Shadowing: Emergency Care Unit

My goal to do a few days of shadowing over Spring Break continued today with another day of shadowing.

A friend of mine contacted his uncle to arrange a shadowing opportunity in a hospital downtown.  We both had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours shadowing a doctor in the Emergency Care Unit and while we weren’t able to see many patients (because most declined allowing us to come in), I did get to ask a billion questions and observe the doctor outside of the patient’s rooms.  We heard about a woman who was there for ovarian cancer treatment who doesn’t have insurance, so she came to the ER.  We also heard about a woman who was sent in because a squirrel scratched her and she was afraid of rabies.  We saw someone with extreme back pain, someone who passed out randomly and someone who was hit by a car while rising their bike.

Questions I Asked

1. Is this the emergency unit where people come on ambulances, or people who drive themselves to the Emergency Room?

Both.  They all come to the same place.

2. Is a person seen faster if they are brought in by ambulance, as opposed to coming on their own?

It depends.  People that need immediate attention will be seen first (such as severe chest pain or accidents), but people who are not as severe will be sent to the waiting area (Ex: fell and hurt ankle).  There is also an area for people who come in complaining of cold or flu-like symptoms or cuts and they are mostly seen by nurses.

3.  What is are common things you see?

Women come in with complaints of stomach pain and they’re pregnant.  Drunk people are brought in because someone found them passed out on the street.

4.  Do you do surgery?

Not usually.  We usually consult with the surgical team, but if it’s an absolute emergency (such as a gunshot), we do what needs to be done.

5.  How do you have time to scrub up when someone needs help right away?

We get a call to notify us that something serious is coming in so we can prepare.

6.  Is this what you wanted to do?

Yes.  Emergency care is what I always wanted to do.

7.  Do you always know exactly what to do and what medications to give?

Absolutely not.  There is a website that is updated regularly that doctors can use to look up anything from medication to how to do a minor procedure (if they need a refresher).

8.  Anything you wish you had known back then?

It’s best to go away for residency.  Do it somewhere different than where you go to medical school.  Also, there are different types of medical school programs.  Some programs are the standard memorize info and take exam schools, while there are also schools where they teach by presenting problems (case studies) to the students and then the students dissect the problem and decide what is best.

9.  Do your residents have to run things by you before they do anything?

The senior residents can pretty much do what they need to do and then tell me about it later.  Other than that, yes they run it by me.  Sometimes they are completely off in their diagnosis.

10.  Why do you like working in a hospital?

Everyone is accepted.  There is no dealing with insurance, etc.  Some people will come to the hospital for things that could be taken care of by a primary care doctor, but they don’t have insurance.  The hospital takes on those costs.

11.  Do you get called in the middle of the night?

No.  If you’re working a night shift, you’re working, but if you’re not, they don’t call you.

12.  How many patients do you care for at any one time?

I try not to have more than 12 patients at once, because then it becomes overwhelming.

13.  Does it get depressing to see people come in and they don’t make it?  Does it take an emotional toll?

Most people who come in don’t die, so it doesn’t take much of an emotional toll.  Most people survive.

14.  Do you see a lot of shootings, stabbings and other forms of trauma?

Yes, we see that.  There is a program for youth who are victims of that type of trauma.  We try to help them get off of the road they’re going down and get back into school, etc.  We also help them get insurance.

I asked more, but these are the questions that stuck with me.  Interesting stuff, huh?


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