How General Hospital Has Changed Over The Years

Known as "that hospital show" in Twitter circles, "General Hospital" has pretty much lived up to its name through the years, although it has certainly changed since its April 1, 1963 premiere date where all the action centered around the goings-on at Port Charles General Hospital, the main medical center in the fictional upstate New York town where the soap takes place.

In fact, "GH's" first main characters were in the medical field and much of the drama took place around the nurses' station, a place that we still see today — albeit on a much larger set and not in black and white. Although the soap was originally conceived as a daytime anthology series and not a continuing drama, a traditional soap opera is what made it to air, with Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) at the helm with his trusty Nurse Jesse Brewer (Emily McLaughlin). Jesse was married to Dr. Phil Brewer, an emotionally abusive man and also an adulterer. Dr. Hardy eventually found love with Nurse Audrey March (Rachel Ames) (via Soap Hub), and their granddaughter, Elizabeth Webber Baldwin (Rebecca Herbst), remains one of the main players on the show today, and is also a nurse at General Hospital.

General Hospital becomes a pop culture phenomenon with a controversial story

Perhaps a soap opera centered just around a hospital could not survive in the 1970s, as "General Hospital" was set to be canceled in 1978. That's when ABC gave it a last hail Mary and brought in Gloria Monty as executive producer. She quickly revitalized the show and made it into a pop culture phenomenon, according to While taking some stories out of the hospital and into more modern settings like a college campus disco, Monty also caused controversy when town newcomer Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) raped the young, married town heroine Laura Baldwin (Genie Francis) on the floor of that disco one fateful night. While rape stories weren't new to soaps, what happened next was.

"Gloria Monty, the executive producer of General Hospital, essentially was told she had two weeks to save the show and ABC was going to cancel it if she couldn't bring ratings up in that time," said "The Survival of Soap Opera" author Abigail De Kosnik. And what Monty did brought the soap back from the brink in a very big way, giving "GH" the most-watched episode in soap opera history in November of 1981 when Luke and Laura married (via TV Insider).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

General Hospital takes a brutal event and whitewashes it — and it works

After Luke raped Laura on the campus disco floor with Herb Alpert's song "Rise" playing in the background, per this YouTube video, Gloria Monty capitalized on the chemistry between Tony Geary and Genie Francis by telling the audience they didn't see what they saw.

"In Luke and Laura, she saw potential there to maybe make things happen that shouldn't happen, and that was electric," Survival of Soap author Abigail De Kosnik told People, per TV Insider. "Then the question became, 'Why did Luke do that? And the answer the show's writers gave was that Luke did it for love. They became popular not despite the rape, but partly because of it."

So, viewers were told the rape they saw was really a seduction, something actress Francis describes as a rape to this day, although she did her job and played out Luke and Laura's story for years.

"Gloria Monty tried to deal with it by calling it rape-seduction," Francis said in the 2020 ABC/People special "The Story of Soaps" (via Hollywood Life). "The term now would be date rape. The night of the rape, Luke's last request was to dance with him, and the dance became very seductive. He took her down to the floor and that is the rape."

Robert and Anna help turn General Hospital into an adventure soap in the '80s

After Luke and Laura became soap opera's most popular pair and saved "General Hospital" from cancelation, the couple became the premier hero and heroine of the soap, and even saved the world when the Cassadine clan tried to freeze it with a weather machine in soaps' first foray into science fiction stories.

During the world-freezing storyline known as "The Ice Princess," the character of Robert Scorpio was introduced to the canvas as an international agent for the fictional WSB. Through the '80s — especially after Luke and Laura left the soap — Robert took "GH" viewers on adventure after adventure with his various romantic entanglements, which introduced us to the one of the soap's most other treasured heroines, Robert's first love and WSB agent, Anna Devane (Finola Hughes), according to Soaps In Depth. Anna and Robert remain a core part of the Port Charles canvas in 2021, and their daughter, Robin (Kimberly McCullough) gave us one of the show's most important storylines in the 1990s.

The 1990s sees General Hospital evolve into a social soap

By the 1990s, Gloria Monty had left her perch of executive producer and Wendy Riche took on the role. Additionally, Claire Labine as the show's new head writer. That's when "General Hospital" started shifting focus back to medical stories and the hospital on a regular basis (via Soap Hub).

The team of Riche and Labine brought fans the heartbreaking story of young BJ Jones' school bus accident in which the little girl was left brain dead. Her parents, Tania (Hilary Edson) and Tony Jones (Brad Maule), chose to let BJ go and donate her heart to her cousin, Maxie Jones, who was laying in a hospital bed nearby in desperate need of a transplant (via Soap Hub).

In another groundbreaking story, Robert and Anna's teenage daughter Robin (Kimberly McCullough) fell in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks named Stone Cates (Michael Sutton) and they had unprotected sex after Robin got on birth control pills and they had both tested negative for HIV. Sadly, a few months later, Stone tested positive for HIV and learned it had become full blown AIDS. Eventually, Robin also tested positive for HIV and soon watched Stone die. Nearly three decades later, Robin is a doctor living with HIV, and proving that people who are HIV positive can live full lives (via

The 1990s also brought mob stories to usher in a new General Hospital era

As "General Hospital" told social stories, it also brought back the characters of Luke and Laura in 1994. The characters had been living off screen for years with their young son, Lucky, but viewers soon learned they lived on the run from mobster Frank Smith (via Soaps In Depth). After returning to Port Charles, they defeated Frank Smith with the help of Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard), with Sonny taking over the Port Charles mob territory soon after.

Eventually, Sonny became the show's draw as the mobster with a heart of gold — but also a hot temper — who has driven much of the show's plots in the 21st century. In 2021, Sonny had amnesia and lived in Pennsylvania as a bartender named Mike (via Soaps In Depth), but as soon as his memory returned and he returned home, the mobster instincts took over again — although Sonny is decidedly much more mellow.

Through it all, the hospital has remained the backdrop for the soap. The nurses station is still in full swing and each year "GH" hosts a Nurses Ball, featuring the talents of townspeople and medical staff on a ballroom stage, ostensibly to raise money for the Stone Cates AIDS wing at General Hospital (via, showing fans that the more things change on their favorite soap, the more things stay the same — especially with Genie Francis' iconic Laura as the 2021 Port Charles mayor.