A new television series called Code Black debuted on CBS. The show’s name supposedly means the emergency department has too many patients and not enough staff. In my over 40 years in medicine, I’ve seen many busy, understaffed EDs but never heard anyone call it a Code Black. There is the usual array of standard medical characters -- the inexperienced new residents on their first day at work, the savvy nurses, ...

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I was working at a small hospital when I heard the nurses talking about a new rule. The rule was that the only people who could wear lab coats would be physicians and administrators. It made me laugh a little. I’ve hated lab coats since medical school. I currently sport what a family medicine resident told me was the ER mullet: khakis and polo shirt. (Who knew?) I find it much ...

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It all started out seeming like a pretty routine visit. My patient was in her early 30s and had come into the emergency department for weakness and was in no distress. As I was talking with her about her symptoms she would flash the occasional smile. It was then I noticed that she had fangs. Not the kind that some people naturally have from misaligned teeth, but she had really long, ...

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Recently, Pope Francis visited Philadelphia to finish out his five-day visit to the United States. Prior to his visit, many hospitals in the city were preparing for possible emergencies involving visitors from many countries around the globe, particularly elderly visitors. On-call teams were present in these hospitals, and contingency plans were in place in case people needed to be transported emergently to different hospitals despite the high level of security ...

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It’s amazing when events that seem to be “miracles” happen, and even more magical to be a part of them, however peripherally. My husband, David Merzel, MD, a physician anesthesiologist and pediatric intensive care specialist, and his patient, 17-year-old Chiann Wheeler, share the remarkable story of Chiann’s brush with death from sepsis, and how David’s quick diagnosis saved her life. The story began one morning when then 15-year-old Chiann felt so sick ...

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A colleague recently told me of a patient encounter he had in an emergency room. When he picked up the chart, it described the patient as a 62-year-old woman complaining of epistaxis, or a nosebleed. He walked into the room and saw a perfectly well appearing 62-year-old woman. There was no blood on her clothes and none on her face. Her nose was not bleeding. When he asked her what could he do for her, she said ...

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As my husband's pick-up truck rolls up the driveway, a long ER shift behind him, my four kids come running from wherever they are currently playing on our farm. My seven-year-old son was reading in a rocker on the front porch. His six-year-old brother was watching the new baby chicks scramble around our brooder. My four-year-old daughter was helping feed our ducks. And my two year old was getting into ...

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As a new mother, working in an emergency department made me want to go home and childproof every nook and cranny of our house. On a daily basis at work I care for children, most often toddlers, injured at home in various ways. I learned of all the potential household dangers and how to keep my children safe. I remember vividly caring for the 2-year-old girl who burnt her entire hand ...

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One thing I learned early on as a doctor is different people have different tolerances for pain.  At one end of the spectrum, for example, I recall a woman who came to the emergency department with a small splinter in her foot.  She arrived wailing in pain, and we had to take her back to a treatment room ahead of other patients because her howling was scaring the people in ...

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Dear attending, I’m a third-year medical student fresh out of the classroom.  I’ve studied from books for years, and now I finally get to see what it is like to be a doctor. It’s exciting but also a daunting experience. I look to you as a guide: what you wear, how you speak, what tools you use, and how you treat others.  This is the year I will be socialized ...

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