If any of you have aspirations of becoming a doctor, I hope you've never watched any television shows or seen any movies that show emergency physicians in any positive light, because that may spur you into dreams of joining their ranks. After all, they tend to get glamourised as the lifesavers, the quick thinkers, the saviors.
Want to know what they really do? They torture real doctors like me. Think that sounds arrogant? Well think again and keep reading.
A young healthy man was brought to the emergency room by paramedics a few nights ago having been involved in a "car accident". That's in quotation marks for a reason. The paramedics didn't call him a "trauma" because there wasn't enough mechanism to cause any harm. The triage nurse agreed that he didn't meet criteria to be a trauma patient, so he triaged him to the main emergency room to be seen by the emergency physician. The ER doc overheard part of his story, and the only words he somehow heard were "drunk" and "unconscious".
"But a drunk, unconscious car accident victim should be seen by a trauma surgeon!" I hear you thinking. And that's entirely true. So what the hell is the problem here?
He was neither drunk nor unconscious. Here's what actually happened:
At 4 AM this young man left his friend's house, got in his car, and promptly fell asleep. The car was parked and he had not been drinking; he was just tired. After falling asleep, another car "bumped" his car from behind while parking. He felt the bump, called the police to report the accident, and then fell back asleep. When the paramedics arrived, he was "unconscious", aka asleep. I'm not sure where the ER doc heard that he was drunk, but this kid had suffered less trauma that night than I had. But in his infinite wisdom and without even laying eyes on the patient, the emergency physician upgraded him to a trauma. He apparently said that he was too busy to deal with another drunk guy. I confronted him and asked for the reason for the upgrade, and he admitted that he hadn't seen him, he had just heard that he was drunk. I tried to explain that he was not drunk, and he wasn't even injured. He simply blew me off and tended to his other duties.
Lifesavers? Quick thinkers? How about time wasters and non-thinkers.