Does Emergency Medicine Really Matter?

I’m always curious when people ask what I do and I say I work in an ER: what exactly do they imagine I do there? They may picture us treating sniffles, ankle sprains, and the uninsured. At least, that’s what some in media and politics would have them imagine.

You want to know what I (and those of us who work in the ER) do? We care. 

We care for those who have no one else to care for them. We care for the drunks, the homeless, the abused and the psychotics. We care for the mothers worried about their children, fathers worried about their hearts, sons worried about their head, and daughters worried about what’s going on inside them. We care for the CEOs, the captain and the crew and the guy who pumps the bilge.

You want to know what I do?

We extend a hand to someone at their most vulnerable and imperfect. We meet them where they are, look them in the eye and tell them they are in a safe place for care. That’s what good ER docs do. We take care of people, grind it out by treating the privileged and the left-behind alike. It doesn’t matter if you’re are a chief executive or if you cover yourself with newspapers to keep warm at night. We open our doors and welcome you into the ER. The only criteria we have is how sick are you. Nothing else really matters.

When was the last time a business didn’t care if you had any money or credit or assets and were willing to offer every service they have to help? There are few professions that offer this opportunity. No matter who you are, we will care for you. Insured, not-insured, it doesn’t matter and likely never will. It is one of the touchstones and core of who we are and something in which I take great pride.

Life isn’t neat and organized. Patients are not perfect, just like we are not perfect clinicians. That is the wonder and the gift. If we build a system that allows us to extend a hand to help them through whatever crisis (large of small) they are struggling with, then we have done a service to them and to society. In the end this is what we are and what we do. I think I have the greatest job in the world and would not want to do anything else with my life.

So what did you do today?