The Louisville Cardinal

Student Spotlight: Working in the ER as a college student

By Joseph Garcia — 

At U of L, students are given excellent opportunities to acquire real-world experience through various internships and jobs catered towards their majors.

Many of these opportunities are found through career fairs held each semester. It was at one of these career fairs that junior Michael Daly first met with a group called PhysAssist Scribes.

PhysAssist Scribes provides pre-med students the opportunity to shadow doctors and work as their scribes in the emergency room.

“They provided me with a rigorous online training course and, after completion, connected me with Norton’s Hospital where I began working in the ER to complete my training,” Daly said.

Daly works on a rotating shift where he bounces between Norton’s three hospitals every night with shifts lasting nine hours overnight.

“Last week I went from one job to another job, to class, followed by another class, and back to the ER,” Daly said. “I think while it is exhausting, it is really rewarding knowing that no matter how small of an impact, I’m helping the doctors make the patient better and that’s fulfilling.”

On his first day, Daly recalled the chaos and uncertainty he felt, and described the night as overwhelming.

“There’s so much being thrown at you and it’s so much different when you’re on the other side because people are coming to you for help–it’s weird. For my first shift, I had no idea what to expect and when we went to visit the first patient, I felt out of place,” Daly said.

Daly said his first patient was someone who had fallen, and despite being in pain, was surprisingly positive.

However Daly’s time in the ER hasn’t been all cheery patients. While talking about his first night, Daly recoiled at how the night ended.

“We had an elderly patient come in late, it was her 81st birthday actually, and her family found her in an altered mental state, she was alive, but unresponsive,” Daly said. “Not only that, but they had found her laying beside her husband who had been dead for almost three days.”

Daly has also had the unfortunate chance to experience the hardest part of working in an ER: death.

“It was my mock solo and we got a call that EMS was bringing a cardiac arrest patient into our ER. Everyone sprung into action to prepare his room and when he arrived it was madness. Nurses were taking turns doing CPR while the doctor shouted out orders. There were almost 17 people in the room by this time. I asked the Scribe beside me what he thought was going to happen and he told me ‘I don’t think he’s going to make it,’ and I began to prepare myself.”

Daly said that while the doctor used the defibrillator on the patient.

“I kept thinking ‘How do they know when to stop?’ and the moment the doctor called the time of death, the whole air in the room shifted. Everyone stopped and then it was off to the next person. It was so strange.”

For Daly, the hardest part was being in the room with the doctor while he told the family their loved one had passed.

“Separating yourself from the patient and their family is difficult because you want to help them, you want to comfort them, but at the same time it’s an ER. Once you’re done with one patient, you move to the next, so there isn’t really any time to process what has already happened. It’s hard, but I think I’m adjusting,” Daly said.

From his experiences there,  Daly learned to appreciate the smaller things in life. Daly also said while he is pre-med, now he is keeping his options open in case he changes his major later on.

Daly said he’s happy where he’s at though.

“Having a job where I go into work everyday knowing I am making a difference makes everything seem worth it,” Daly said.

Photo by Joseph Garcia / The Louisville Cardinal