Peter A. Young
submitted 2017-08-16 00:00:00 -0400
Emergency medicine is demanding & humbling: anyone may come through your doors on a stretcher, at any time, with any ailment. Decisions made in seconds determine whether a mother, son, sister, or husband will survive, perish, or worse.
A common saying in healthcare is, there are fates worse than death. Medical providers may witness neurologic injury rendering patients unable to move or speak, yet cognizant of their surroundings with all senses in tact. We may see children robbed of both parents in a moment, or our colleagues’ hands struggling desperately to save their own kin in our workplace: a room where just an hour ago, new life was welcomed into this world.
Emergency departments are conveyer belts, testing our endurance in the face of infinite human suffering. The sick & injured come in such droves that we may ask, how can there be so many people at all? The world should be free of its ill soon, because they must have all been through our doors by now. We practitioners will fatigue from attrition. We’ll battle against such harshness, desperation, misery, & pain that even our own wellness may, at times, depreciate.
Yet emergency departments are also places of humor, joy, & salvation. Mothers will hold their children for the first time, & return home with peace of mind from our reassurance. Heart attack survivors will receive second chances thanks to our interventions, and will live to see their daughters wed. The psychologically disturbed will begin to find solace in the medicine, counsel, & referrals we give.
As emergency medical practitioners, we’ll treat the full spectrum of humanity: rich & poor, sane & psychotic, newborns & the dying. How can anyone prepare to face such broad, high-stakes situations?
We must foster wellness in ourselves, excel in our medical curriculum, & rehearse essential skills with trusted mentors. We must arrive at our workplaces in good health, well-trained, & level-headed. When the time comes that our skills are tested, we must trust our preparation & rely on the skills we’ve fostered for so long.
Future emergency medical providers in the US & other first world nations are lucky, in that we’re part of a long tradition of excellence in health care. The vastness of information & evidence guiding the care we’ll provide is matched only by the stakes placed on our profession. Each piece of knowledge a trainee adds to their acumen is another brick in our wall against the disease & suffering that constantly threatens to flood over humanity: only when placed meticulously will it serve its purpose to save a life. Attention to detail, & learning the evidence behind our practice, are critical to practicing medicine.
I plan to prepare to deliver life-saving care by rehearsing the skills handed down to me by my preceptors. I accept the massive responsibilities that come with a medical license, & I accept there will be challenges & uncomfortable situations in this field. I plan to practice humility, so I may benefit from teaching moments & improve my practice by frequently updating my knowledge.
Good medicine relies heavily on interpersonal skills & genuine compassion. By cultivating health & well-being in ourselves, we can offer it in greater capacity to the community we treat. By fostering respect & authentic compassion in all interactions, & leading a meaningful life when off the clock, we fill the well of respect & consideration we serve our patients from.
Having excellent communication skills with patients is paramount. Patients must be comfortable opening up to providers, often about personal topics. Practitioners with sub-par communication skills, who do not seem trustworthy, likeable, or authentic to patients, will not consistently learn needed information from their patients, while their more kind & socially adept colleagues will excel.
Providers with low social awareness, lack of respect, or inability to effectively communicate, will also not function as team members in emergency situations. Underdeveloped interpersonal skills leading to frustration & distraction hinders efficient, quality care. In emergencies, there is no room for these delays: a smoothly operating team is needed. That is why I plan foster positive, respectful working relationships with colleagues, & to treat each patient with the same authentic kindness I would offer my family.
This is the stance I’ve held since assistant teaching anatomy in a university, running calls as an ambulance EMT, & which I still remember during hospital rounds as a PA student. I learned it, like most of what I know, from the great doctors, PA’s, and other healthcare workers who came before me. I only hope this approach serves my patients as well as it has served theirs.