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how to learn stuff in the emergency department

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by sunfest, Aug 10, 2002.

  1. sunfest

    sunfest Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    May 25, 2002
    albany, ny
    hello :)

    I just volunteered for the first time and I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions on what to ask nurses/doctors to get them talking. I volunteered in the emergency derpartment, but a lot of the time I felt kind of lost. I didn't feel like I had a mentor, so I just sat around and watched, mostly. I was able to do a few things like delivering stuff, but I want to learn more. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Also, what should I say to patients? Should I just go around into different rooms and say hi and stuff? I don't know much about their health.. There is that big board on the wall, but I'm not totally sure if I understand that.......

    At the hospital I'm volunteering at, it seems like there are more PCAs than anything else. They seem nice, but some of them aren't very knowledgeable, and again when it comes to learning more stuff, I'm afriad of asking a really general question because everyone seems so busy all of the time.

    I was overhearing conversations between doctors and nurses because I thought I could learn some stuff that way.... But a few times one of the people talking would give me a look but not say anything. I figure it's probably rude to be listening in........

    anyhow, love to hear your advice and experiences.....

    sunfest girl
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  3. PADoc2be

    PADoc2be Member 7+ Year Member

    Jun 9, 2002
    I've volunteered and shadowed in hospitals before (shadowed in the ER) and just learned that I need to ask any questions that come to mind. You'll eventually grasp who is willing to answer questions and who always seems to be in a hurry. Don't forget...they were all in your shoes too! The learning has to start sometime.... One of the best doctors I ever shadowed sat me down after allowing me to follow him through 2 patients and explained to me the order in which to ask questions (history, HEENT, etc...). He even wrote it down for me (which is good b/c I have already forgotten!). Just go up to a doctor and inquire if he or she minds if you just tag along for a little while. Unless it's a patient with a life and death emergency, the doctors are very willing to allow you to follow them and ask questions. Good luck!
  4. DocWagner

    DocWagner Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Aug 1, 2002
    As a premed ( i am assuming you are one), you are in a quandry when attempting to shadow EM docs.
    1. The larger centers are too busy and likely have residents and students that are already stressed and may find it difficult to have an extra person around.
    2. If you go to a smaller ED, then you don't get the real feel of residency or EM in general...not all ED's are the same.

    Honestly, you may want to just get a phlebotomy job or ER tech job if you want to "observe". Then, when the time was right, disclose your intentions of applying to medical school and going into profession X.

    Finally, many times our decisions change while in medical school, and it may be advantageous to just observe FP. It is the easiest to schedule and provides a broad base on which to build.
  5. Dr. J?

    Dr. J? 10+ Year Member


    If you're really interested in EM then I suggest getting your EMT license. The initial training takes a semester and then you'll be able to work in the streets or tech in an ER. Do a search on SDN for more info. PM me if you want more info.
  6. calbears84

    calbears84 professional baller 7+ Year Member

    Sep 16, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    you just have to ask..."can i help you with this?"..."can i help you with that?"..."can i come in and observe?"...etc..etc..
    when i was volunteering in the ER, i was assigned specific tasks and whenever i wasn't busy..i went to the waiting area and chilled with the people there...just go up to them and say.."hi my name is xxx and i am a volunteer here. i was wondering if you need anything." most of the time they do need something and so you go and get them what they want. good luck
  7. FutureM.D.

    FutureM.D. Psychology major 7+ Year Member

    Jun 21, 2002
    I understand what you mean. I feel SO intimidated when I shadow drs.
  8. Jonkst

    Jonkst Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Mar 20, 2002
    Pick a resident and get to know him/her. I do a lot of time in an emergency room for part of an EMT class, and the thing is that they really don't seem to care that I'm there unless I aggressively follow them around and talk to them. The ER is not a place to be shy because everyone is in a hurry.

    Also, tell one of the docs that you are premed, but don't be pretentious about it. Everyone in the ER I worked at hated a lot of the premeds that would come in and make it a big deal that they were going to go to med school, but if you casually mention that you might do it, the docs will want to tell you all about their experiences.
  9. freakazoid

    freakazoid Guy Friend Extraordinaire 7+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2002
    I did that this summer . . . just finished yesterday, actually.

    You'll find that most of the times patients are willing to talk. Mainly elderly people, the young ones all seemed embarassed to be there. Sometimes they're just sitting there waiting for the doctor or nurse, and it's nice to pass the time w/ some youthful volunteer who's got a nice bright future ahead of them. I usually didn't stick around, but when I got the hint that they were wanting to get in on a conversation, I would try to be active and not just answer their questions but ask about their lives as well. The cool thing about the ER I worked at was that I was pretty accessory, so I could do whatever I wanted, whether if it was spending 20 mins helping someone call ALL their family members to tell them about being in the hospital, or just chatting about their past and my future.

    There was a computer system where I could list all the patients and all their supposed ailments. Every time I came on duty, I would go through the list just to get an idea of what kind of stuff people had, and then would make a round to see if they were cold (it's freezin' in the ER!) or thirsty. Since to give them food or drink required asking the nurses, that's typically a good starting point to at least get on speaking terms and get a feel of who'll talk to you and who are always *really busy* and don't look at you when they reply.

    Sometimes some bloodwork or whatever would come out of the printer and I would deliver it to the appropriate place . . . I used to deliver it blindly, but slowly I began looking over the information to see if I could apply my knowledge, whether if the glucose was way high (diabetic?) or the hematocrit and hemoglobin were low (anemic?) . . . if I didn't understand an abbreviation, first I'd ask the secretary (who were nicer and less busy than the rest of the ER folks), and then maybe a nurse who seemed to appreciate me being there and didn't seem alway to be in a rush.

    I'm sorry to say I probably wasn't as *proactive* as I should've been in getting to know the medical staff . . . but it was a very rewarding experience and I kept myself busy going around and checking on the patients or learning my way around the hospital . . . Sorry this is so long, Good luck!! :)
  10. angelic02

    angelic02 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 11, 2002
    Does EMT training require enrollment in a college or can I just train in a hospital? I know somebody in my grade level who is an EMT-B, but I don't know where he studied.
  11. Dr. J?

    Dr. J? 10+ Year Member

    Ck with the local tech. college, they usually offer the EMT classes. If they don't know, call the local private ambulance service. Depending upon where you live, many times, they will put you through schooling if you get hired working for them. This goes the same for volunteer fire depts, as well. Try a net search using 'EMS' and 'your state' you should come up with a bunch of stuff.
  12. mikegoal

    mikegoal rebmeM 10+ Year Member

    Jul 31, 2001
    the local ambulance is the best way to go. In New york state if you are an active member of an ambulance corps the state will pay for the class and if you join up with the corps before your class you will get more out of the class since experiance is where you really learn stuff
  13. MaybeMD

    MaybeMD Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Aug 5, 2002
    Hey don't worry too much. Even though I don't volunteer in an E.R. (though I will soon), I do volunteer in a children's hospital. Anyway, some doctors can be very intimidating. I've been volunteering at this hospital for around 3 months, and never did I speak to one dr. Then suddenly this past week, I met a really nice dr. in the PICU, in fact I think she might have been flirting with me:D . Anyway, as time goes on you'll make a lot of relationships, with doctors and nurses alike!
  14. latinfridley

    latinfridley 7+ Year Member

    Dec 21, 2001
    You have to be agressive when volunteering.Here's my advice:
    On many occasions you'll have a chance to talk to patients, the best way I found is to follow around the techs who see just about everybody, and assist them and/or just observe. Ample opportunities for patient interaction will present themselves.
    Help the staff out in any way possible. This helps u gain their trust. And once u gain their trust ur homefree. ER doctors are great to hang around, but remember unless it is a slow day they just dont have time to explain everything.
    If you have any questions, then ask someone. Again it helps if you've gained the trust and know the person ur asking.
    In time you'll get to see and do a whole lot more. Just be persistant at it. I volunteered bout 4 or so hours in the ER a week, usually all at once, and overall it was a very worthwhile experience, You'll definitely see if medicine is up your ally or not.

    GOod luck.
  15. PimplePopperMD

    PimplePopperMD Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Jun 14, 2000
    Actually, I think it's a good idea to go to a place with medical students. As a fourth year, I was more than happy to offer premeds to come into the room with me, watch as I took a history and performed most of the physical exam (out of the room for pelvic/rectal), and then discuss the rationale for the way I asked questions and examined the patient. And then they could observe as I presented the patient to the attending, who then did more teaching to both of us.

    It's about being proactive though. You have to be inquisitive, and ask plenty of questions.
  16. sunfest

    sunfest Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    May 25, 2002
    albany, ny
    great! you've all given me some great ideas! tomorrow I volunteer again, and I think I'm going to feel more comfortable (hopefully!).

    I'm volunteering in the ER because that seems to be the standard place they stick pre-med students so that we can see a lot of things. I'm definitely going to volunteer in other places, too, though!

    I don't know if I like EM--I feel like there is a lot of room for mistake because so many different people (especially techs and less qualified individuals....this could be an error in my perception, since I've only been in the ED for 4 hours so far) see the patients... I think when I become a doctor I would want to have a more long-lasting relationship with my patients. But, I will definitely look into becoming an EMT because I want to do something that I can actually get involved in!!

    One thing I'm confused about is different people's roles in the hospital. For example, I know what nurse practitioners are but what is the abbreviation for them?

    Would it be at all possible for someone to briefly list the abbreviations for different positions (ex, I think PCA=Patient Care Assistant) and possibly a little bit about what their qualifications are/what their job is? I'm lost in this new world of abbreviations.......... ha!


    sunfest girl
  17. Optime Scit

    Optime Scit Junior Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Very true, Ninjaboy.

    Some of the residents at the ER where I volunteered could have cared less about pre-med volunteers but the ones who did were very helpful, hands-on, question-oriented. In general, I agree that residents are a valuable resource.

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