The Rewards

So much of emergency medicine is difficult.  It is busy, stressful, frustrating.  The fast pace causes us to close one case and move to the next without any time to reflect.  This morning I'm reminded of all the good things that happen in the ER.  These moments came and went so fast I barely let them register until now.  I need a dose of positive to keep me going.

Last week I had a young, nine year old boy with a eyebrow laceration.  He was a little nervous.  His dad wasn't helping.  The odor of marijuana in the room was a clue that this kid had it rough.  The next clue was when dad left the room to "make a phone call" and didn't come back for thirty minutes.  The kid said, "you can fix it while he's gone.  He makes it worse anyway".  So, I did.  Thankfully all he needed was a wound prep and some dermabond.  I talked him through the procedure as he started to tense up and whimper a little.  We sang a little song, we took deep breaths, we dreamed of big, juicy cheeseburgers.  It was over before he could be afraid.  His dad did finally come back and only said, "you didn't cry did you!"  As the little guy was leaving the department he turned around and ran back to me.  He gave me a huge hug and held my hand. 

It didn't take much, really.  He needed a calm, positive presence and reassurance.  Most families give this to their kids, but some don't.  They probably don't know how because they didn't have it either.  But in these random moments in an ER room, we can give this to a little child.  Will it change his life?  Probably not.  But he had a moment with an adult who was caring, supportive, and steady.  And this little child rewarded me with a hug that meant the world to me. 

It didn't take much, really.  I needed some positive reinforcement and reassurance that what I do can matter.  It can be a hug, a thank you, a kind word.  "That's it, you're done already? I thought that was going to be so much worse!"  Those words make me happy.  We ER people have to move so fast to the next thing that we often miss the positive.  It's there, it just takes a few minutes to remember. 

Thanks and encouragement doesn't come often.  How many codes have you been a part of when nobody says thank you? How many life saving procedures have you completed without a word of encouragement?  You can't 'expect a family in distress to remember.  Their day is way worse than ours.  Remember to give each other that word of thanks and appreciation.  We get it.  We know how hard it is to do this job well.  Be there for each other when nobody else can.