime scenes. Despite that she practices surgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, physiotherapy, sports medicine, pediatric medicine, and general practice, all without licenses or schooling for any of them. Subverted in that it's implied that Izuku's crippled right arm is due to her and several students died due to improper medical treatment.
  • In Destiny is a Hazy Thing, after the Sound/Sand Invasion, anyone with any medical training is conscripted to help with the massive number of casualties, including veterinarians. Even then, they're still so overworked that patients who should be healed completely are crippled for life because the medics don't have the time or chakra to do more than making sure their patients won't die.
  • Parodied in the second instalment of the Supper Smash Bros: Mishonh From God trilogy, where Dr. Mario is shown helping Fiora give birth in his operating theatre. While Dr. Mario's qualifications aren't touched upon in his home games, his usage of pills implies him to be a chemist. Notable for being a case with three different types of doctors being (intentionally) mixed up in one fell swoop.
  • A Rabbit Among Wolves: After Jaune is shot, his minions take him to a vet where Perry works, largely because they can't go to the hospital due to Jaune being a fugitive.
  • In the Firefly fic Shut Our Exhausted Eyes Simon has to do a root canal on Mal. Mal can't exactly go to a dentist and though Simon is a surgeon rather than a dentist, he had read up on the procedure and seen it done and since Mal was actually allowing the help without his usual grumbling, Simon knows it's gotta be bad. The author throws in a handwave of future medical tech being better than today's, and Simon being glad Serenity's med bay is at least decently equipped, and he's able to get it done without trouble.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 3:10 to Yuma (2007), the posse brings a man who's been shot to Doc Potter for treatment. Potter nervously treats the man, then expresses surprise that he managed so well since he's actually a veterinarian.
  • In the film Baby Boom (1987), Diane Keaton's character gets treated by a veterinarian during her time in Vermont.
  • City Slickers featured two dentists as characters; when a medical emergency occurred on the trail, it fell to them to stay behind and care for the patient, as they at least had some medical training.
    • Also lampshaded by the younger dentist when he asked "What are we going to do? Give him a cleaning?"
  • Skirted in Darkman II: The Return of Durant, the weapon builder is a doctor, but not a medic.
  • In Day of the Outlaw, Bruhn was shot and badly wounded during the robbery. Knowing he needs to get the bullet out, he asks if Bitters has a doctor. He is told that there is Doc Langer, who is a veterinarian. Bruhn asks if Langer can remove a slug, and is told that he has in the past. Bruhn then forces Langer to operate on him.
  • Draw!: After Holland is wounded during the shootout with the sheriff, Bess fetches the town dentist to extract the bullet from his leg.
  • In the Eddie Murphy version of Dr. Dolittle, the title character, a physician, has to operate on a tiger. However, he is regarded by his peers as being reckless, and he never would've gotten as far as he did if the tiger couldn't talk to him. And unlike most other examples, he had some time to cram before the operation.
  • Variation in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Peter, having just slept with someone after his break-up with the eponymous Sarah, goes to a doctor worried that he has an STD. Said doctor then reminds him, "Peter, I'm a pediatrician. Did you notice you're sitting on a fire engine?"
    • However, since pediatricians treat people up to 18 years old, the doctor should actually be quite familiar with testing and treating STDs (not to mention victims of sexual abuse).
  • In Heist (2015), Dante is wounded during the casino heist. On the bus, Cox calls out for anyone with any kind of medical training. The closest thing on the bus is a veterinary student.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Bridget von Hammersmark is taken to a very frightened vet after being shot in the leg. He does a surprisingly good job.
  • In the Jim Belushi movie K-9, Belushi's character brings his partner, a police dog, into a human emergency room for treatment when the latter is shot.
    • The doctor refuses to operate, though, until Belushi's character not-so-subtly threatens to shoot him.
  • In A Life Less Ordinary, Celine takes Robert to an ex's house after he gets shot in the leg. Said ex is, of course, a dentist. That she shot in the head.
  • Love Hard: After a bad allergic reaction, Josh brings Natalie to the local vet because the hospital is half an hour away.
  • Parodied in Punch-Drunk Love:
    Barry: I wanted to ask you something because you're a doctor. I don't like myself sometimes. Can you help me?
    Walter: Barry — I'm a dentist.
  • Mostly averted in the Don Knotts vehicle The Shakiest Gun in the West. His character is the valedictorian of his dental school, but he faints at the sight of the gunshot wound when the services of "Doctor Heywood" are called upon.
  • A 1986 remake of Stagecoach replaced alcoholic general practitioner, Doc Boone, with Doc Holliday, a dentist. He fulfilled the role of delivering the baby.
  • The plot of Steel Rain involves the Glorious Leader of North Korea being wounded in a coup, and raced across the South Korean border to safety by a loyal intelligence operative. He doesn't trust the South Korean government, so he forces his way inside an obstetric clinic that has just closed, getting the doctor to treat his patient at gunpoint. She does her best but there's a bullet lodged in his cranium that she doesn't dare remove. "I'm an obstetrician, not a neurosurgeon. Unless there's a baby inside this belly, I can't do it." Later a woman with them gets injured in a shootout, so she takes them to her friend who's a plastic surgeon, because she at least knows surgery.
  • Kate Brewster in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a veterinarian. By Terminator Salvation, she had become a doctor. Since most of the world was destroyed on Judgment Day, it's highly unlikely she got to attend medical school, so she probably got promoted to doctor based on her veterinary skills.
  • In the comedy The Three Fugitives, one character accidentally shoots the other in the leg, then brings him to his uncle, who was a practicing vet until he came down with a nasty case of senility. He, therefore, offers the "patient" some water in a bowl, gives him a rubber bone to calm down, and refers to him as a dog. Hilarity ensues later at the police station when they read his report, including the part about how the patient became very agitated when he tried to take his temperature...
  • A mild example in The Wolverine, with a veterinary student stitching up Wolverine's wounds and extracting some lead bullets out of him.
  • In Tomorrow: When the War Began, Lee's leg is wounded while on a recon trip into town, and his leg is fixed up by the local dentist. He's pretty abrasive and jumpy, but considering the risk he's taking by helping, it's probably justified.

Examples by author:
  • James Herriot:
    • In one of his books, Herriot recounted advising a farmer on handling his back problems, and that the farmer seemed to take the vet more seriously than the people doctor. On the other hand, Herriot's advice (for the farmer to stop doing the hand milking of his cows and let others do it) was actually a roundabout way to treat the actual patients — a number of cows showing symptoms of minor injuries from overly energetic hand milking (by the farmer with the back problem).
    • Particularly ironic as Herriot often was frustrated by the tendencies of such farmers to trust knacker men, unqualified quacks, local know-alls, and above all each other for veterinary advice far more than they ever trusted him (probably because his prognosis would be cautiously realistic, whereas the amateur would usually promise a miracle... and by sheer luck may sometimes get one...).
    • This cut both ways. The bereaved owner of a recently dead pet — a caged bird, in fact — chose to ask Herriot, rather than the local vicar or priest, whether animals have souls and go to Heaven after death (he said his view was they'd all go to the same place). Contrast this to Father Neil da Souza's experience, elsewhere in this section.
    • Once, while serving as the attending veterinarian for a race track, he was called out to help a man who'd scraped his knee after slipping going down the stairs. He mentally joked over the experience.
Examples by work:
  • In Animorphs, Cassie's amateur veterinary skills are sometimes brought up for this, such as when Elfangor crashed on Earth. (Of course, who's to say a human doctor would know how to handle an alien injury either?) Still, when she was actually forced to operate on Ax she only managed with help from Aftran, who accessed Ax's own memories to figure out what to do.
  • Stephen Maturin in the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien tends to show this sort of thing from time to time, though in this case it's pretty well justified. Maturin is one of few actual physicians in the Royal Navy, and can (unlike most Navy surgeons) be trusted to do more than amputate limbs and pull teeth, meaning that most medical men he meets defer to him. Maturin is not only a physician, but also a zoologist of some renown, and has a very good handle on anatomy in general. Maturin is usually the only medical professional in range when Sophie is at sea, and finally, other physicians readily acknowledge that Maturin is very, very good.
  • Not exactly this trope, but in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, the main characters are sent to a remote mountain during the Cultural Revolution because their parents are doctors and dentists. So when the nasty village headman has a rotten tooth, let's just say the boys have some fun with this...
  • Father Neil daSouza is a Catholic priest who wrote five volumes of the Bless Me Father... short stories about his everyday life as a new parish curate straight out of seminary. Assigned to the wily and street-hardened Father Duddlestone, he learns quickly. Sent to a rich parishioner one day, she tearfully shows him an apparently dead canary and asks if there is anything Father Neil can do for it. (Compare this to James Herriot's story of dealing with a dead cagebird, elsewhere in this section.) Nonplussed, Da Souza read a random prayer in Latin and sprinkled holy water over the bird. He attributes its recovery and bursting into song to the shock of the cold water...
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, the chief medical officer of the scratch company Cain forms from the scattered remnants of various Guard units, PDF units, and street gangs was a vet. He was the only medically trained person they could find. Cain himself remarked that the Vet is trained in "All animals. Big or small." This would later become the title of the Vet's autobiography recapping the events of the campaign.
  • Discworld:
    • People who actually know what they're doing don't go to a doctor for major medical problems, they go to a vet. The logic is thus: If a doctor isn't good, they usually just have a dead patient. But if a vet isn't good, they usually have a rich, furious, mafioso racing horse owner with lots of hired muscle and little patience (or worse, if the mafioso in question is Chrysophrase the troll) to deal with. Hence why horse vet "Doughnut Jimmy" Folsom is regarded as one of the best doctors in the city, despite his tendency to act as if all of his patients are horses, regardless of their actual species. Later in the continuity, they start going to Igors. When someone is trained to stitch together dead body parts into living monsters, stitching someone's lost arm back onto the body it belongs to is much, much easier.
    • Later still, in Night Watch, Vimes trusts Dr John 'Mossy' Lawn, who is a pox doctor (that is, someone who treats... ladies of negotiable affection... for the infections they contract whilst... negotiating...) with the lives of his wife and unborn child during labour, when the delivery starts going badly and the midwife is out of her depth. It's implied that Dr. Lawn had similar attitudes to Ignaz Semmelweis when it came to childbed fever. However, a doctor who specializes in treating... seamstresses would have ample practice in both pregnancy and the resulting affliction that happens after it, though apparently, this is less of a problem than you might think. (Because Vimes is a very rich man when this occurs, he rewards Dr. Lawn by helping him set up a free public hospital. Subsequent books imply that the influence of the institution have downplayed this trope over time.)
  • In The Dragon Knight series, James, a man from the late 20th century, has had to use his limited 20th-century medical knowledge to help deal with 14th-century medical issues. Luckily, this tends to consist of fairly simple things like clean bandages, making sure that helpers wash their hands with soap, plus some general 20th-century medical info, like antibiotics and means of cleaning wounds, that he could easily use. Later, he's able to use his magic to assist in healing wounds and doing blood transfusions.
  • Shows up in The Dresden Files story "The Warrior" and after: Waldo Butters acts as Harry's physician — and it's stated that he's done this a number of times already. Harry, like most wizards, is enough of a Walking Techbane that his presence in a proper hospital would endanger the other patients. Unlike most of the examples on this list, Butters is a fully trained and accredited doctor. However, he works in the morgue and finds working with the dead less stressful.
  • Mrs. Everdeen in The Hunger Games is an apothecary, but functions as a doctor for much of District 12, since the population is too poor to afford real doctors.
  • In Jurassic Park, Chief Vet Gerry Harding is the closest thing they have to a doctor after Malcolm is mauled by the T. Rex. Despite being one of the best bird doctors and the best dinosaur doctor in the world, the most he's able to do is give Malcolm morphine and try and keep the wounds clean and closed; and he outright says Malcolm will die if he can't be evacuated within a day. Presumably he's also the one treating Malcolm in the movie, where he does a much better job.
  • Justified in the Legends of Laconia series, because Dr. Nat Silver is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire who uses his extended lifespan to attend different medical schools over the years and become fully accredited in multiple disciplines. In one of the stories posted online but not yet professionally published, there is a subversion when someone gets a gunshot wound and he wails that he is a general practitioner, vet, psychiatrist, obstetrician, dentist, and plastic surgeon, but not a trauma surgeon!
  • Mass Effect Annihilation: Yorrick the elcor tries pointing out from the off that he's an elcor ear nose and throat doctor, not a trained mortician/virologist. It's pointed out right back he's the closest thing they can manage in the situation (since they can't risk waking up anyone else). He does a remarkable job, all the same. Until he catches the virus, which eventually kills him.
  • Downplayed in the Tom Clancy novel Patriot Games: Irish terrorists attack and shoot up a ferry in the English Channel, leaving it adrift with no radios and five wounded passengers aboard. The nearest thing to a doctor on board is a veterinarian, who tends to the wounded with the help of a ferry crew member. By the time a Royal Navy flight surgeon arrives, one of the wounded has died from his injuries. It's clear that the vet did his best, but he was way out of his depth, and the care he provided the wounded was little better than what an emergency-trained civilian might have done.
  • The Peshawar Lancers begins with a trooper complaining about being wounded and not wanting to see "the yoni doctor". His CO chides him gently, saying that while their regimental surgeon is a reservist and happens to be a gynaecologist in his civilian career, he is also a fully trained battlefield surgeon, and the trooper should know better than to be angry with people who are trying to keep him alive.
  • Subverted in The Regulators when a woman's arm is torn off by a gunshot. Tom Billingsley, a vet, tries to treat her, but she soon dies. Billingsley remarks that she needed a trauma unit, not "an old veterinarian with shaky hands".
  • The Stand:
    • Subverted when one of the merry band of travelers tries to perform an emergency appendectomy and the patient dies. None of the folks in the group are dentists or vets, but one of the group holds a Ph.D. In anthropology.
    • Later, the Boulder Free Zone's "doctor" points out that he's just a vet, and the town needs someone with real human medicine experience. When an elderly M.D. arrives, he immediately sets about training the vet in human doctoring, noting that despite surviving the pandemic, he will not be around long and the vet (and a recently arrived nurse) is the best hope they have for the future.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in 3rd Rock from the Sun. Vicki repeatedly mistakes Dr. Albright for a medical doctor, despite Mary's insistence that her doctorate is in anthropology. When Vicki gets pregnant, she asks Albright to deliver the baby; after Mary again tries to explain that she's not that kind of doctor, Vicki assumes that Mary is just being snooty.
  • 30 Rock: "Dr." Leo Spaceman tend to handle whatever the plot requires. He's actually listed under three different entries in the Writer's Guild health manual (fertility, meth addiction, and child psychiatry). He's not particularly competent at anything, though.
  • Angel: When pressed for time, Angel can dig bullets out of his own body. Justified in that he's a vampire, and doing so would do far less damage to him than it would were he a human.
  • Better Call Saul: On his first day in Albuquerque, Mike goes to a vet for treatment of the bullet wound that he sustained while avenging his son's death against two corrupt cops before he left Philadelphia. The vet, Dr. Caldera, is not only a clandestine doctor for those who have no other recourse but also a middleman between various types of criminals who helps Mike get his first jobs in Albuquerque's criminal underworld.
  • Boardwalk Empire:
    • Deconstructed when Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden takes a wounded suspect from a hospital to where he can be interrogated. Seeing that the guy won't make it, they find the nearest person with a medical degree, who happens to be a dentist. The man points out that he has no idea how to help the suspect. He injects the then-legal cocaine to calm down the guy but has to do it in his mouth, as he has never injected a syringe anywhere else. The guy dies while a desperate van Alden, uh, accelerates his questioning under these conditions.
    • Played relatively straight in season 3. Samuel Crawford is called in to treat a man who has been shot in the stomach. He is a medical student still two years from graduation and this is the type of operation that normally requires a proper hospital and a skilled surgeon. He is forced to operate out of a kitchen and use whiskey as an anesthetic. Luckily the bullet did not hit any vital organs and Samuel manages to extract it and sew up the wound. He then explains that the patient might still die from complications if he is not taken to a proper hospital.
  • The Brittas Empire had an episode when the cast ended up having a vet deliver a baby in the sauna and a doctor deliver a calf in a squash court.
  • CSI:
    • In "Willows in the Wind", Doc Robbins (a pathologist) has to perform impromptu field surgery on Catherine, cauterising a gunshot wound with a curling iron.
    • Doc Robbins and David have performed emergency resuscitation on a supposed cadaver that turned out not to be quite dead.
    • Justified in both cases as pathologists start out as doctors, or at least have medical degrees—they may not be up on the latest medical knowledge, but they're fully capable of treating people in emergencies.
  • In Our Mutual Friend, Mr. Venus is a taxidermist. In Dickensian, he's apparently the closest Inspector Bucket has to a forensic pathologist.
  • One episode of Doctor Who serial "The Seeds of Doom" takes place at an Antarctic outpost cut off from the outside world. When one of its staff needs an alien-Virus-infected limb amputated, a zoologist is tasked to perform the emergency surgery because he's a better choice than the geologist or botanist: at least he's probably held a scalpel before, if only for dissections.
  • One episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. had the eponymous doctor operate on a kid's dog. And then nearly lose his medical license over it.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, once operated on her son's dog. She specifically points out she's a people doctor when he brings Wolf to her. The pilot had a brief mention of her treating a farmer's pig.
  • Emergency! has this situation more than once:
    • "905-Wild," the paramedics find a pet goat kid who desperately needs surgery for a despondent little girl. As it is, the proper veterinary clinic is too far away and the goat has to be taken to Rampart Hospital instead over the vociferous objections of Dr. Brackett, who has to be talked into treating the goat. As it is, a vet from Animal Control guides the Rampart surgeons over the phone and Dr. Early happens to have enough animal training to avoid using the wrong drugs.
    • On a later episode, the paramedics are on an isolated island with the one bridge out and thus they are the medical staff around except for one doctor, who is a psychiatrist. With radio contact with Rampart Hospital, she still proves an asset under the circumstances until Dr. Morton can be flown in to take over. Not as far-fetched as it might sound; a psychiatrist is a full M.D. with a specialty in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.
  • ER did this too—Doug Ross, Anna DelAmico, and Cleo Finch, all pediatricians, were often seen treating adult patients (in DelAmico's defense, she was double-boarding in pediatrics and emergency medicine).
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: New York cops are legendary for having seen just about everything and for being able to cope with just about anything. Until Sergeant Robert Barone tries to take charge of his sister-in-law's pregnancy scare and attempts to rush her to the hospital. He only succeeds in getting stuck in a traffic jam on Queensboro Bridge and, faced with delivering Debra's baby, flounders terribly. Ray is of no help. Fortunately for Sergeant Barone, who panics completely, it's a false alarm.
  • In the final episode of Frasier, Daphne's baby is delivered by a nurse who happens to be waiting at the same veterinarian's office. Nobody even suggests that Niles (who must have a medical degree if he is practicing as a psychiatrist) might be a better choice.note 
  • Get Shorty: Miles has his gunshot wound treated by his estranged wife, who is a nurse at a plastic surgeon's office.
  • When Chuck gets shot on Gossip Girl his gunshot wound to the abdomen is treated by Eva, a prostitute who dropped out of nursing school and who uses only vodka and dressings to nurse him back to health. It works and he appears to have no lingering problems save for a two-episode limp.
  • Harrow: In "Locus Poenitentiae" ("Place of Penitance"), Harrow and Farley—who are pathologists—are forced to deliver a baby for a woman undergoing a Screaming Birth on the side of the road. Harrow notes that Farley at least did an obstetrics rotation during his residency, which makes him the slightly more qualified of the two.
  • Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Hye-jin (a dentist) delivers Yun-gyeong's baby in her home after the roads to the hospital are blocked due to the typhoon, armed with nothing but her rudimentary knowledge from school and some advice on home births from the neighborhood grandmothers. She's successful.
  • Jericho (2006): Kenchy is a plastic surgeon, but must treat several people suffering from fever, gunshot wounds, strokes, or pregnancy complications. Not all of his patients survive.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Over Here" a badly-wounded man stumbles into a Veterinary Clinic; he was either too wounded to realize what it was or too desperate to care. The staff do what they can with supplies meant for very large dogs, but he dies before an ambulance arrives to take him to some human doctors. The detectives are taken aback when the vet gives them a precise description of the man's injuries; he explains this as having "x-ray hands" due to treating patients that can't talk. Truth in Television, as vets in most states are legally permitted and morally obliged to help injured humans until someone better qualified to treat people can take over.
  • In Lost, Jack's appendix is successfully removed by Juliet, a fertility researcher, and Bernard, a dentist. The show attempted to justify this trope by having Juliet say that she'd performed a lot of appendectomies during her residency. Also, during Jack's operation, Bernard seemed mostly in charge of giving Juliet tools and applying Jack's anesthesia. As a dentist, Bernard would plausibly have more experience with that latter job than most other doctors who aren't surgeons.
  • Subverted in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when Lois is giving birth at home (not on purpose, the paramedics were late) and everyone expects the doctor neighbor to deal with it. He protests that he knows nothing about obstetrics — he is a dentist and, in fact, became a dentist because most aspects of the human body Squick him out.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • The doctors will attempt to bring in a specialist if a patient has a particularly complex issue, but circumstances often mean that it's simply not possible. In many cases, one of the unit's four main doctors will end up having to perform a highly specialized procedure that may be completely outside their primary area of expertise. In addition, the nurses will also take on some of the work that would ideally be given to a doctor, and even non-medical personnel have occasionally been called to assist in surgery when the situation was particularly dire.
    • In situations where they were especially shorthanded or overloaded, head nurse Margaret Houlihan occasionally performed some of the less complicated surgical procedures, like closing a patient's incision(s) after surgery. In later seasons, it became more common for the nurses to handle procedures of this type so that the doctors could focus on the more difficult procedures, allowing them to move the wounded through more quickly.
    • In one episode, every doctor except Hawkeye is taken out of commission by the flu, as are a number of the support staff. When a load of wounded arrives, Hawkeye (who is himself ill by this point) ends up pressing pretty much every unit member still standing, including company clerk Radar, into service. (The jobs of the non-medical personnel were usually limited to "hold this" or "hand me that", but those are still people whose jobs usually don't entail any direct involvement in surgeries.)
    • Inverted in episodes when the surgeons offered medical care to animals, like Radar's various pets or the shrapnel-injured cow whose calf they delivered.
    • In another episode, Father Mulcahy, the chaplain, has to perform an emergency tracheotomy on a wounded soldier, guided by Hawkeye over the radio. He succeeds.
  • One Murder, She Wrote episode had the characters stranded in a ski lodge, and one performed a post-mortem examination, despite his protests that he was a dermatologist. He did fairly well, actually.
  • NCIS:
    • A Halloween episode involves a badly wounded gunshot victim going to his neighbor for help. His neighbor is a pediatrician.
    • In a less-believable example, medical examiners Ducky and Jimmy have to perform emergency surgery on a German Shepherd dog with serious internal bleeding. Jimmy spent a summer as a veterinary technician, but that's a LONG way from being able to perform complex surgery like finding and removing a foreign body in a dog's stomach.
  • During a multi-episode arc on Night Court, Dan is called up as an Army Reservist and sent to Alaska. While he's there, a local woman has to have her appendix taken out but because the local doctor is unable to perform the surgery (both of his hands were injured in a plane crash Dan caused by firing a flare gun at his plane), Dan has to operate on her. Dan is chosen because the doctor wants someone whose native language is English so he can guide him through the procedure.
  • NTSF:SD:SUV::: Parodied when the President of the Navy has his heart covertly replaced with a bomb by the villains. Trent performs "heart surgery" by literally ripping out another person's heart with his bare hands and shoving it inside the other person's chest.
  • Discussed in NYC 22. When searching for a wounded gunman, Harper and McClaren look for him at various non-hospital facilities. McClaren notes that in the movies, it's always a veterinarian. The shooter turns up at a tattoo parlor.
  • Used in the One Step Beyond (1959) episode "Brainwave" when a World War II ship captain gets a shrapnel wound in the neck, and the only medically trained crewman available is a pharmacist's mate. He's talked through the procedure via radio by a doctor from another ship, who gets killed mid-operation when his own ship is hit. Yet his voice continues issuing instructions that guide the mate through a successful extraction and closure: instructions so precise, it's clear before The Reveal that something supernatural is happening because he can evidently see the operation in progress.
  • In Prison Break, the character T-bag (Theodore Bagwell), forces a veterinarian to reattach his hand at knifepoint, without anesthesia. It should probably be noted that it doesn't work. It just kind of sits there uselessly until he's forced to remove it to escape a situation, and replaces it with a properly made prosthetic.
  • Quantum Leap: When Sam leaps into a man helping a woman kidnap a baby (to return it to its rightful mother) he realizes that the baby has asthma. They're on the run and can't go back so they find a vet to bring the baby to.
  • An early episode of The Sopranos plays this for laughs. After hearing a hefty sound from Pussy from his brothel room, one of the men comments that Pussy must be having a good time... then the prostitute he's with runs in and tells everyone that Pussy might be having a heart attack. The madam sighs and fetches a doctor client of the brothel...a dermatologist.
  • From the Stargate SG-1 episode "Deadman Switch":
    Aris Boch: Dr. Jackson, would you please tend to my wound?
    Daniel: Um, I'm an archaeologist.
    Alien Bounty Hunter: But you're also a doctor.
    Daniel: ...of archaeology.
  • Just like Dr. Franklin, the various Star Trek medical officers cover all fields of medicine for multiple species.
    • Of course, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Dr. McCoy's lack of medical knowledge about Klingons dooms Chancellor Gorkon and lands McCoy and Kirk in prison.
    • That being said, McCoy successfully cured a rock once (a wounded Horta, to be precise). He realized that he was way out of his depth, having no training in silicon-based biology, but covered a phaser wound with plaster —the silicon equivalent of a bandage.
    • Dr. Phlox from Star Trek: Enterprise also gives Captain Archer's beagle regular check-ups. Justified because Phlox uses lots of animals as a source for curative substances, so he presumably learned how to properly care for and treat them, too.
  • Subverted in Superstore when Cheyenne has to give birth in the store, the pharmacist Tate heroically walks in and asks if she's on any drugs for the birth...and then walks out, saying that as a pharmacist, that's all he's really licensed to do.
  • Teen Wolf:
    • Justified: Deaton, the town veterinarian, is secretly the doctor to all the supernatural creatures (mostly were-creatures) in Beacon Hills. He'll treat more human injuries in a pinch, but the characters go to him for anything more supernaturally based.
    • Later on, the one who handles more mundane injuries for the group is Melissa, a registered nurse. Reinforcing this trope is the fact that she's often pressed into performing advanced triage and emergency care because no actual clinical physician would ever believe just how the bestial injuries being treated came to exist.
  • In The Unusuals Delahoy coerces a medical examiner, despite her protests, into doing tests on him for his tumor.
  • One episode of Vengeance Unlimited has Mr. Chapel getting shot. He has K.C. call a vet who owes him a favor. The vet protests, but you don't say no to Mr. Chapel.
  • Justified in The Walking Dead (2010) after Carl is shot in a hunting accident and Hershel (a retired vet) was the only person they knew to have medical experience that was still alive in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse. He even explains that there's no guarantee of success, but he'll do the best he can. He manages to save Carl once they've retrieved some medical equipment. Bonus points because a key skill common to veterinarians is not getting bitten by patients, which is otherwise a major problem in the genre.
  • In the pilot of When Hope Calls, local veterinarian Chuck tends to area residents who are hurt putting out a fire and the doctor is out of commission.
  • The X-Files: In the episode "Agua Mala", Scully (a pathologist) delivers a baby and states she has not done so before. She also winds up doing a fair amount of emergency medicine, largely on Mulder.

  • In Dino Attack RPG, Dr. Joel Fuchs, a biologist whose specialty was in diseases, was called in to assist in the treatment of a large number of wounded agents. In fairness, there were already several more qualified surgeons but they needed all the help they could get, and he was probably the only other person around who had an understanding of human anatomy. Ultimately subverted in that he never actually performed any surgery himself.

    Video Games 
  • The Adult Swim game series Amateur Surgeon, being a twisted parody of Trauma Center revolves around this. In the first game, Alan Probe is a humble pizza delivery boy who discovers he has an incredible knack for surgery — but since he's not an actual doctor he has to practice in his van or apartment and merely improvise his surgical tools. The sequel features a half-senile 70-year-old Probe called back into the saddle.
  • In Jagged Alliance, one of the combat medics you can hire, Dr. Mitch Shudlem, is an obstetrician looking to broaden his horizons into trauma surgery. By Jagged Alliance 2 this hasn't worked out for him, and he has "traded the blood and gore of the battlefield for blood and gore of the delivery room and wonders why he ever left."
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Discussed. The doctor at the Bitter Springs refugee camp gives you a quest to find some medical texts for him. He is a military doctor, and thus specializes in trauma surgery, but is now stuck as the only doctor in a camp full of kids and people with all kinds of mental problems from the refugee experience. With no hope of help or finding a replacement, the good doctor needs to brush up on psychiatry and pediatrics, fast.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Despite the fact that Mordin Solus is a doctorate in genetics and biochemistry he still runs a clinic in Omega. Justified by the fact that his assistants are more or less medically trained and his knowledge of Bizarre Alien Biology is a vital part of what keeps the clinic up and running. (Not to mention that he also occasionally shoots the mercs that try to disturb the clinic's work).
    • Choosing him as the tech specialist during the suicide mission is also this and WILL get him killed.
    • This is probably justified because Mordin is an Omnidisciplinary Scientist that also handles your tech and weapons upgrades when you recruit him. Treating a clinic's standard patients would probably be a cakewalk for him, and his recruitment mission involves dispensing a cure he created for a plague that is ravaging the clinic's neighborhood. He can even sing!
    • In Noveria in the first game, the injured survivors in Peak 15 are being seen to by the facility's microbiologist. As he notes he has a doctorate, but not in medicine.
  • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 — a doctor is called to "operate" on a man's bald head, a horse, and a malfunctioning microwave oven.
  • In Psychonauts, where the page quote comes from. Dr. Loboto has no idea what he's doing—but he was amoral and loony-kookoo enough to take the job when the Big Bad offered it, so he's doing brain surgery as best as his dental training will allow. This turns out to be quite sufficient.
  • The Quarry combines this with Self-Surgery; Laura, who's not even in school yet to be a veterinarian, is forced to patch up her own eye after her werewolf boyfriend slashes her face.
  • Happens in Team Fortress 2's comics, and, like everything else, Played for Laughs. In the first issue of the "Ring of Fired" comic, the RED Pyro hacks off RED Soldier's hand, but since the circumstances have made it so that their Medic isn't available, Soldier is brought to a roadside vet to get his hand reattached. Soldier takes it in stride. The vet is the one who looks traumatized (probably from Soldier wanting to shake with his just reattached hand).
  • Trauma Center:
    • The player is called on to disarm a bomb in the first game and its remake. It's a bit justified since your assistant used to be a part of the police force and dated a guy on the bomb squad, and you do at least have the stable hands required.
    • Trauma Center: New Blood forces the player into a dog operation when their guide dog receives a shotgun blast trying to protect them. The characters explicitly note that they're doing as little as is necessary to save the dog's life, since, well, they're not vets.
    • In Trauma Team, Naomi indulges a child into taking a cat in for what she thinks is a "simple" endoscopy. Nope, the cat's infected with the Rosalia virus.
  • Valiant Hearts gives us Anna, a veterinarian who winds up having to aid several wounded soldiers and civilians in a story based in World War I. No animals are treated this way in the game, despite a medical dog being among the main cast.

  • Lampshaded numerous times in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
    • In his first appearance in Issue One-Half, he is seen practicing dentistry. Mere moments later, he says that he is a podiatrist.
    • At the end of Spooky Stuff, he's asking people if they want to discuss their current "General Practitioner? Or Dentist? Or Neurologist? Whatever."
    • Justified, though — the Doc had numerous clones made of him in college, each of them mastering a different field. And then they re-amalgamated, to make the doc. He is now an expert in every field except agriculture.
  • In the webtoon Lackadaisy when The Big Guy, Viktor, gets injured in a fight Ivy calls the local horse doctor for help.
  • The official Team Fortress 2 webcomic has this. The team is split up after being fired when Grey Mann takes control of Mann Co., and each has gone their separate ways. When Miss Pauling tries to gather up the team, she finds Soldier, Pyro, and Demoman, and has to drive them around in her car. Soldier and Pyro behave like children and do the "This Is My Side" thing in the back of the car. Pyro doesn't approve of Soldier being on his side. Without the Medic, they have to resort to a roadside veterinarian to reattach his hand. Soldier seems perfectly fine with this and it's the vet who looks positively traumatized by the whole affair. In all fairness, Soldier is crazy.
  • In the now hiatus'd webcomic Tourniquet, the main character shapeshifts into a demonic winged form, but when he goes back to human shape, he's unable to make his horns and wings go away and needs them to be removed surgically. He also has a dead demon that requires an autopsy. Early in the story, his usual physician is unavailable, so he manages to talk a coroner/medical examiner into performing the surgery, despite, as she says, her talents running towards desculpting, not mending. She never gets the chance to remove them, as the demon he had her autopsy wasn't quite dead and mauled her fairly badly when it woke up on the table.

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role: Milo Krook, a mechanic, ended up being the only one who saw that Ashton didn't immediately die after getting thrown out of a fifth-story window during a burglary gone wrong, and had to fix his smashed skull and left side before he really did die. The only reason they even knew where to start is because Ashton's body is mostly made of rock and crystal, allowing them to mend the wounds with molten gold and slag glass. Ashton survived (though barely), but the injury and makeshift patch job left him with memory problems, blindness in one eye, and severe chronic pain.
  • Jonas Wharton of lonelygirl15 accidentally cuts his hand open in "Flesh Wound" and has it stitched and bandaged by a vet.
  • The prevalence of veterinarians as the only available medics in Zombie Apocalypse fiction is discussed here on Tumblr.

    Western Animation 
  • On the Archer episode "Coyote Lovely", after the mission goes wrong, Sterling gets shot several times and has to be taken to a vet... who also turns out to be an alcoholic.
  • On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Aquaman calls The Atom (Dr. Ryan Choi) to help when Batman is infected with a deadly pathogen. Ryan Choi is a physicist. Fortunately, a physicist who can shrink, so at least they could "Fantastic Voyage" Plot the problem away.
  • Futurama implies that Zoidberg's entire career with Planet Express is a case of this. While the show generally treats him as an incompetent doctor, he's apparently a competent physician when it comes to treating other aliens, and humans (of which the Planet Express crew almost entirely consists) just happen to fall completely outside his range of medical knowledge. However, he's a cheap hire, remaining out of Undying Loyalty to Farnsworth despite far larger offers from a company hoping to hire him in a capacity better suited to his skills, and Planet Express has a greater investment in saving money than in saving employees.
  • In Justice League Unlimited Booster Gold is faced with a woman about to give birth and turns to the doctor helping him save the world.
    Booster Gold: Maybe you should handle this.
    Dr. Simmons: Why me?
    Booster Gold: You're a doctor.
    Dr. Simmons: I'm a physicist!
    Booster Gold: Yeah?
  • More a case of not knowing which is the right profession for the job than being strapped for alternatives, in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Secret of My Excess", Twilight tries taking Spike to a pediatrician to figure out why he's been having sudden growth spurts. The diagnosis?
    Doctor: He's a dragon.
    Twilight: That's not the problem! He's always been a dragon.
    Doctor: Oh! Well, that would explain it.
(It bears mentioning that this is a show where a pony being turned into a dragon is entirely plausible, and there may even be specialists who would know how to cure that.) The doctor recommends taking him to a vet, but it turns out she doesn't know anything about dragons either.
  • South Park:
    • During an emergency at the hospital, the surgeon is forced to employ the children as honorary doctors on the grounds that they'd once watched a medical drama on TV. Stan, being squeamish, empties his stomach into a patient's incision.
    • A running gag is Randy being called on to do scientific work for the town outside of his field of geology. This being because he is the only scientist in the town.
    • A double subversion in "Good Times With Weapons", where an MD opts not to operate on a dog with a shuriken in its eye that had wandered into the hospital, reasoning that his knowledge of humans doesn't translate to dogs. Problem is, it's actually Butters in a terrible dog disguise.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Billy Quizboy, a neurogeneticist, is frequently called upon to do surgery on something other than the brain, although in a season 4 episode, he actually gets to do that. Previously he operated on Dean's testicles and sewed one man's head onto another man's shoulders, and claims to have grafted the head of a horse onto the torso of a well-known celebrity.

    Real Life 
  • The North Hollywood Shootout: A couple of heavily-armed robbers wearing full kevlar shot up a bank and with the police officers trying to take a hold of the situation, one wounded officer ended up taking refuge in a dentist's office. All the dentist could do was stop the bleeding as best he could and offer painkillers, but this did end up saving the officer's life.
  • You know how a psychiatrist gains a professional psychiatry license? A full M.D. is the start. Psychologists are the ones with PhDs; they can get mad when you mix up the titles.
  • Veterinarians are a somewhat odd case: they are fully trained medical professionals who are well-versed in anatomy and experienced in providing medical care to animals — of which humans are a subtype. Becoming a veterinarian is actually more difficult than becoming an M.D., leading to the frequent joke amongst both vets and M.D.s, "What do you call someone who doesn't get into veterinary school? A doctor." Of course, the fact that pre-vet and pre-med programs are frequently very similar makes this Truth in Television. Lacking an actual MD, a veterinarian is the next best bet, and depending on their specialty may even be capable of administering medical care up to and including major surgery. On the other hand, they are unlikely to be versed in specific human medical disorders.
    • Even veterinary technicians (the veterinary equivalent of a nursenote , and called "veterinary nurses" outside the States) are required to be able to handle surface sutures. (Technically speaking, they are not allowed to stitch up anything below skin level. Guess how often this gets ignored.)
    • Given the nature of the job, particularly when dealing with large and uncooperative animals in areas where the nearest emergency room is a long way away, the supertrope frequently comes into play as well.
    • Several training programs are currently in use in the United States to provide veterinarians with human-specific intermediate and advanced aid training, enabling vets to function with greater autonomy and effectiveness in disasters and other mass-casualty situations where human-specific physicians may be overwhelmed.
    • There's several very good reasons that vets are the best medical help around in a lot of Zombie fiction. Vets are less likely to be in the hospitals that are likely to be epicentres; they're trained in how to stop large, uncooperative animals from biting them, and they're well used to jury-rigging equipment that wasn't made for what they need it to do.
    • Another popular joke among vets: an MD is a vet that only knows how to take care of one species.
  • Many states' 'Good Samaritan' laws protect dentists, vets, and so forth from being sued for failing to save someone they're forced to treat in an emergency, in the absence of a more appropriately-trained physician.
  • Adverse reactions to anaesthetics and other medical emergencies are always a possibility during dental surgery, so in many countries, dentists are required to have at least some first-aid training.
  • On Discovery Health's Untold Stories of the E.R., one episode featured a med student with a background in biochemistry and pharmacology who ended up delivering a baby — rather, watching in shock while a nurse delivered the baby. A family with the mother in labor walks into the wrong section of the hospital, where the med student is, and the instructor orders him to help the woman. He had been a resident for 4 days and didn't even know where the emergency room was.
    • It is worth noting that, barring complications, delivering a baby is pretty straightforward. Anyone with even basic first aid training is more than up to the task unless the delivery encounters complications that are not immediately apparent.
  • Tom Reynolds, EMT for the London Ambulance Service and author of the popular blog "Random Acts of Reality"note , once ended up giving emergency treatment to a cat that a firefighter had found outside a burning house. Nobody else being injured at the scene, they were allowed to drop the cat off at an emergency out-of-hours vet and it made a full recovery. It also apparently made the inside of the ambulance smell of wet, smoky cat poo, but that's by the by.
    • This is more Truth in Television than one might think. Fire and EMS departments around the world have been shown providing emergency aid to house pets. Some departments also carry special oxygen masks for use with cats and dogs.
  • During the Second World War, U.S. Army dentists assigned to combat units frequently stood in for surgeons at battalion aid stations. Benjamin Soloman would receive a posthumous Medal of Honor.
    • Today, on top of their dental practice, a military dentist is trained to perform triage during mass causality incidents, in order to free up the other medical staff.
  • Just like the ubiquitous barber-surgeons of olden times, dentists back then could also be called upon for non-dental surgery, though barber-surgeons were the preferred professionals.
    • A lot of this was due to the tools barbers and dentists used. Even now, few people have access to quality medical equipment, and even if the surgery was being performed by someone who barely knew what they were doing, success was much more likely with the right materials.
    • Go back far enough to before medicine started to become professionalized, and you'd find local healers treating both people and livestock, often because working on the latter was the only way to learn how to perform simple operations or administer remedies without risking human lives.
  • Police and military dogs that get injured in the line of duty may be given emergency first aid by EMTs or field medics who normally work on humans, same as any other wounded officer or soldier.
  • When a person needs someone with more-than-basic knowledge of surgery, but no surgeon is available on hand, a surprisingly good substitute is a gynaecologist. Almost all are obstetriciansnote  as well, and they need some extensive surgery skills and knowledge — part of their job is, after all, performing a Caesarean section, and many perform hysterectomies as well. A gynecologist with enough experience treating endometriosis cases could easily be better at pelvic-organ surgery than many colo-rectal or urological surgeons.
  • The Syrian Civil War has had so many doctors and surgeons killed or fleeing the country due to the regime's repeated attacks on hospitals that numerous veterinarians and dentists have been pressed into duty performing surgery on people injured in the violence.


Video Example(s):


"A VET!"

When Carole goes into labour, Brittas has no choice but to bring a vet in, much to the horror of Laura.

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Example of:

Main / OpenHeartDentistry

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