Many young physicians in training have asked me, quietly or by e-mail, "Is it possible to be a Christian and practice emergency medicine?"  I think that they ask a good question, and likely for good reasons. In their rotations, they have witnessed, first hand, life in the ER.  They are uncertain, perhaps, because they see the frustration that boils over in the words and actions of otherwise compassionate and caring doctors ...

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I remember seeing so many charts in my career on which the well-meaning emergency room physician wrote the following:  "Follow up with your primary care doctor."  Or, if they didn’t have one, "Follow up in one week with a primary care doctor."  I laughed to myself.  Usually, the people we say that to have either no insurance, inadequate insurance or inadequate motivation to even call the persons to whom we ...

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I recently had an enormous kidney stone. Well OK, it seemed enormous to me. But in terms of kidney stones, it was reasonably large; 9 mm, in fact. Large enough that I had to have lithotripsy (the use of sound waves to break up the stone) performed by my friend and most excellent urologist, Dr. Robert McAlpine in Seneca, SC. As uncomfortable as the whole experience was (and it wasn’t my ...

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My most important patient requires my constant diligence. For this reason, I am seldom far away from him. Only a few minutes inattention and there will be problems. I cannot forget my patient; I am trained to attend to him constantly. I am a professional, and my patient is, ultimately, my customer and the customer’s service is paramount, I am told. I am reminded by policies and procedures as well, ...

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I have a lot of ER stories that involve drug addiction and drug seeking behavior. I knew a patient who intentionally dislocated his shoulder three times in one day to receive pain medication. Another had a friend who stole an entire dirty needle box in order to rummage through it for injectable drugs. I have been told by patients that pain pills were eaten by dogs, stolen by neighbors, lost in ...

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Like many boys born in the 60s, my heroes were often frontiersmen.  I grew up watching the Daniel Boone television series, with Fess Parker.  (I can hear the theme song in my head as I type.)  I watched the Disney production of Davy Crockett, and had a comic book of the same.  I never missed a chance to watch John Wayne die on the walls of the Alamo (also as Davy ...

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I was at a locums assignment yesterday using FEEMRS. (You know, "Fancy Expensive Electronic Medical Records System.") It was all kinds of busy, with wait times of many hours. And as I slogged along, relearning FEEMRS after a few weeks away, I realized that it takes about one hour of looking at that screen for me to become exhausted. It’s just too busy. Every bit of the screen seems filled with ...

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Currently, in American health care, experts are wringing their hands in confusion.  I mean, people have insurance, right?  And yet, health care is still expensive and dang it, people just keep going to the ER.  Visits are climbing everywhere, and I can speak from personal experience when I say that we’re tasked with more and more complex and multi-varied duties in the emergency departments of the 21st century. I’m not a ...

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I was working in a hospital recently and saw a note from a CEO on the computer. Notes and memos are ubiquitous these days. Bathroom walls, break-rooms, computer screens. Everywhere there is another reminder to check this, do that, mark those, record metrics, hurry up, don’t make mistakes, sign orders, complete charts, be nice and all the rest. But this note stood out. In it, the administrator was reminding the medical ...

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I’ve written a lot lately about caring for our patients, and about caring for our spouses, and those things make me very happy. But now and then, things rub me the wrong way. I was recently working at TMH, or Tiny Memorial Hospital, my vague name for small facilities since I work at several and wish to preserve their anonymity.  While there a patient checked into the ED for a fairly unremarkable ...

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