Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ER/Treatment Room

When I trot out bits and pieces of my naval career here, I like to talk about the exciting stuff. Flying, Flight Deck, spectacular medical stuff, etc. I was involved in a lot of that and it was all exciting and spectacular. I've got lots of good memories and lots of memories perhaps more remarkable than good.
Reading the local doggy news

Whether on the beach or on the boat, however, most of the stuff I did was pretty ho-hum. Mostly interesting, at least from my perspective, but strictly routine. Working the ER/Treatment Room at sea and ashore was fundamentally the same experience. On the boat we wore dungarees, on the beach the uniform was either working blue or working white. On the boat there were no weekends, on the beach there were. On the boat you didn't "go home" at the end of the day, on the beach you did. Other than that, the job was pretty much the same, only without the daily cheap beer hangovers.
She really likes the funnies

What filled most of my days was seeing patients in the ER/Treatment Room. On the boat, with limited and cramped space, we saw sick call there, morning and afternoon. Colds and coughs and sore toes and sore backs and tummy upsets and STD's. All the maladies that people develop which are relatively non-acute and certainly non-emergent. On the boat the Treatment room was also the Emergency Room, where we saw acute injuries/illnesses and all of the real emergencies. Those last obviously had head of the line privileges. If a serious illness or emergency cropped up during sick call the routine patients heard "come back tomorrow or, if you're really ill, come back later after we've finished with the emergency."
I AM taking it easy!

On the beach with an entire dedicated clinic building,10 times the "crew," and dependents to boot, we typically saw only acute or emergent patients in the ER/Treatment Room. Sometimes on a slow day we might see sick call overflow, but that would usually be a matter of the clinically-trained corpsmen seeing patients in spare exam rooms over on the sick call side of the building. In the ER/Treatment Room proper, 90 percent of the traffic was acute and relatively minor trauma, with perhaps nine percent acute-but-not-quite-emergent illness. That last one percent would be real emergencies, where life hung in the balance. We averaged about one of those per day.
Watch your step now!

All of the foregoing is to preface the following.

A couple of years ago when I was having my foot problems -- IV antibiotics followed by surgery and more IV antibiotics over a period of seven months or so -- I noticed a great many similarities between the way our little western Nebraska hospital operates and the way navy medicine -- in my experience -- operated back in the stone age of the 1980's.

I don't say stone age in a disparaging way -- quite the reverse, actually.

What I found at our little hospital is great people. Physicians, PA's, NP's, RN's, LPN's, CNA's, lab techs, xray techs, clerks, Paramedics, etc. Really, really, really good at clinical and emergency medicine.

I felt right at home. So much so that I occasionally have dreams where these local folks appear as members of the naval service in the clinic of my past, and where some of my fellow 1980's sailors appear in this local 21st century hospital as staff members. As do I.

Freaky, innit?

I'm going to try to do a series here on our local hospital. Don't know if it'll fly, but we'll see.


  1. May God bless all those who practice the healing arts, past, present and future. We really do not appreciate their skill and services enough. And, few of them get paid nearly what they should be paid, especially if they are connected with any government run programs (especially Medicare and Medicaid).

    Please explain to us who all these folks are and what they are supposed to be doing. (Yeah, most multi-task and overlap with other folks by necessity or choice, but what is the primary task?) What sort of training pipelines and career paths, or do they start with one job and do it forever?

    While I have been fortunate enough to stay away from docs except for routine checkups and a couple very minor geezer surgeries I have been amazed and gratified by the magic done on some other family members with life threatening stuff like cancer. Look forward to learning more about these very special people.

    And, I have always enjoyed your Corpsman sea stories.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John. I shall endeavor to deliver on both counts.

  2. I echo John's sentiments on this. I have had a major surgery in the past few years and a minor one which both required hospital stays. The folks who do the day to day work (RNs, LPNs, CNAs, even the lady who delivered the food) were awesome. My own doc was pretty good but I'd see him maybe once a day. Too much that one sees on television doesn't show the sheer grunt work that goes into patient care. Please, I'd love to read a series about your local hospital. Also, yes, keep the corpsman stories coming!

    1. Thanks Sarge. Seem to have struck a chord here, so I'll do my best to provide.

  3. Doing medical courier work in SE Wyoming and the NE Panhandle, you hear things. The Kimball hospital is well regarding from what I heard.

    1. Our little hospital seems to have a good reputation. Good people.

  4. Yes, any and all stories you wish to share with us will be eagerly received and read.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Scott. I've got a couple BITD's in the queue.

  6. I look forward to your posts. Thanks, Mark