Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Can I Get You a Wheelchair?

Note: Again, another incident I wrote up for myself last year, posted here for your reading pleasure. 

December, 2011

I was on my way out of the ED today after a shift full of "malodorous" drug users, sick people, and a very persistent crying kid who had fallen on sheet metal and lacerated his chin.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a heavyset man, probably in his sixties, leaning against the wall just inside the main entrance but out of sight of the triage desk.  I wasn't sure what he was up to, but I was tired and needed to get home and study for finals.  I slowed as I passed him and looked him over out of the corner of my eye--he appeared ashen and couldn't seem to catch his breath. That's not good.  I walked over to him.

"Sir, can I help you?"

No response, except for heavy breathing.  Now he is pulling himself along the wall towards the triage desk.

"Sir?  Can I get you a wheelchair?"

"My...pacemaker..." he gasped.


I looked around quickly for a wheelchair--there was one just outside the door.  But now he was beginning to slide towards the floor.  I put my arms around him to support him and nodded towards one of the individuals in the small crowd that had gathered.

"Can you go grab that wheelchair?" I asked. He made a beeline out the door.  Then, I looked over to the triage desk, made eye contact with one of the staff, and gestured for her to come over.  By now, the bystander was running back with a wheelchair.  The triage staff member was running over with one too.

"Looks like you've got your choice of chairs, sir," I said, continuing to hold him up.

I had the bystander bring the wheelchair just behind the soon-to-be patient, bear-hugged the large man, and lowered him into the chair.  Once he was in the chair, I brought him back to the rest of the triage staff.

Working as a scribe has been an awesome clinical experience and a great opportunity to see how a doctor functions day to day in the ED.  But I realized after this episode that I really miss patient contact. Even though my previous job working as a patient transporter at a different hospital was a simple, often routine job, I had the opportunity to interact with and care for patients.  Though scribing is and will continue to be a valuable experience, one that I am extremely grateful to have, I look forward to the day when I get to "glove up" again and provide tangible care to patients.


  1. Hey Eefen, so you are telling me that being a scribe has less patient contact than basic ER volunteering? I get patient contact in the ER, but its of the "Can I grab you a blanket?" kind of contact (of course I shouldn't expect more). I was under the impression that scribe work is the end-all be-all of premedical EC's. Could you enlighten me as to exactly what you did as a scribe?

    1. Alan,

      First, let me say that scribing has been an excellent clinical experience, and it gave me a lot to talk about during my interviews. I would very much recommend it, if you have the opportunity.

      That being said, your level of "patient interaction" as a scribe is a bit less than it would be as a volunteer, in the sense that you don't spend as much time actually conversing with patients. For example: As an ED volunteer, and later as a patient transporter, I was in no way involved in the patient's medical care, but I could interact with them on a personal level, find out how they were doing, and just talk with them. As a scribe, I am much more involved (read: understand what's going on, why certain tests/procedures are being done, what doctors are thinking, and occasionally politely remind doctors to order a certain medication or study) in their medical care, but my level of patient interaction is reduced to an occasional "Hello." Now, I pretty much follow the doctor into the room, stand in a corner, and document everything that goes on from that point. Awesome opportunity to see some cool stuff and learn some medicine, but there's just not a lot of "conversation" with the patient.

      Personally, scribing has been an tremendous experience for me, and I have learned a ton. I just look forward to having the opportunity to interact more with patients again.



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