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Responding to Responders

“My Lunch”

“Scrubs” is an American medical comedy-drama television series created by Bill Lawrence that aired from October 2, 2001, to March 17, 2010. The TV show is named after a nickname given to surgical internes at a hospital to show rank. It chronicles the life of new intern Doctors as they step out of the doors of their college and into a hospital for the first time, and follows these doctors throughout the length of their career.
The series shows the side of healthcare that is not often thought about: the fact that healthcare workers are learning as they go along. The show captures all of the awkward mistakes, as well as the heart breaking blunders, made by every new health care worker… from Doctors, to Nurses, to EMT’s. It’s an unsettling thought that the person caring for you or your loved one is learning on them, but more often than not that is the case. The show also captures another element of the job – the emotional effects it can have when things go wrong.
The scene above shows the moment a character in the show, Dr. Cox, loses a patient from a medical decision he made. Dr. Cox decided to use the organs from a patient who had previously died in order to save the lives of three other patients, but when the transplants were complete, they discovered that the donor patient had died of rabies and the transplanted organs were all infected.
Often times in emergency health care, we are faced with very tough decisions that may mean if a patient gets better, gets worse, or even die. The pressure can be ground shaking when you’re the one in the driver’s seat, and even more so when you’re new and unconfident in your skills. Regardless if you’re new, or if you’re one of the more experienced members on your team like Dr. Cox, this beautifully acted piece has one lesson to take away: “the second you start blaming yourself for people’s deaths, there’s no coming back.”

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A Life in Pictures – A Personal Note to My Friends

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There is no shame in admitting you’re human. The person I meet who openly admits they feel nothing after seeing another human in pain is a person that I will back away slowly from and then call for help.

The pictures above represent a reality in EMS, a reality that almost every shift will take something out of you – because, simply speaking, you are only human. Of course, how busy of a system you work in will affect how much you will see and whether or not you’ll get a break form it during the day, but over the course of years, there are things that will poor a little bit out of your cup… and eventually, everyone’s cup runs out.

You can, however, refill this cup, take back some of which you have given. In fact, I’d say you owe it to your patients that you do so. If you can, don’t pick up that overtime shift. Say yes to going out with everyone after work, take that vacation, even if you’re tired and all you want to do for your 4 days off is lay in bed – and if you need it, please, seek professional help.

And care. Please don’t stop caring about what you do. Please don’t lose value in what you do. In this field, the hours are rough, you’ll miss holidays with your family, pay isn’t always what it should be, you’re placed in harm’s way frequently, and of course, you’ll see horrific things that you’ll never forget. There isn’t much a reason to be in this field unless it’s what you love to do. What you do is important; and even if the patient who is upset about the wait doesn’t tell you it , they value you – because you are valuable.

You’re going to be there when a lot of people are born, and when a lot of people die. In most every culture, such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. No one on Earth would be welcomed, but you’re personally invited. What an honor that is.” – Thom Dick

Expanding on this idea, please read the article, “Does it Hurt to Care More? Depression and Suicide in EMS,” which you can find here.

“Deceit and I”

“Deceit and I,” is a slam poetry piece performed by RJ Walker at the Individual World Poetry Slam competition. This piece chronicles the events of a call that is among many first responders worst nightmares: the death of an infant. For anyone in the career field, the death of a child is often times one of the most dramatic situations imaginable. There is a certain feeling of injustice that lingers in the air around the scene of chaos. The parents are often hysterical, and can sometimes become dangerous to themselves, the staff, and worst of all, the patient. The images of the scene are never forgotten, no matter how much time passes. Possibly, the thing that hits the hardest when dealing with child patients is their innocents. The fact is that the children didn’t put themselves in that situation, the situation found them. More often with adult patients, they made a poor decision prior to their arrival in the emergency department, otherwise known as the, “hold my beer and watch this,” incidents. The argument of what makes an adult do what they do is a whole different, complex, conversation, but the fact of the matter is that adults have the capability to understand that what they are doing is dangerous, whereas kids don’t have that understanding. Children are also very variable to injury due to their small, weak bodies and inability to defend themselves; in a culture that prides itself on physical discipline, sometimes the worst imaginable outcomes become reality.
In this piece, however, Walker goes beyond just describing the incident, he talks about the personal toll it had on him. From deciding whether or not to tell the parents the truth about how their child died, to how it affects his sleep at night, Walker touches on a more personal side of the job that often isn’t talked about.

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