An ‘ER Doctor’ Explains 5 Scary Secrets About Hospital Emergency Rooms


*We’ve all heard ’em, the blaring sound of ambulance sirens rushing through the streets. At one time or another we have probably been the driver caught in the middle of an oncoming brigade of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances rushing towards us and we are momentarily consumed with fear as we frantically try to get out of the way.

So once they reach their destination, the emergency room, and the worried families sit outside in the waiting room with baited breath wondering what will become of their loved one, those white swinging doors close and a series of medical professionals take over.

What’s happening in there…really?

One ER doctor decides to open up and let us know 5 Terrifying Secrets about hospital emergency rooms.

Hold on.

#5 Doctors train on your body

doctors train on your body
“Just stay out of the comments; not everyone is here to learn.”

Well, though this topic alone can be frightening, it’s not really surprising. There is only so much practicing on a dummy is going to teach you.

Once, I was showing a new family-medicine doctor how to do his very first spinal tap — a procedure in which a long, thin needle is jammed in between two vertebrae in the lower back. I started by having him watch a video of someone else doing it. On YouTube.

So, he watches the YouTube video outside the room, and I remind him that if he felt resistance as he was pushing the needle in, that was probably bone, and he’d need to withdraw and try again. So, he starts on the patient (who is awake, but out of it) and pushes in hard. He keeps pushing, and finally says, “I don’t think I got it in the right place.” So I go to pull the needle out of the patient’s spine, and I can’t. The needle’s stuck in there. When we finally got it twisted out of the patient’s spinal column, we saw the damn needle was bent at a 45-degree angle because he’d slammed it into the bone so hard. The patient never knew (drugs erase all mistakes and bleach every sin). Read more here.

"OK, that didn't go so well, but now you get to learn how to properly issue a code blue."
“OK, that didn’t go so well, but now you get to learn how to properly issue a code blue.”

It might be a nurse doing an IV, a physical therapist getting you out of bed, or it might be your doctor. In the good old days, medical students got more of this hands-on training before they graduated, but due to changes in medical education, brand-new doctors often have to learn on the job. As a senior resident, I’ve walked interns through everything from a pelvic exam to a lumbar puncture to a central line placement (that last one might not sound too bad, until you realize a “central line” is a large IV usually inserted directly into your jugular).

#4 What am I doing…I’m Googling your illness

medicine bottle

It seems TV shows like “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy” have only contributed to the major misconceptions we have about how much doctors automatically know about our illnesses.

We go to school for years more than most people, we seem to make a ton of money, and a lot of us have nerdy-looking glasses. So it would make sense that we are bottomless wells of knowledge, and these TV shows don’t do anything to dispel that notion.

In the real world, if a patient shows up to the ER with a somewhat rare disease, instead of immediately knowing the nuances of the pathophysiology, epidemiology, and treatment, I’m struggling to remember the basic details of a disease that I learned about back in medical school. Read more here.

#3 Yes, other people are dying, but we must still find time to relax

doctors relax during ER break

No matter how it looks, do you really want a tired doctor working on you? But yes, doctors confirm that we don’t like to see them relaxing or taking a break while our loved one is suffering in the ER.

if your husband is having a heart attack, you don’t want to see me laughing with my colleagues about the crazy ending of The Walking Dead the other night (“I cheered when Daryl smashed that zombie’s head in the car door!”). Or if I just put a breathing tube down your mother’s throat because she had a massive stroke, you really don’t want to see me sitting at my computer a minute later, eating gummy bears and texting my boyfriend about what’s for dinner. On an intellectual level, you know doctors lead normal lives outside of the ER. But on an emotional level your loved one is sick and I’m blithely popping candy in the next room like some sort of sociopath.

Read more on this and two other “Secrets” at

Want more weird news? Visit Huffington Post

2 thoughts on “An ‘ER Doctor’ Explains 5 Scary Secrets About Hospital Emergency Rooms”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *