Shortland Street is mainly set in and around Shortland Street Hospital, a fictitious Auckland public hospital (which had been a private clinic until 2001 when it was sold to the government by Dr Warner). The hospital gets its name from the fact it is located on Shortland Street in the fictitious suburb of Ferndale. The hospital also houses the Shortland Street Primary Care Clinic and its own cafe.
There are several other locations, including The IV, a bar and restaurant, located opposite the hospital; Sugar, a cafe located somewhere in Ferndale; and Ferndale High School, the local state secondary school.
The exterior views of the houses featured on the programme are located around the North Shore, West Auckland and central Auckland, but the interiors are filmed on sets in the studio. Camera angles suggest that Ferndale is somewhere on the North Shore looking towards the Sky Tower and port of Auckland. Other camera shots are views of Henderson and other parts of Auckland.
In popular culture, Shortland Street is sometimes referred to as Shorty Street or Shorty. The show's famous name has been hinted at by TVNZ to be associated with the former Shortland Street television studios in the Auckland City CBD, a mainstay for TVNZ in Auckland until the end of the 1980s.
The writing team includes at least one medical advisor, for help with medical terms and procedures.
Every few months, the writers map out the storylines for the coming months. These storylines form the basis of the action on-screen.
With the amount of paper required, Shortland Street was once New Zealand's biggest paper user after the government.