Epic ER Firsts

This week has been epic in so many little ways. For starters, last weekend I spent about 20 hours training a group of folks (one of my income-generating ‘jobs’ that helps pay tuition). Then I moved – that major downsizing  wise move that will make focus on studying simpler but left me with aching muscles I forgot I had. Add in a few other life things and I’ve had a week of major sleep-deprivation.

Yet I just arrived home from my second ER shift of the week, feeling completely energized and just downright happy.

A couple of “firsts” merit mention.

Tuesday was a crazy-busy night in the ER. Was it a full moon or something? A woman with sky-high blood sugar who didn’t know she was diabetic. Drug addicts and anxiety attacks. A man who had been run over by a car (really!) and a probable stroke.

Then there was the young woman who thought she was pregnant, and complained of symptoms of a vaginal infection.

As I took up my usual stance in the corner, the nurse looked at me, looked at my mentor, and said, “How about the med student does the pelvic exam? You’ve gotta start somewhere right?”

I nearly hugged her. Then nearly had my own panic moment.

But its funny how years of being on the receiving end made it simple, especially with my mentor walking me through. There’s something magical and awe-inspiring to me about the human body, and about women’s bodies in particular. One human being growing inside of another – wow! I’ll never tire of this experience.

Fast forward to today. Another crazy-busy night in the ER with a steady stream of broken bones, chest pain, tummy bugs, and babies and elderly folks with health issues. It was nearly end of shift and my mentor was headed to the back to work on charting when Dr. U stopped me. “How are your suturing skills?”

Oh geez. Without even thinking I said, “I’ve never done it”.

And with his typical cheeky grin, he answered, “No time like the present!”

I was even more nervous as we walked into the exam room and Dr. U explained to the patient I’d be stitching him up. This young man had a few pretty deep gashes on his right hand from holding a glass when it broke, and was obviously quite uncomfortable.

Dr. U placed the first stitch and talked through each step, then handed the needle to me.


And, it was so much easier than I imagined it would be. Maybe because I’ve spent so many years hand sewing. Maybe because I paid such close attention to how Dr. U worked.

Stitches neatly placed, a fist-bump with Dr. U, and a super helpful diagram from my mentor Dr. J showing me how to determine the width and depth of needed stitches, and I’m hooked.

I will never tire of the variety, moments of intensity, even the mundane and downright annoying parts of working an ER. But this week, I catalog two more “firsts” that help solidify my dedication to becoming an emergency physician. I will never tire of doing “emergency” pelvic exams, placing stitches, cleaning wounds and splinting broken bones. I’ll also never tire of reassuring new moms and dads that their baby’s diaper rash is typical and easily treated, and calming the elderly patient who’s afraid of needed treatment and forgets my explanation before its complete.

Now, to sleep, and dream of growing up to be an emergency medicine doc one day. Tomorrow is a heavy study day, and I’m looking forward to it.

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