Think for a second about the most treasured drug or device in your medical bag.  Or about the procedure you find most appealing, the disease or injury you most enjoy treating.  Personally, I really enjoy doing lumbar punctures, opening abscesses, placing IO lines and applying splints.  And because I’m an emergency physician, I am duty bound to say that I love to intubate ... and I do. I also enjoy doing ...

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They used to tell us, as physicians, that "if it isn’t on the chart, it didn’t happen."  We could protest all day, to billing companies, insurers or attorneys, "I did that.  It’s assumed.  I always do the same thing every time."  But they would retort, "nope, it’s not in the chart."  So we learned to detail everything, every time, every movement.  Every consideration and justification.  The idea being, our ‘thought process’ ...

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You have to earn your cynicism.  That’s my rule.  Young pre-med and medical students, even some residents don’t have the same right to cyncism as the rest of us who have labored in emergency departments for years, for decades.  The same goes for nurses fresh on the job from training, and ward secretaries who so recently were high school kids. It always troubles me when these people start working in our ...

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When I was a resident in emergency medicine, at what was then simply Methodist Hospital of Indiana, I was blessed with the opportunity to fly with Lifeline. While I am originally from West Virginia, where rural means mountainous, I came to love the beautiful, stark emptiness of Indiana as seen from the sky.  And over time, I came to truly appreciate the small, rural hospitals that called us for help ...

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I wonder, sometimes, are physicians valued professionals, or merely problems to be solved?  Are we skilled clinicians vital to the well-being of our patients?  Or are we merely assetts to be managed?  It occurs to me as I walk around hospitals these days, and see the overgrowth of people with clip-boards, people with undue authority over our lives and practices, people trained in business and management but untrained in either ...

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I have noticed over the years that physicians who write about medicine, particularly for the general public, are limited to very specific discussions.  For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to write about the plight of the poor and uninsured.  It is always reasonable to advocate for a single payer system. It is perfectly acceptable to discuss how one downsized in order to make less and "give back" more.  And it ...

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Recently, while on a locums assignment in a very small, rural hospital, I cared for a gentleman with chest pain.  His discomfort seemed classic for an MI, but his EKG did not. So I treated him as normal with aspirin and nitrates, and waited for his cardiac markers to come back from the lab.  In the interim, his chest pain worsened.  Sure enough, he developed an anterior MI.  The tombstones ...

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Whether they are young or old, we do not want our loved ones to die.  Period.  Even if we live with faith in our eventual, eternal reunion with them, we know that their passage will leave a void.  I completely understand. But I want to take a few lines to try and make things clearer, or easier, for those who have family members who are very aged and infirm.  You see, ...

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Sometimes I feel as if my entire emergency medicine career is dedicated to one patient complaint.  And that one complaint is chest pain.  It may be that the incidence and prevalence of chest pain was the same during my medical school and residency training as it is now.   But I doubt  it. I recall how I struggled to learn the salient questions.  ‘Where is your chest pain?  Is it heavy, dull, ...

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Sometimes I need to clear away the chaos and confusion of medicine, so I walk down the worn path in our backyard (also trod frequently by children, dogs, cats, and deer). Sitting at the end of the path is the shop, which the kids and I helped a friend build. We helped set the foundations and nail the floor; we raised walls and put in roof trusses. The shop sits in ...

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