EM Mindset: Michael B. Weinstock – Not Like Reading a Book at the Beach

Author: Michael B. Weinstock, MD (Professor of Emergency Medicine (Adjunct), Department of Emergency Medicine, The Ohio State University College of Medicine; Emergency Department Chairman and Director of Medical Education, Mt. Carmel St. Ann’s Dept. of Emergency Medicine; Author: Bouncebacks! + Bouncebacks!: Medical and Legal + Bouncebacks!: Pediatrics) //  Editors: Alex Koyfman, MD (@EMHighAK) and Manpreet Singh, MD (@MPrizzleER)

I often compare working a busy ED shift to skiing a double black diamond run; for some it is stressful, for others it is intense. But whatever your perspective, we would all agree it is not like reading a book at the beach. The trick is to find a way to be successful and persevere for a whole career.

Being on the front lines on a busy shift is tough; sometimes the amount of work thrown our way seems insurmountable. We need to rapidly treat the sick and to recognize red flags of illness in the worried well, all while finding the sweet spot of connection with the human tragedy which so often filters into our day; the 18 month-old child who needs IV fluids for dehydration, the 42 year-old mother with a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer, the octogenarian who wanted to die at home but is now receiving chest compressions from the paramedics.

“I wish I’d have been a doctor. Maybe I’d have saved some life that had been lost…” -Bob Dylan, Don’t fall apart on me tonight

When you are buried deep in the ‘weak and dizzy’, there are 3 squads incoming, and your relief is not due for 3 more hours, remember that of all the people in the emergency department, you are the one who is healthy. You are the one who is getting paid for being there. You are the one who can gleam that special amount of satisfaction that you have made a difference in the life of another.

During the recent recession, I tried to remind myself, while walking into the double bay doors of the ED on a cold February morning or after leaving my kids on a hot summer day for a 2P shift, that I was going to work. A phrase that many of the able-bodied patients I would be seeing would have loved to be able to say.

What must it be like to want to work, to want to provide for your family, but be unable to find a job?

“You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone… for the times they are a changin’” – Bob Dylan, The times they are a changin’

You can spend 20 years of your life trying to find peace and wisdom, sitting on a mountain top in Nepal, or at your local yoga studio… but 20 minutes with a non-functioning electronic medical record (EMR) and you are reduced to a driveling idiot who wants to grab the monitor with both hands and throw it out the window!

If you are interested in reading the rest of this and other EM Mindset pieces, please see “An Emergency Medicine Mindset,” a collection evaluating the thought process of emergency physicians. This book is available as ebook and print on Amazon. 

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