Emergency Room Jobs

My first big work experience is by far my internship at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital inside the Emergency Room. While the ER is not exactly as television series portray it such as ER, House MD, and Grey's Anatomy. It is close to it and most of the things seen on these TV shows are rarely done in front of a crowd but behind closed doors. I will relay to you my most interesting memories and moments, where some totally shocked me, touched my heart, or were absolutely boring. While I would love to give you a whole two year's worth of experiences, I am afraid time and your own attention span will not linger that long.

To start, I would like to introduce to you my first day.

I was very nervous; my internship director took me down to the ER where I had never been. It was kinda like the movies and television but with a much more real perspective to it. I was introduced to the Head Nurse of that day or shift, I can't be sure which one, and introduced to the main staff. As I can now safely say, the Head Nurse is never the same. I work on Wednesdays, week after week, and the Head Nurse has never been the same. That first day, I thought I would be in for the shock of my life on account of my volunteer time-5:00-7:00. I thought in my mind, oh cool, rush hour, there should be soo many accidents which will equal so much experience for me. Wow! I was definitely wrong, I think the most exciting part of my day was seeing an elderly woman with my nurse that I was assigned to and have the nurse tell me that all she had was a bladder infection. I guess whether I liked it or not, this was it.

Most things in the ER occur behind closed doors and invisible to everybody else outside of that room. The one day that they didn't close the doors was the worst day of my life. I was walking along in the ER, doing a daily routine when they had nothing else for me to do. Usually when this happens, I re-stock shelves, give out blankets, or ask patients if they want water. I walked down the hallway like usual and looked in a half-open door. What attracted me to look in was crying from within. When I looked in, I was in near shock. A doctor and a couple nurses were franticly trying to save a life of this young boy. He couldn't have been older than ten, but I just watched.

I didn't know what to think. My only experiences of such things were totally setup and staged. These experiences were of course, ER, House MD, and Rescue 911. The real thing astonished me and shocks me to this day. The sirens and monitors blasting away, as a frantic doctor administering CPR to a lifeless person.

Not all days were like the one that I just mentioned, to give you a brief look at what an ER patient room look like, here are some good examples, as they do vary.

To let you know, I work in a privatized hospital. To give you a brief summary of what private means, I will go into detail. Private hospitals are owned by somebody, a corporation, or group of people. These people are only out to get money. That's why at our hospital we are only liable to keep you alive then ship you off to a public hospital. Also, we must give you enough pain killers so that you are not in any pain or according to the doctors-you shouldn't be in pain. For the fortunate people that have adequate insurance that is valid and good enough, we give the best care around. It's probably one of the best hospitals in the Salinas area because there are so many different procedures that can be done here. So as you can imagine, my days are not as eventful as it is in a public hospital where anybody can come in.

The biggest things that go on in my ER are normal accidents. Some car crashes and some life and death situations. I see mostly broken bones, people with pain that is probably all in their head and other people that are hypochondriacs. It's so funny traveling around with nurses listening to complete liars and how they will do anything to get pain relievers. It's so funny, imagine an intern, following around his favorite nurse-probably cause the guy has a sense of humor and is just fun to be around-but anyway-so we come check in on this guy. Now at private hospitals, the doctors for some reason are spending most of their time filling out computer forms so they can't get sued. Remember how I said that the main goal of the people that own hospitals is to make money not lose it.

So, what they do is, a nurse that can range from a four-year certified nurse that has a bachelor's in nursing to a eighteen month Heald College graduate, goes in to see all the patients first as long as the patient's problem is not life threatening. In that case just mentioned, the big guys come in and take over. So the nurse is the first to see the patient, he comes into the room and asks what the problem is.

Some of the time, they have valid problems, but most of the time, like this one case, it's not a problem. So, we come in and ask what the problem is, I go get some blankets, while my nurse is asking what is going on. This guy doesn't even say that he has a problem. Just that he needs pain killers cause he has pain in his back and 'almost everywhere in my whole body'.

Now my nurse obviously knows that he is lying but under law a medical institution is not allowed to withhold pain reliever from anybody. Of course to receive the highest amount of pain killer, the guy points to the ten on the pain chart. And of course we give this low-time junkie his drugs because like all privatized institutions work, we would rather fuel somebody's addiction than get sued.

Another funny moment in time was when I heard two homeless men outside the hospital talking. It was around dinner time, so like myself, they were hungry too. But what they said was even funnier. Since the dinner carts were obviously being circulated around the hospital, one guy says to the other, 'man I'm hungry, let's go check into the Emergency Room so we can get some dinner.' I almost laughed when I came back from break and my nurse and I checked into see their problem. They complained of neck pain and were served a 'fabulous meal' with Powerade.

One of the most interesting cases that I have seen was a woman case. She came in with her husband and no one else. What made it more interesting was that she was pregnant, this made her 'priority'. Also, she was complaining of stomach pain, while my nurse that I was with joked around with me and said that this could be because she ate something strange and merely had a stomach ache this situation was not to be taken lightly. What was more interesting was the way that they do things around the hospital. I noted that they got this dye in her, not one, not two, but three different ways. See they needed to see what was exactly wrong in her stomach so by putting a dye in a patient, a doctor or nurse can see what the problem is. I think they do this so they can charge you and/ or your insurance company three different times and ways. But anyway, they make you drink the stuff which the woman proceeded to throw it up. The stuff was obviously the sickest stuff in the world as anybody could tell by her facial expressions and the way it looked. So anyway, we had to get a custodian to clean the mess up. They also give it to her through an IV and through a catheter. This woman was then taken away from us to the scanning room and I never saw her again.

While working at the hospital, I found that there are a lot of perks to working there. If you are a Pre-Med student with little access to a medical library or you are just studying for the MCAT, I would suggest working there. All hospitals have a library with all the information, media, and books on medicine. While man Pre-Med students will have access, maybe the library is over-crowded. The hospital library is a great place to use as a resource and I have definitely kept that resource in mind when the time comes that I need a library resource. Another thing the hospital has is a decent cafeteria. I could find just about anything I wanted in the cafeteria for minimal costs. The salad bar is not the best but they weigh what you get for a pretty cheap price. I think you can get a decent salad for three dollars or so. Water is free. Main courses are fairly cheap and starches are by far the cheapest thing at the hospital. Mashed potatoes and French fries are around eighty-five cents depending on how many servings you get. I didn't understand how doctors, nurses, and simple hospital employees drove nice cars and had fairly nice things until I figured out how they save. When you think about it, a hospital employee's shift lasts a pretty long time. An employee could be there for about two to even three meals. At five dollars a meal, three times a day and three hundred and sixty-five days a year, that is only roughly six thousand dollars a year. I figured this out once I got down to the cafeteria and noticed the routine of all hospital employees. They come in and eat before their shift, eat during their break, and eat once again before they leave.

My hospital experience has by far been one of the most fun experiences of my life and still goes on to this day. I now enjoy some amenities that my privatized hospital has done to make my experience much better. By adding a Starbucks Coffee Shop to the hospital, you now get a doctor that is wired by his Ginger-bread, non-fat, mocha, dolche latte, that has been fueled by the worst but cheapest food in the world, and has worked for the past ten hours of the day. Not to mention his shift started at two in the morning, wow, nice! But I learned a lot about the Emergency room too. I learned that, it is much more like a clinic than people being exploded through doors with their life on death's fingertips. People wait outside like a doctor's office and then they get to go into be served. I would suggest that any pre-med, prospective medical student, or anybody interested in getting a real view on hospitals become a hospital Emergency Room intern.

Photo credis via flickr : 1 2 3

By Jason Fukushima