Monday, March 16, 2009


My attitude has been in the toilet lately. I'm not sure what did it: maybe working too much, maybe not taking the time to do anything fun/relaxing, or maybe I just need a change in pace. My vacation time is all used up, so that is not an option. Fortunately, I have an elective block coming up where I will be spending two weeks with some of my co-workers staffing a small emergency department in the Caribbean. Yes, there's work involved, but there's also a nearby beach, and plenty of sunshine.


I deal with violence on a daily basis at work: shootings, stabbings, and plain old assaults. To be able to handle it, you have to be able to separate yourself emotionally from your patient. Too much time spent imagining the pain of a steak knife entering your gut doesn't do anyone a whole lot of good; sympathy and empathy don't mix. Desensitization is a much-needed coping skill.

Recently, all of us were shocked by the death of a co-worker. She was shot by her ex-husband in front of their children. He later shot himself during a standoff with police. Both of them were brought in to the ED, and I was extremely thankful that I wasn't there when either one happened. She was someone that I knew, although not personally. I can't imagine the pain that those who worked side by side with her over the years are dealing with it, especially those that were involved in her care.

As expected, it is taking some time for people to go back to working the way they were before. It is somehow quieter, and more orders seem to be falling through the cracks, but people are piecing themselves back together, and reforming that protective shell that keeps them going.


ru said...

Thanks for writing this. It is easy to complain about the attitudes of those who work in the medical field, especially if you receive blunt treatment; it's a good reminder that they often see more than we can imagine and have to change a bit to keep those things from affecting them and their work.

I hope the winter blahs melt for you soon.

EMupdate said...

Your attitude is completely understanding given what's happened recently. Even if you weren't there to experience it, the desensitization can't help you get over everything. Yes, you signed up for this when you decided to do EM, but this is a different kind of stress than seeing your "regular" trauma cases.