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She told us Once, I was showing a new family-medicine doctor how to do his very first spinal tap -- a procedure in which a long, thin needle is jammed in between two vertebrae in the lower back. I started by having him watch a video of someone else doing it. On YouTube.

Confessions of emergency room doctors

So, he watches the YouTube video outside the room, and I remind him that if he felt resistance as he was pushing the needle in, that was probably bone, and he'd need to withdraw and try again. So, he starts on the patient who is awake, but out of it and pushes in hard. He keeps pushing, and finally says, "I don't think I got it in the right place. The needle's stuck in there. When we finally got it twisted out of the patient's spinal column, we saw the damn needle was bent at a degree angle because he'd slammed it into the bone so hard.

The patient never knew drugs erase all mistakes and bleach every sin. The answer is that there is no perfect analog for a live patient, and somebody had to be his first. That's why we have teaching hospitals: you can't learn everything with dummies and simulations. We're all OK with this in theory, but in practice it means at some point you'll be at the hospital and someone will be training on you. It might be a nurse doing an IV, a physical therapist getting you out of bed, or it might be your doctor. In the good old days, medical students got more of this hands-on training before they graduated, but due to changes in medical education, brand-new doctors often have to learn on the job.

As a senior resident, I've walked interns through everything from a pelvic exam to a lumbar puncture to a central line placement that last one might not sound too bad, until you realize a "central line" is a large IV usually inserted directly into your jugular. Unless the patient asks, I never volunteer the fact that someone hasn't done a procedure before -- it just adds a level of stress for the patient and the doctor that neither party needs.

Instead we play it cool, trying to project an aura of confidence like the intern didn't just look this up on YouTube a few minutes before entering the room. And I guess here I should address the obvious question People expect doctors to know everything. We go to school for years more than most people, we seem to make a ton of money, and a lot of us have nerdy-looking glasses. So it would make sense that we are bottomless wells of knowledge, and shows like House and Grey's Anatomy don't do anything to dispel that notion. ABC Studios Among other misconceptions about what happens in a hospital.

In the real world, if a patient shows up to the ER with a somewhat rare disease, instead of immediately knowing the nuances of the pathophysiology, epidemiology, and treatment, I'm struggling to remember the basic details of a disease that I learned about back in medical school. There are just so many things that can go wrong with the human body, and no doctor has the capacity to remember every single one of them.

Confessions of Emergency Room Doctors : Rocky Lang :

There's a reason we keep all those giant, impressive books in our offices. And Google, well, it's just a book that works instantly, and occasionally directs you to porn when you're trying to study up on genital warts. And even if whatever rare sickness you've contracted is something I've studied before, it might have been years -- if ever -- since I've had to actually treat it. Goodpasture syndrome The lungs? Is it treated with steroids or do steroids make it want to kill you more?

In pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, is your calcium too high or too low? These are not things that I see every day, or even every month, so I need to refresh myself on them when a patient turns up with one of them. I'll get your history, do a physical, and then hurry out to Google your disease before I talk to you again.

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Patients and their families don't like to see doctors relaxing at the hospital. I understand that -- if your husband is having a heart attack, you don't want to see me laughing with my colleagues about the crazy ending of The Walking Dead the other night "I cheered when Daryl smashed that zombie's head in the car door!

Or if I just put a breathing tube down your mother's throat because she had a massive stroke, you really don't want to see me sitting at my computer a minute later, eating gummy bears and texting my boyfriend about what's for dinner. On an intellectual level, you know doctors lead normal lives outside of the ER. But on an emotional level your loved one is sick and I'm blithely popping candy in the next room like some sort of sociopath. I'm testing them for potency. But this is my everyday life, my job.

How many of you go a hour shift at work without any sort of break? Doctors need downtime too. For most people, a trip to the ER is a scary, very rare occurrence. For me, it's 60 to 70 hours a week, every week. Once we've diagnosed a heart attack and started treatment, there's not a lot more for me to do if the patient is relatively stable. If you see me chatting, it's because I'm waiting for a blood test to come back, for the cardiac specialist to call me back, or for the pharmacy to deliver medications. It's not because I don't care or because your loved one's suffering isn't important to me.

It's because I wouldn't be able to survive in this job if I couldn't compartmentalize. On a bad day, I've had to go from an hour-long code on a young girl who died in the trauma bay after being hit by a drunk driver, immediately into the room of someone looking for a prescription for pain medication. I have to show compassion to that person, with the echoes of that little girl's dead eyes in the back of my mind.

About 5 percent of what I see in the Emergency Room are actual emergencies, 10 percent are urgent cases, and the rest of the people who come into an ER could probably have waited for a normal doctor. And a huge number of those non-emergency, non-urgent cases flood us on Monday. Well, if someone pulls their back on a Friday, they're not going to waste weekend time in the hospital. They're going to come in Monday -- to get their minor injury seen to and a doctor's excuse for their work absence.

There are a lot of things like that we start to notice over time. Another one: the patients most likely to pass out while getting stitches are young guys with tattoos -- women and old people do so much better.

I make the young guys lie down before we even start. Archived from the original on Retrieved Renew Cancel TV. Retrieved 11 July Discovery Life.


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