Okay, so the exclamation points may be overkill.
I say I am working in the emergency department of a small regional centre. For some people who don’t work in healthcare, this immediately conjures images of the TV show ER, the rush and bustle and drama, the tears and elation and intensity.
And you know, sometimes it is almost exactly like that. Well, sans romantic side plots. Unless there’s something I don’t know going on.
Industrial accidents. Multi-vehicle car crashes. Motocross collisions. For the physicians involved in this sort of thing in a rural centre, with major trauma and in particular head trauma, a lot of what happens is a rush to evaluate the patients and stabilise them for transfer to a major centre. The work done on the scene, in the ambulance, and at the minor centre can be critical for a patient’s survival and long-term prognosis, and it is done with utmost seriousness.
In a minor centre, most of the time there is a single physician covering the entire ER (with the capable work of excellent nursing and support staff). Thus, when there is drama for one patient, for everyone else there is waiting. Often prolonged waiting.
The drama takes place behind closed doors. The people in the waiting room don’t see the ambulance arrive, don’t see the organised chaos happening to get the gravely injured person where they need to be.
Even knowing this, it can be very trying for the ER physician, exhausted and exhilarated from a dramatic turn of events, to face the person with the stubbed toe who absolutely “needs” an X-ray to reassure them that it’s okay to walk… who complains bitterly about the four-hour wait.