Dr. Robert "Rocket" Romano was a fictional character from the television series ER. He was introduced in the fourth season as a recurring character. He became a series regular in the fifth season and remained a starring character until his death in the tenth season. He was portrayed by Paul McCrane.
Prior to Season 4
During the episode which introduces Romano in Season 4, expository dialogue reveals that he has worked in surgery at County General for some time, but has spent "10 months a year in Europe" for the past several years, explaining his lack of previous appearances on the show.
Dr. Robert "Rocket" Romano is introduced in the episode "Good Touch, Bad Touch", as a surgical attending sponsoring Elizabeth Corday's internship in the Chicago ER. Romano was a brilliant surgeon, but did not get along with the majority of the staff, except for Corday, whose early quarreling and professional setbacks at Romano's hands such as discontinuing her fellowship, had blossomed into a respected friendship over the years.
Dr. Romano was obnoxious and ambitious, and was eager to jump at the job of interim ER Chief to help weasel his way toward the top of the administrative ladder.
Dr. Maggie Doyle accuses Dr. Romano of sexual harrassment, and when she asked Elizabeth to back up her claims, she decides not to after Romano blackmails Elizabeth about her relationship with Dr. Peter Benton.
Romano becomes the Acting ER Chief when Dr. Anspaugh mentions he cannot cope with being the Acting Chief as well as his other jobs, much to the dismay of the ER staff.
Dr. Romano was hired as the new Chief of Staff, much to the dismay of the entire staff, but it was good news for Elizabeth because he promoted her to Associate Chief of Surgery. Kerry Weaver had originally backed him up for the job, backstabbing Mark Greene in the process and earning the permanent ER Chief position, but soon became disgusted with him after seeing his diabolical ways, which included him suspending her later in the season after she treated a comatose, brain-damaged young woman without HMO approval.
He starts to grow fond of medical student Lucy Knight after she convinces him to do a heart operation on a patient on Christmas Eve. He, along with Elizabeth, treats Lucy after she is brutally stabbed by a schizophrenic patient. When Lucy dies despite their feverish work to save her, he angrily throws a surgical instrument and kicks over a tray.
When Peter Benton arranged for the surgery of a Medicare patient over Romano's objections, Romano fired Benton and then blacklisted Peter throughout the community, making it almost impossible for him to find a job in Chicago, which forced Peter to come back and accept a daily call, no-benefits job from Romano.
After Peter impressed Romano by keeping his mouth shut and doing the job, Romano "rewarded" him with a raise and benefits but also manipulated him into taking on a new post related to affirmative action at County (but was then outmaneuvered when Benton got a talented African-American student a previously-denied interview, and the student was then accepted into medical school).
In addition, Romano stopped at nothing to fire Dr. Legaspi, a psychiatric attending and love interest of Weaver. The two both realized that she was being discriminated against for her homosexuality by Romano, and Weaver came out of the closet to Romano when announcing she would defend Kim. In the next season, Kim moves to San Francisco, and Romano surprisingly decided to keep Weaver's secret.
Dr. Romano continues to be arrogant and insensitive, but surprisingly shows a soft side when Elizabeth has a hard time coping with Mark's decision to discontinue his brain cancer treatment.
In the first episode of season nine, Romano, Kovač, and Lewis were evacuating the hospital due to a potential monkeypox outbreak. While on the helipad, the chart on the gurney flew away from the wind and when Romano went to pick it up, the helicopter rotors cut off his arm. Dr. Lewis and Dr. Kovač rushed to save his life. Dr. Kovač immediately took Romano to the OR floor, and Dr. Chen and Dr. Pratt assisted when Romano went into cardiac arrest due to blood loss. Dr. Kovač saved his life due to his quick thinking.
Later on in season 9, Romano was fired from his Chief of Staff position by Dr. Ansbaugh. Weaver took over and offered Romano the position of Chief of the ER. During that time, he fired senior nurses Lydia, Connie, and Yosh.
After Romano's amputation, he got a robotic arm. He was Chief of the ER until he died in the episode "Freefall", from a helicopter that fell off the roof. Before the helicopter fell, he was going to lodge a complaint on Dr. Pratt, and caught Dr. Morris smoking pot.
During the following episode after his death, "Missing", Corday is the only individual from the ER who mourns over the loss of Romano.
In the episode "Get Carter", Weaver uses the money from Romano's financial bequest to open a gay and lesbian health program for the ER, which is named after him.
At the end of the Season 15 episode "The Book of Abby", long-serving nurse Haleh Adams shows the departing Dr. Abby Lockhart a closet wall where all the past doctors and employees have put their locker name tags. Amongst them, the tag "Romano" can be seen. The same happens again during "Shifting Equilibrium", when Dr. Neela Rasgotra puts her own name tag on the wall.
Despite his difficult personality and disdain for almost everyone he knew, Romano had a soft spot for medical student Lucy Knight. In order to save a patient who she had bonded with, Lucy went to his house to ask Romano to perform a life-saving surgery, as he was the only one with the skills to save the patient. He refused due to wanting to spend his Christmas undisturbed, so Lucy dressed him down. Due to his position as Chief of Staff and Lucy only being a medical student, this act impressed Romano enough for him to consent to the surgery. Later, the patient returns, but dies during surgery. Romano offers a rare and sincere apology to Lucy for her loss.
When Lucy is stabbed by a schizophrenic patient, Romano operates on her along with Dr. Corday and, despite their best efforts, Lucy dies. Before she crashes, Romano tells her that "they had spent too much time on [her] training to let her die." He is noticeably angry when she dies, furiously throwing a surgical instrument and even experiences a moment of denial, convinced he can save her. He regains his composure when Corday is able to calm him down.
- After his character's death in Season 10, Paul McCrane went on to directing and directed multiple episodes of ER along with Laura Innes after her departure in Season 13.