Columbus After Dark: Working the Night Shift in the ER

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute

Dr. Adam Dine, emergency physician at Mount Carmel:I think it was two years ago in January or February, the power went out off of East Broad Street, where Mount Carmel East is located, and unfortunately the backup generators did not work. So for four to five hours it was dark; it was completely pitch black. Imagine working in the dark, and then imagine trying to take care of sick people in the dark. In modern-day medicine, you know, all of our monitors and blood pressure readings, everything is computerized. Even to physically examine a patient, you need light. We just formed a plan about how we were going to go around and keep in touch with each patient. We had emergency flashlights; we used walkie-talkies, because we couldn't even communicate with other people in the hospital like the lab and X-ray because the phones went down. A local fire department came and set up in front and lit up our front ER with their truck. Administrators came in from home to help us. It's not as significant as an earthquake or a hurricane, but it was one of those neat nights to see people work together.

Dr. Nicholas Kman, emergency physician at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center:What happens overnight for an ER physician is the help you have throughout the medical center decreases. Overnight, it's really you and the medicine. The last overnight I worked [at University Hospital East], we had a domestic dispute where there was essentially a shootout. The woman was shot in the head, and the guy was shot in the flank. They came in by private vehicle-an ambulance would never bring a gunshot victim to OSU East; they would go to Grant because Grant is a level-one trauma center and we're not-and were just dropped off. And so the police were there with both people. The guy had an obvious gunshot wound in the flank, but as I'm looking the woman over, I notice she has a gunshot wound to the head that actually went kind of around her skull. I mean, so lucky, she was shot in the head and was sitting there talking to me.

Jill White, night nurse in the emergency oncology department at the James cancer hospital:When traumatic things happen in the main emergency department, it's brief moments in time that you're connected with that patient and that family. And I think what's maybe a little bit different in the [emergency] oncology department, is a lot of times these aren't brief moments. These are patients that we have been on a journey with for a period of time. We've gotten to know them; we've gotten to know their families. Their treatment is a journey over time, and they often need to use our emergency services to get them through to the next treatment. And we become very attached to them, and them to us. I think that's one of the most challenging things, and rewarding as well. I often say that I think they give back to me more than I ever gave to them. We learn life is fragile. -As told to Ivy Lamb

Correction: In the print version of this story, it was implied that The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was not a level-one trauma center. It is in fact a level-one trauma center, and the hospital identified in this story is University Hospital East. (Dr. Kman works at multiple locations.) The hospital name has been changed in this version.