Be Thankful for the Practice of Emergency Medicine

By Gerald Gorman, MD, Medical Director, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

It is already November again, which means that it is time to think about Thanksgiving and everything we have to be grateful for in our lives. Family and friends, and hopefully health, come immediately to mind. But when thinking about Thanksgiving, one cannot help but reflect on his/her job as an Emergency Physician, Emergency PA or Emergency NP. If you have chosen Emergency Medicine as your specialty, it certainly has become a part of you. It has definitely become a part of me. I am asked the question all the time: if I had to do it again, would I choose Emergency Medicine?

Emergency Medicine is an exceptionally demanding specialty. Many times, it seems like a thankless specialty. Sometimes it seems as if we are forced to find solutions to everyone’s medical and societal problems, all within the span of about two hours. And if we cannot, it seems as if somebody is always there to criticize. It is a stressful, chaotic and sometimes even dangerous work environment. But in the midst of all the chaos, many of us find a certain purpose and meaning to what we do as our chosen profession.

Working daily in the ED reveals a great cross section of society and demonstrates the best and worst of humanity. There are administrative demands and concerns, constant talk of length of stays and LWOTs. Add on the government and insurance mandates, PQRS reporting mandates and documentation mandates. Staffing is required 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. This means sacrificing weekends, holidays and nights, and time spent away from family. Then add in the daily struggles with EMR hassles and its complicated maze of clicks, and it would seem that the ED is an impossible place to work. Sometimes I wonder if anyone anywhere is going to try and make our lives any easier!

Yet, despite all of those obstacles, we all still have one of the best jobs in the world. We should be thankful to have this amazing job that provides us so many extraordinary rewards in return. Where else can you experience such a wide variety of complaints on a daily basis? Where else can you use such a wide skill set to help people and impact patients’ lives? Whether it is in cardiology or pediatrics or obstetrics or trauma, we are required to possess those skills and that knowledge. It is an honor and blessing to be given that responsibility.

We are privileged have fantastic co-workers. The ED tends to select a certain type of person. The ancillary staff tend to be great people. Dedicated, smart, funny and simply the types of people you want to go to work for and with every day. We all learn from each other and recognize that each day in the ED is a learning experience. We learn from our patients and from each other.

It can be a bizarre yet remarkable and distinctive place in society. There are peculiar, outlandish and certainly unconventional stories. We are privy to information that some family members and spouses never know. We become trusted confidants.

When we take care of the patient, our treatment and care extends beyond just the patient. What we are capable of doing and many times are forced to do in a very short, condensed amount of time will affect a patient and his/her family forever. There is no greater satisfaction in medicine than a simple thank you, or a card or note from a patient and their family. One patient’s family recently reminded me just how fortunate we all are to be able to have such a profound influence on someone’s life. Her note stated:

“I talked to you for maybe only 5-10 minutes, but you and your staff saved my father’s life when he came into your ER in bad health and couldn’t breathe. You and your team saved him and he is now home. No words can ever express the gratitude we have for you and the staff. Many times your work goes overlooked as they are with you for only a brief amount of time. But sometimes those few minutes are some of the most important moments of life.”

Her words, I am sure, resonate with all Emergency Department staff.

Life is hectic, work is hectic. But we all need to take a few moments to be thankful for our jobs and realize that we have so much to be thankful for. It is admittedly tough at times, but when I take the time to really give thought to it, I love my job and I love the ED.

So when I am asked almost daily by students and residents and colleagues if I would do this all over again, I can honestly and unequivocally say: Yes, I Would!

I am grateful for this wonderful specialty.

Happy Thanksgiving!