Set in a geriatric extended care wing of a down-at-the-heels hospital, Getting On follows put-upon nurses, anxious doctors and administrators as they struggle with the darkly comic, brutally honest and quietly compassionate realities of caring for the elderly.
It's July 4th at the Billy Barnes Extended Care Unit of Mt. Palms Hospital. On her first day of work, nurse DiDi Ortley discovers feces on a lounge chair, and is torn between the conflicting orders of veteran nurse Dawn Forchette, who wants to file an "incident report" before removing it; temporary medical director Dr. Jenna James, who is in need of a stool sample for her medical study; and supervising nurse Beverly Raymes, who has had endemic issues with floor cleanliness and wants the seat sterilized. In a heated argument with Nurse Raymes, Dr. James has a public meltdown and ends up permanently assigned to this dead-end job. Meanwhile, the staff tries to determine the identity of an Asian woman who was found wandering on a highway, and debate what to do with a deceased patient's birthday cake.
In the wake of Beverly’s departure, a new (male) Supervising Nurse, Patsy De La Serda, joins the Billy Barnes staff with a customer-centric, "cruise-line based" agenda that he’s convinced will improve ward ratings. Patsy soon learns that managing patients – especially highly uncooperative and feisty ones like Varla – isn't necessarily improved through customer-service metrics. On the other hand, a more docile patient named Donna wins DiDi's affections and displays impressive karaoke skills.
DiDi ends up in "conflict resolution" after Patsy files a grievance against her for inappropriate remarks. Dawn learns that intimacy with a co-worker is no guarantee of evaluation immunity. Dr. James and Patsy go head-to-head when she decides to skip the "Make Someone Happy" orientation to attend a Cleveland medical convention. A patient, Birdy, sends shock waves through the ward when her gentleman caller, Leonard, and she are caught in a romantic agenda. Patsy announces a ward-wide deep cleaning.
Dr. James decides to implement a geriatric exercise program in the ward, upsetting Patsy, whose "Make Someone Happy" initiative now includes a live pianist and a fountain. DiDi discloses Patsy's relationship with Dawn to her union rep as proof that her homophobic comment wasn't serious. A homeless woman, and her accompanying stench, is suspiciously dumped in the ward, prompting a staff investigation. Phyllis arrives to check on her dying mother. Dawn wins the grand prize in Dr. James' charity raffle. Dr. James considers relocating after learning she must re-apply for a job she never wanted in the first place.
DiDi's serene evening shift is turned upside down by the arrival of a new Swedish - speaking patient and several unwelcome inebriated visitors. Stopping by after a lamentable dinner party, Dr. James attends to her drunken husband Richard's ingrown toenail while dreaming of a Cleveland fresh start; a woozy Dawn looks for stopgap comforts in the lounge after an unsettling evening with Patsy; and an elderly Swedish tourist shows off her gymnastic chops while complaining about her ruined vacation.
In the season finale, Phyllis gets the runaround as her mother's condition worsens, improves and worsens again. Jenna tries to leverage her Cleveland opportunity into concessions from Dr. Stickley. DiDi's patience wears thin after a debt remains unpaid. Staff members point fingers at each other after an equipment malfunction injures Cordelia, an irascible patient. The staff makes up when a patient dies and comes together to perform their weekly Caregiver Concert for everyone in the ward.
DiDi takes on greater responsibilities when a hospice program is introduced into the ward. Dawn looks ahead to her future and tries to share her news with Patsy, but inadvertently puts his new initiative in question. Patsy finds himself playing patient when he has a medical emergency. Dottie, an alcoholic patient, looks for ways around doctor's orders.
A server crash forces the staff to go "old school" - with disastrous results. DiDi steps on Dr. Stickley's toes when making a decision about Arlene's mother-in-law, while Dr. James has issues getting through to a deaf patient. Dawn buys a cello, and learns that her life-changing news may not be what it seems.
The staff finds itself in an awkward situation when one of Jenna's "adult" study photos mistakenly makes its way into the Christmas card competition. DiDi is tempted by Parker Owens, a visiting doctor. Denya, a patient with terminal cancer, proposes a "final solution" to a startled Jenna. Patsy and Dawn's relationship comes to a head.
DiDi struggles to deal with her younger sister Sherrie, who's filling in at Billy Barnes and cozying up to Dawn. Jenna gets a new look and encounters resistance to her research methods. Patsy lets an award go to his head. The staff tries to balance patient flow and has issues discharging a patient they'd hoped never to see again.
A whistleblower brings disturbing news about the hospice program to light, putting the entire staff's future in question. Dawn takes a big romantic step, but unexpectedly finds herself caught between two suitors. DiDi takes her salary issues to Jenna, who tries to hold everything together.
In the second-season premiere, Dr. James' research projects are all over the ward. Meanwhile, DiDi lobbies for a raise; Patsy's "Lean & Green" initiative doesn't go over well; and Dawn finds out what's wrong with her.
As Dr. Jenna James looks to move past her hospice scandal, she finds her job threatened by a handsome new doctor and takes immediate action. DiDi is inspired to fight for her union rights, while cutbacks force Patsy to return to floor duty. Dawn questions her marriage and, later, gets some distressing news.
The staff faces an infectious disease crisis; DiDi's family drama spills into work; Dr. James reaches out to a pharmaceutical company; Dawn is revived by Patsy's unpredictable advances.
On the day of her 'Sympoosium,' Dr. James is plagued by unexpected complications. Patsy embraces his truth, and DiDi finds herself caught between her work and family. Dawn and Dr. James see uncanny visions of themselves in two British visitors, Dr. Pippa Moore and Sister Den Flixter.
The ward's fate is in doubt, so DiDi tries to think of a way to save it, but is distracted by pressure from Dawn to be her health advocate. Meanwhile, the obstreperous Varla returns and clashes with her estranged daughter.
As the staff attempts to stave off the closure of Billy Barnes, DiDi takes to the picket lines in a last-ditch effort. Jenna tries to weasel her way out of a hastily made offer. Patsy is intrigued by Margueritte's revelation during a secret-sharing session. After a ruse is exposed, Dawn inadvertently sets in motion a chaotic chain of events that seals the fate of the ward.
Dr. James is caught off guard by workplace politics; a felon with cancer arrives at the ward; Patsy's mother visits; DiDi's mother-in-law comes to Billy Barnes for treatment.