The Medicine of ER or, How We Almost Die

I found this book at a small, used bookstore on Penn’s campus. The bookstore had SO many things. I absolutely love bookstores, but finding this small one nestled next to a music store along a small block of restaurants (I use that term lightly) was truly a treasure. I like looking at medical books, even if they are somewhat dry, just because I always hope to find that one book that gives me a new perspective on the medical field or healthcare in general. Sometimes its just a bunch of firsthand accounts, sometimes it’s a “what to expect” type of book, but I just love to learn as much as I can about the profession and everything surrounding it. So when I saw this book The Medicine of ER, or How We Almost Die, I of course had to pick it up.

I first started watching ER during my high school summers, when reruns would be on TV in the mornings. I mainly enjoyed the first few seasons but didn’t really follow it otherwise. Still, as with all TV shows, I knew everything should be taken with a grain of salt, if not more. So this book was interesting, because it directly referenced a lot of things found in the TV show and then either supported or refuted or altered them. The authors, Harlan Gibbs and Alan Duncan Ross, are wonderful. The writing tone and style are just fantastic. The authors’ voices come through loud and clear, and they offer a very blunt look at a patient’s journey through the emergency department, starting from the very beginning, when the paramedics are called.

I love that this book showcases so many different professions. From the EMTs to the ER clerks to the nurses, medical students, and doctors, nobody is left out. Everybody’s task is vital, like the links on a chain. If one link breaks, the chain suffers, and ultimately, so does the patient.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read or anyone interested in anything healthcare-related. It’s written in a great, witty style, moves along fast, but at the same time, loads you with information. And it’s really cool stuff, too – or at least I think so 😉 It gives people who might not be too health-inclined a good idea of what to expect going into the ER. It also de-mystifies doctors, in a way. The authors explain the science and the mystery surrounding all the tests being done on the patient and how the medical team arrives at a diagnosis.  It’s not just “bibbity-bobbity-boo” and the doctor having an epiphany (usually). A lot gets done behind-the-scenes to then  help the doctor identify what could be wrong and how to fix it.

My favorite thing about this book, though, is probably how they describe the entire process, and the roles of everyone in this medical team. Because medicine isn’t just about one person helping a patient. It’s about a group of people each doing their part to ensure that the patient can move on to see the next person and ultimately get better. I just like the concept of teamwork and how it is presented here. While it is a slightly older book, I still feel like it should apply to how things work today.

Overall, a really great book that anyone could read and enjoy, whether you’re heading down the healthcare road or just curious to learn more as a patient 🙂

Some people

Some people, you can just tell they were meant to be a doctor. From the moment you meet them they give off a friendly, approachable vibe and are just very easy to talk to. They also don’t pretend to know more or less than anyone else. They’re very open to learning about anything and everything. And it’s wonderful to meet these people, especially in college. Because I get to see them now, before they get further hardened and maybe changed a bit by medical school. Hopefully, it won’t change them too much. Everyone could stand to be a bit tougher, I suppose. And that might be inevitable; we have to know that we can face a lot of tough challenges and still stand strong on our own two feet. But still, it’s just fantastic to see these people now, and to realize that in a few years, they will be amongst the new generation of doctors. It’s mind-boggling.

A couple of friends of mine really fit the bill. Not only are they both incredibly intelligent, but they’re also warm and friendly and open. It just makes a huge difference. I wish I could shake admissions committees (and all the other committees really) and explain to them that personality means the world. I’ve always believed that charisma, a willingness to learn, and hard work can get you a lot farther than simply being smart or being able to regurgitate information. And being a doctor is so much more than just retaining information. You have to know how to use it and when. Also, if your patient doesn’t want to talk to you or feels uncomfortable or intimidated by you, how are you going to find out what’s wrong and help them solve it? Isn’t that the reason you got into this field – helping others?

It really angers me to see students who clearly only care about the grades, or the numbers. I can’t rule out the fact that numbers are a big factor in this, unfortunately. Numbers are what get you past the first round of applications, secondaries, and finally into the admissions committee’s face as they decide who’s worth an interview. So yeah, the numbers are necessary. But it’s also so much more than that. Can you carry on a conversation? Do I want to talk to you? Can you talk about something other than medicine?

It’s funny, I want to be a doctor so badly, and I see my friends and what amazing doctors they’re going to be, and I kind of wish it would be like my elementary school all over. You moved up with the same class, the same group of people, at the same time, as long as you met certain (fair) requirements. And college is somewhat similar I suppose, although at some point you tend to lose people here and there to internships or bad grades, or sheer bad luck. But part of me so wishes I could move on with this batch of people in my grade now, because I would love to fight through med school with them as we did in our undergraduate years. And I want to get my M.D. with them.

All I know is one day, we’ll be able to proudly and happily call each other doctors, no matter where we end up. I have to believe that. It’s what keeps me going most days.

I can’t end this on a sad note, so here’s a timeline I found to show student activities during medical school applications. Yes, it’s an action potential. The most awesome action potential ever. From Harvard, nonetheless.