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14 January 2009

Under Pressure

I never thought about the change that would happen in six months.

I just started my next rotation at Women and Children's Hospital. After almost two months working at ECMC, I think I was ready for the change. However, I didn't expect quite the change.

If you've been following my blog, you know that I have already done two rotations as an intern at WCHOB. And, despite the fact that I really don't like kids, I actually enjoyed them. It gave me a chance to do some preventative medicine - which I think is very important, a chance to teach - which I love to do, and, for the most part, I learned a lot about pediatric acute (and some not so acute) emergency medicine.

However, starting on Monday morning, I was the "senior" emergency medicine resident. Suddenly, it wasn't about "what does this child have?" it was about "how are you going to fix them?" Having not seen anyone under the age of 16 for the last 6 months, I really found myself rusty in my diagnostic skills, and with the added pressure of making more complex decisions about their health care, I was really at a loss my first shift.

What did not help was the fact that it was Monday. In January. At the height of RSV and flu season. And, I had an intern that had never been to WCHOB before. And, we started the morning with a trauma. A sixteen year old girl T-boned on her way to school at 45 mph. She ended up with a subdural hemorrhage. By the time we finished assessing her, we had four new patients on the board, and the fun was just starting.

I felt like an intern, trying to get used to the system again. Trying to manage the patients. Trying to just feel like I wasn't sinking. We got more residents in over the next 4 hours, but the whole system was just overloaded.

At one point we had all 26 rooms full. They opened another section of rooms (+6). And the waiting room had about 20 people waiting. The computers crashed, the nurses were surly as they were being pushed to their limits, and ambulances kept bringing people in.

We had the comic "E.R." moment when everyone was running around, a barely-breathing baby is brought into the back and starts being coded, the ambulance rolls in with another child turning blue despite ventilation, and the noise level rises to fever pitch. The baby is taken to another room so that the blue child can be rolled across the work station to the now vacant code room, and there's the rush and flurry of the respiratory therapists pushing ventilators as the radiology techs push around their giraffe-painted x-ray machines.

I left that night with 4 patients waiting to go to the Pediatric ICU (PICU), another 5 or waiting for admission, and a full board (20+) in the waiting room to be seen. You don't learn in that environment. You just try to survive and not let anyone else get hurt.

My next shift was a little better. At least I was able to think about my patients more. Review my disease processess. Come up with a plan before presenting to the attending. Not to mention, I actually knew the attendings. One of our complaints about WCHOB is that we're working with pediatric attendings who have completed a fellowship in Pediatric emergency medicine. We're guests in their house.

They've hired a whole group of new graduates, none of which I had worked with before. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, but you get used to how an attending likes their work-up and presentation. You know who lets you fly and who keeps a close rein. I guess I could have almost called this posting "Out of my comfort zone."

Sigh. It was just the first two days. I work tonight (which is another problem, since we don't schedule our residents we get whatever schedule the pediatric chiefs come up with which doesn't always make sense or take into account shift time changes.) I know I will be able to get back into a rhythm. And, I know that by the end of the month, I will be a lot more comfortable with what I am doing in my new role.

Just in time to start my PICU month when the fun begins anew!

Until then, we'll see what interesting stories that don't involve coughs, colds, vomit, diarrhea and parents that should need a license before they're allowed to procreate we can come up with.

As for the video above. I like the way they combined two of my favorite shows "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scrubs" And, I like the song....


Jeanie said...

I loved your photograph which you entered in the competition Veronica. You have a lot of patience and an artistic eye to be able to rcognise the shapes that made up your name from your holiday snaps. Clever girrrrrl!
As for pressures at work? Thank goodness you can cope with them.
Your New Years Eve celebrations with your husband sounded wonderful and memorable. Now that's the way to enter the new year. Sigh!
I was too tired and took yself to bed a half an hour before midnight. What a bore! hahahaha!
I think I have caught up with you now. I shall pray for easier shifts for you.
By the way...
'parents that should need a license before they're allowed to procreate we can come up with.' ..there are a lot like that over here in England too.
Hugs to you and keep smiling.
Jeanie xxxx

Claudia's thoughts said...

People who are aghast that medical professional are not perfect and never make a mistake 100% of the time have no idea what a stressful situation is like. Everyone is quick to criticize but we are only human and sometimes your best is not enough.

Lisa said...

Fascinating read. I cannot imagine the responsibilty you feel when a persons well being rests in your hands. I can't imagine how stressful your hours on the job are. I would think you could burnout easily if you don't keep the stress under control.

I am curious about something - do you follow the progress of your patients at all? If someone is admitted do you check to see what happened to them?