How applicable are the lessons we learn in the hospital to other areas of our personal and professional lives? Over the past eight years in the emergency department, I have learned most about people. These lessons have been crucial to my success in the ER and as a father to my teenage children.
These are my top 5 insights:
1. Clear communication is key and overly clear communication is even better. It is easy to forget that what is obvious to me is not always so apparent to others. When I ask for 0.3 mg of epinephrine to be injected during an anaphylactic reaction, I need to specify IM. I learned that lesson the hard way when I was too slow to stop a nurse from pushing it IV. Miscommunication in the ED is dangerous. This lesson applies to everyday encounters with my children, family, and co-workers. Being open, clear, and communicative prevents unnecessary conflict at work and at home.
2. Let go of results and instead focus on processes. You can control actions but not outcomes. I want to save every code patient that comes into my ED, but the fact of the matter is, most will die. I can do everything perfectly and still lose a patient. I have learned over time that I have to focus on what I can control. Does that guarantee my success? No, but it allows us to do everything we can, and that gives us the best shot. I can control my knowledge, my actions, and the cohesion of my team to make sure we get better every day.
3. These are cliches for a reason: Time is precious or YOLO or be happy now. This is one of those lessons that is easy to say and harder to put into practice. In the ED, we are constantly reminded of just how precious life is. This hits hardest with the death of a child or a serious injury from a car accident. Some patients have time to process a diagnosis. On the other hand, a patient in a car accident is fine one moment, and in an instant, fighting for their life. I watch people cope with loss often. Thus, I have grown to truly appreciate each day of life. I remind my children and co-workers that every moment is precious. It creates dedicated teams that want to change the world today.
4. Everyday hassles do not have to be serious. I have highly entertaining situations enter my ED. We see everything from zipper mishaps to the strange things people ingest or get stuck in orifices. The list goes on and on. I am more effective when I can help someone laugh instead of cry. If I can make my team members laugh when appropriate, our team is more effective.
5. Blame accomplishes nothing. In the ED, it takes a team to get through each shift. I had some rocky experiences working my way through residency. I never forgot when one of my attendings stood up for me when he could have thrown me under the bus. I have tried throughout my career to have my coworkers’ backs as well. If you lift up team members instead of blaming them, you will have better relationships, better trust, and better outcomes.
Working in the ED has made me a better parent. Being a parent has made me a better doctor.
Jared Pelo is an emergency physician.
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