Parkland 9: Medicine ER


This may not be Parkland's Medicine ER - but it sure looks a whole lot like it

Imagine a place with no windows, whitish-gray walls and fluorescent lighting to match the pale environment. Now, add more sick people than you have space for – all stretcher spaces occupied so treatment is frequently administered ‘chairside’. Include the incessant cacophony of people wretching, cursing and howling in pain. Layer that with the shrill sounds of various monitor alarms, telephones ringing, call lights being activated and overhead pages. Include the constant staff discourse, debates and dialogues in this equation. You're in Parkland’s Medicine Pit

In the 80’s, “Medicine” was home to anything that didn’t fall into the other Parkland ER Specialties. The chief complaints were varied and frequently complex and you could bet that diabetes was involved. Cardiac patients within hand-holding distance of a drug overdoses, next to AIDS patients beside TB patients. The numbers of patients seemed endless and prioritization of care was paramount.

Medicine was staffed with three (or four if you were lucky) nurses, one PCA (Patient Care Assistant) and one Unit Clerk.

I learned early on that with as many very sick people that we had to treat, doctors who attempted to ‘bark’ orders to nurses were deemed unacceptable. It was not uncommon for a nurse to tell a doctor to “get it yourself” when the request was non-emergent. And they did. The more clever doctors were respectful towards the nurses and their role.

I also learned to appreciate the tone of three very different cries. The cry of pain, the cry of despair or grief and the cry for attention.

It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun but, for a young, enthusiastic ER nurse – Medicine was a challenging and interesting beast to tame.

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