Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

I See You In A Different Light

squishycapWell, somebody likes their job, I must say.

Although I can’t figure out why she is smiling.

Her cap looks like conjoined coffee filters!

Conjoined coffee filters that somebody sat on!

Maybe she doesn’t realize it’s squished, and would die of embarrassment if she knew!


The emergency department “regular”.

Every emergency department has them.

A patient can become a “regular” for many reasons. Maybe they are a recurrent cardiac patient. Perhaps they suffer from chronic pain. Sometimes, they become a “regular” because they utilize the ER as a clinic and bring the whole family in over the course of a month. Some regulars are drug seekers. Others are homeless and know they can find respite in the department for at least a couple of hours and maybe get something to eat.

If you work in an emergency department long enough, you will know who they are.

And you will get to know them.


Recently, it dawned on me just how well you get to know them.

I work in a community hospital. It’s one of those hospitals that patients actually request to go to from all over the county. We have our shifts from hell, but it is far from the county-trauma-eight-hour-wait-time environment of the huge medical centers. There is time to talk to the patients, find out more about them than what hurts, what is swollen or what prescription they have lost.

Over time, the conversation stops being scripted and “starts getting real”, as they say.


This particular shift was steady, but not crazy. And almost all the patients I cared for were “regulars”. Easily 90%. For some, it was their usual health issue. For others, something different.

I found out a lot that night over the course of that shift

Someone’s youngest would be starting kindergarten in September; someone’s oldest had just graduated from high school. Someone had gotten into a recovery program and had been clean for a month. Someone had just welcomed their first grandchild, another was mourning the loss of their mom the week before. Someone had lost their job earlier in the week. Someone had gotten married since their last visit. A baby sister was on the way for one of my patients. Another patient had enrolled in the local junior college.

We saw them, treated them and sent them on their way with a wave and a prescription.

Hopefully they left in better shape then they arrived, even if all they needed was reassurance.

All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed that shift.


I had done all the usual things.  Saline locks, blood draws. Medications and re-evaluations. IVs and education.

But I had also congratulated success, commiserated over frustrations and offered consolation over losses. We covered birth and death, struggles and successes, dropping old lifestyles and starting new beginnings.

That shift, I saw my patients in a different light.


The best part of nursing has nothing to do with disease or diagnoses or procedures or prescriptions.

The best part of nursing is the patients themselves.

I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with my “regulars”.

I hope I was therapeutic for them.

They were most certainly therapeutic for me.

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles