The Unsung Heroes Of Medicine

  • Posted on: Dec 22 2012
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I once had a doctor tell me, “Physicians get all the glory and all the money.”  While that’s not necessarily true – nurses get quite a bit
of recognition in health care- most people don’t realize just how many people it takes to save a life.  I was struck by this one night as a resident on the trauma service.


The double doors to the ER slam open.  A pair of emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) wheel in a young man on a gurney.  “Eighteen year old male named John, involved in head-on collision.  Brief loss of consciousness.  He complains of chest and abdominal pain.”

The EMT’s, two trauma nurses, and I move John over to the bed.  One nurse begins cutting off his clothes with a huge pair of shears; the other connects him to the monitors.  A phlebotomist draws blood from one of his arms to send to the laboratory for analysis.
A respiratory therapist applies an oxygen mask and monitors his breathing.  Standing at the periphery, a social worker rifles through John’s wallet to collect contact information for his family.  The head trauma surgeon Dr. Kim, the physician’s assistant (PA) and I evaluate him for injuries.

His neck and chest are x-rayed by a radiology technician.  The secretary inputs medication orders into the computer so a pharmacy technician, working with the pharmacist, can prepare the appropriate medicines.  We determine that John has a severe injury to his spleen, causing major internal bleeding.  If we don’t bring him to the operating room and remove his spleen immediately, he will die.

Dr. Kim calls the surgery nurses to inform them of the situation.  Within minutes, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) arrives with the anesthesiologist to rush John to the OR.  A perfusion specialist arranges the cell saver, a specialized device that allows John’s lost blood to
be reused.  One floor down, in the hospital basement, laboratory technicians work feverishly to determine his blood type, a necessity for transfusion.

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