It’s hard to explain what we do. And so maybe, it’s hard for others to sympathize with our situations. I mean, physicians, mid-levels, and nurses in emergency departments are tied to computers in often cramped work-spaces, even as they are required to be at the bedside almost constantly for the latest emergency or (in other cases) the latest bit of pseudo-emergency drama. If you haven’t worked there, or haven’t for a ...

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There are many disparities in health care. Black mothers have a much higher rate of maternal death than do white women. All women are less likely to get guideline-advised cardiac care than do men. Among the many such examples, perhaps the hardest disparity to solve is that of the poorer access to health care faced by rural communities. People living in rural counties have higher death rates from cancer and ...

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There is always that one patient. The one with the over-attentive, aggressive family member, who writes a complaint. The one you tried to help, but no matter what, the wait was too long, the nurse too unfriendly, you didn’t sit enough, you didn’t reassure enough, pain meds took too long, you didn’t make them feel important. That one patient who has the time, negative energy, and physical health to write ...

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"Words Kill" is a brilliant song about the perils of texting and driving. Spread the message. Courtesy of The Fever Breakers, a band made up of hospital employees. Their socially conscious songs are crafted in the basement of the hospital using a piano used for cancer patient music therapy and subsequently recorded in a studio.

As a young medical student, in my early 20s, I was still too inexperienced to know how a physician was "supposed to" act. But I took the model of stoicism that I learned from my East Indian father and applied it to the medical model. Lectures on "professional detachment" reinforced this. I remember being told that it was the doctor's job to keep a professional distance from a patient. By getting ...

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Like all doctors, I’m a lousy patient. My doctor is a lovely man, but going to see him? That’s right there with weighing myself, getting a flu shot and doing my taxes, and behind celebrating Thanksgiving with the in-laws and getting a root canal. And I’m not the only one. If I had a dollar for every patient who told me they hate doctors (no offense), I’d be long retired. If you’re ...

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Working as an emergency physician at a level 1 trauma center and as an Army reserve officer, you learn to expect the unexpected – but working as the ER doctor taking care of patients impacted by the most deadly and destructive wildfire in California history last year changed me. As I walked into work last year to start my clinical shift as the attending emergency physician, our hospital began receiving multiple ...

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I walk out my front door today to do my obligatory walk around the block with my pups. Two police cars with blue lights flashing, lead a caravan of over 100 motorcyclists to a funeral for one of their fallen brothers. They revved up their motors in the procession, I guess, as a sign of love, of brotherhood, of kindred spirits in the motorcycle world. I choked up. I was ready to ...

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In the emergency department, we see them all the time.  The person with a medical problem too serious to ignore, but not quite bad enough to require admission.  The patient referred to the specialist who comes back to the ER. "I couldn’t afford the cash upfront."  The new cancer in the uninsured.  The pneumonia without a doctor.  The homeless not eligible for Medicaid. The senior barely able to stand, but whose ...

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Did I ever get to thank you for helping me? I am one of the pediatric residents you see running around like a headless chicken. We first met over a year ago when I was just a wee intern. You helped me calm an anxious boy who was about to get stitches. He had sliced his arm with a box cutter, creating a gaping wound for me to close. I’m ...

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An excerpt from A Mistake: A Novel. “Hello there,” Elizabeth said, leaning over the girl, smiling. “Hello. Hello Lisa.” The girl looked up at her accusingly. “My name is Elizabeth Taylor. Please call me Liz. I’m the consultant surgeon, and this is my registrar, Richard Whitehead.” Elizabeth smiled wider for her. “How are you ...

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It’s fascinating — the strange clarity that a little panic brings. I remember thinking this in the days after, startled at the level of detail in my memories of the first time I watched a patient die. “Just got a call, transport’s bringing in a code. You good to standby for compressions?” I nodded as I felt my stomach free fall ten-thousand feet, managing a, “Yeah, totally,” that sounded more confident than I ...

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I’m an ER doc, and proud of it. But I never mention it when I meet new people. Unless someone’s fixing to die, I avoid it like the plague. “I work in a hospital,” I say. “Where in the hospital?” “The ER. How about you?” That’s a topic changer, since most people would rather talk about themselves. Why not own it, you ask? There’s no shame in being a doctor. It’s not like ...

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There are limited studies regarding pediatric malpractice claims, especially for the emergency department (ED). A recent study of malpractice claims involving children highlights the role of communication and systems issues. This 10-year study is important because it focuses exclusively on children and provides data on the top specialties named as defendants, including emergency medicine. The study found communication breakdowns between patients/families, and providers contributed to 15 to ...

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In journalism, the lede is the first part of a news story. A good lede will entice the reader to read more. It contains the key points and gives the general idea of the article. Ledes are also crucial in the field of medicine. As a graduate student in journalism and a general practitioner, I can appreciate the value of ledes in both fields. When health care professionals communicate with each ...

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"The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them." - Achilles Charles Debussy Silence is an important part of our everyday lives. Yet, we often don’t consider its critical importance in helping us to reflect on what we’re doing. This is especially important in medicine where we’re so busy sometimes that we forget that what we say and do actually has huge implications on people’s lives. This is even ...

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On Saturday morning at the breakfast table surrounded by my husband and kids, I suddenly felt chest pain, palpitations, and was about to collapse. Being an internist, I knew it: arrhythmia. Paramedics at arrival confirmed it. I was running ventricular tachycardia. Out of the chaos surrounding me at that moment, my physician's brain assessed the situation: "VT. Serious arrhythmia." After that, I lost it. I became a scared-to-death patient who has a ...

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I hate confrontation.  It’s just the way I was raised.  I’m not saying it’s right, or healthy, it just happened.  My parents and I almost never confronted one another; even when it would have been healthier.  That, of course, is water under the bridge and not in any way a condemnation of my folks who were kind and loving and indulgent parents. But this tendency caused me to suppress emotions.  Whether ...

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Anyone who has spent any time on the internet knows better than to spend much time on the comments from an opinion piece. The comments section, even one on a site as reputable and respected as the New York Times, is often a minefield of trolls, contrarians, and conspiracy theorists. But after reading “The American Medical System Is One Giant Workaround” by Theresa Brown, I couldn’t resist. Among ...

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The clinic intake form we used had a space for an asylum number. The number assigned when people first presented to the border requesting asylum. It's not a tattoo, yet. Refugee Health Alliance (where I worked for much of July 2019) provides care for asylees, refugees, and deportees just across the border from San Diego in Tijuana. On Saturdays, RHA volunteers roll bulging suitcases filled with supplies to migrant's shelters to ...

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