Parkland 1: The Introduction



This was the ad campaign for Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas Texas circa 1984-1985. The slogan was on T-shirts and ball caps and included the following text “…we think you can do more, learn more in one shift at Parkland, than you can in a month at a lot of other hospitals. The experience is that intense, that demanding. Nursing at Parkland isn’t for everybody. It’s hard work and there are no guarantees. The Parkland nurse knows that. Instinctively. It’s nursing that tests every skill you have. And some you haven’t.”

I was hooked.

With a year of ER Nursing experience embedded in my stethoscope and despite the fact that I was advised to have my head examined, I was willing to ‘suck it up’ and be a Parkland ER nurse. OO-RAH!

My formal orientation to Parkland’s ER included six weeks of combined didactic and hands-on instruction. My ‘preceptor’ a seasoned ER nurse named Cathy C. was tougher than nails. Once, I thought saw her smile, but soon learned it was just a little gas bubble. Ahem. We were joined at the hip for three long months.

In 1984, Parkland’s ER was divided into five separate ‘pits’ or specialties, all under one roof. Each 'Pit' had a doctor in charge - he or she was referred to as "The Pit Boss" and was a senior resident of that specialty.
Upon reporting for duty, I would be assigned to any of the following specialties on any given shift. Each specialty was unique and had their own set of challenges, but that was why I signed up to be a Parkland nurse in the first place.

Triage: 1 RN + 3 clerks Determine level of acuity of every person and ambulance that hit the door, based on chief complaint, vital signs, gut instinct and/or simply vision. The triage process was simple back then: Chief complaint, name, birthdate (which was optional) and level of acuity – emergent, urgent, non-urgent.

Surgery: 3-4 RN's + 2 clerks + 1 Patient Care Assistant (PCA)
All surgical (or potentially surgical) cases including trauma and burns – considered ‘clean’

Pediatrics: 2 RN's + 1 PCA
All children excluding pediatric trauma (they were triaged to surgery)

OB-Gyn: 2 RN's +1 clerk
All women of child-bearing age with complaint of low abdominal pain, gynecologic issues, pregnant women, and female sexual assaults.

Psychiatry: 1 RN + 1 MHMR (psychiatric intake) worker
Enough said.

Medicine: 3-4 RN's + 1 PCA + 1 clerk
Anything that didn’t fit into any of the other specialties – considered ‘dirty’

And so begins my Parkland Experience…and the nurse with the "gas bubble"? I could only aspire to be as good an ER Nurse as she was.

Parkland 2: The Times

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