Who watches the watchers?  It’s an old Roman saying from the poet Juvenal, and it had to do with infidelity. But over the years it has been applied to politics as well.  It means, "How do I know that the people guarding me are worthy?"  It has also been translated, "Who guards the guards?" But it seems to me that it applies to medicine quite appropriately.  Who watches those watching physicians?  We ...

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She looked like a whipped puppy that had had a garden hose turned on it and slunk off to a far corner of the yard to dry out in the sun. She sat there, wizened but hard, thin and wiry, dressed in standard issue blue emergency room scrubs, thin tanned face, long stringy, wet prematurely gray hair falling limply around her shoulders. She looked down at the floor, but when her ...

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Today, a patient attacked me. A nurse got kicked. Another punched. I was gouged to the point that blood was drawn. The patient was neither intoxicated nor psychotic. Rather, she was a meek 92-year-old grandmother, and she was terrified. It took five of us to hold her down, as she summoned the strength of a woman fighting for her life. Linda is an elderly woman with moderate dementia. She is blind ...

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It was recently Nurses Week in early May and there were a lot of adulations being offered on social media and throughout hospitals regarding the appreciation we have for those among us who have chosen to be on the “front lines” of caring for us when ill or injured. As an emergency physician I could speak about the many times a nurse has grabbed me and pulled me into a room ...

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Another backboarded body rolls in. I slip from my perch at the computer and greet the emergency medical technician. “Seizure. Lasted a few minutes, done by the time we got there. Fell and cut his face.  Vitals stable. Sugar fine. Oriented but postictal.  Didn’t take his meds.” Approximately my age, the backboarded man’s chin bears a ribbon of red laces. “Dammit,” he says. A glance at the cardiorespiratory monitor shows me suitable hemodynamics, ...

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An American poet and political activist, Muriel Rukeyser, said the universe is made of stories, not of atoms.  I believe her. As a seasoned storywriter and storyteller, I walked gingerly into the adult emergency services for my first shift as a volunteer at a legendary New York City public hospital. I sported a crisply ironed red polo with “emergency department volunteer” embroidered in white stitch. Armed with a pocket notebook and a ...

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One of my most treasured stories as an ED physician belongs to a lovely couple who valued quality of life. It was a routine day in the ED when an elderly woman rolled through the ambulance doors on a cold, narrow stretcher, unaccompanied by family. She was placed in bed 5, which is where we met. She was frail and her memory was poor. The EMS run sheet reported “change ...

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Medical scribes are a burgeoning field with many institutions and practices exploring their use while the many commercial enterprises who lease out scribes are pushing for their widespread acceptance. There is no accepted definition of what scribes do or what their background or training should be. There is no mechanism for licensure of them in any state. They are poorly defined medical assistants. The field is in its infancy and ...

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The day I graduated from medical school and walked across that stage with my diploma in hand, I was sure that I had achieved the highest honor in the land.  I could not help envisioning myself in a long, crisp white coat, walking down the long hallways of the hospital, with my name badge perfectly displayed that read: "doctor." I was certain in my mind that I had finally made it.  ...

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A Southerner at heart, I find myself in love with places.  We are forever pining on about our family homes, our small town barbecue restaurant, the sound of some lake where catfish splash in the night, or the woods where our favorite treestand sits.  Sometimes our afflictions for place become the stuff of novels; Scarlett O’Hara is always associated with her beloved Tara just as Faulkner is ever infused into ...

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