It’s been just over a month since I finished working an incredibly eventful week of work at the Dubbo Base Hospital Emergency Department (ED), and I thought I’d share some reflections about the week and about doing Rural ED Locums in general. This is what I wrote in the week following my visit.
In my week at Dubbo Base I saw a diverse mix of patients and it was an interesting and challenging ED work environment. Despite being a relatively remote hospital of medium size I felt that there was a strong education focus and this feature was one of the highlights for me because “I love learning and teaching”. The Dubbo ED had Emergency Specialist cover and was accredited for ED training, and there was also a host of specialty registrars from other departments (including Medicine, Surgery, Orthopaedics, Paediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynaecology) which made it a well supported ED to work in. However, at the same time, the last week of nights was perhaps one of the most challenging weeks of work that I had done in recent years. I think this is partly due to the diversity of patients that I saw (as Dubbo covers a large area in Central NSW), which one of the added challenge of doing Rural ED Locums.
In my week I was also involved in some interesting emergency medicine, managing a range of Medical, Neurosurgical, Surgical and Orthopaedic Emergencies, which including major trauma, resuscitation and post resuscitation care. In addition to the big stuff there were plenty of regular ED presentations, and we saw lots of Paediatrics, and some O&G and acute Psychiatry.
The challenges of describing work in the Emergency Department
Ever since I started a sting of medical research in Sri Lanka, and became interested in International Emergency Medicine, I have been in the habit of reflecting on what goes on in Emergency departments back in this part of the world. Because of this I often find myself asking the questions; – “What do we do in emergency medicine – how do these systems work? Do they make a difference?”. Because I have worked or observed medical systems without Emergency Medicine as an established specialty, my observed answer to the last question is a “Yes”. I say this for many reasons, which is why I’m so passionate about the development emergency medicine. However, perhaps greatest difference I can notice straight away is that Emergency Medicine provides a system and process of creating “a degree of order” from within the chaos of a hospital’s acute admitting facility. Emergency Medicine’s doctrine acts promote the fastest attention to the most critically ill patients first, and also promotes the provision of a high level of medical experience early. This certainly was the case in my last week of work, as the model was operating in full swing. I was particularly impressed in the way that we dealt with Trauma patients that we dealt with at the weekend and also the instances of Resusciation during the week.
Reality is stranger than fiction
In writing this blog post I found it difficult to capture all the professional challenges, ethical dilemmas, mixed emotions, trials and tribulations that can be encountered even in a single week of working in the ED, and conveying this scene is perhaps where theatre and film have an important role to create awareness – both for the improvement of the system, but also the education of the public.
In addition, knowing what happens in an emergency department is perhaps helpful to the friend and family of those who working this environment, for often out of the sheer enormity of the culture shock it’s hard to describe. I for one often find it difficult to talk about what I have been doing, or going through because of a fear of being misunderstood. I think some kind of debrief is really healthy, but rarely practiced. This trailer that I saw on a TV series called “24 hours in the ER” seems to capture some of magnitude of interesting, weird and wacky, and challenging things that one sees in the emergency department.
I never actually watched the full series myself, but the trailer that I’ve included above looks as if it would be a good series to watch. I really like how this trailer captures not just the “bells and whistles” of the job, but it also shows some of the really challenging (and rewarding) aspects of helping people, such as dealing with the process of death. A lot of our work these has become about “end of life care”, and helping families through this process, which is quite different to the “ER” I watched as a medical student – but I guess things have as the population is getting older.
Many doctors and medical these days are blogging about their experiences which give provides a very important interface of communication between patients and health care providers. Kevin MD is a great blog that compiles as series of articles about their experiences, such as this post by about the experience of a medical student confronting death.