Authors Note: This essay is about a room that is now in the “B-pod” of the Adult Emergency Department and was once the hub of the original ED.
I pass by there often. It is a nondescript room in the adult emergency department.
The room and I go way back. As I walked by the other day curiosity got the best
of me and I stepped inside.
As I said earlier, the room and I go way back. I began my relationship with the
room in 1989 as an Emergency Department nurse; it was the “trauma room.” There was a small blue sign outside the door to the room that said “T-2.” It was the room where all the badly injured trauma patients were placed. The room was the hub of activity of a new and burgeoning trauma center.
Since I was a young, eager clinician it was where I wanted to be. Every acutely
injured or ill adult or child from within the region would pass through there. The frenetic pace and tempo of the room was
intoxicating. I learned so much there.
Our relationship grew and blossomed when I became a flight nurse in 1993. I
began delivering patients to the room and on occasion assisted the ED staff
performing procedures and caring for patients.
People from all walks of life have passed through the room; some walking through
on a tour, some seeing a friend or family member, and some lying on a stretcher.
I’ve seen a U. S. president pass through the door, as well as country music stars, athletes, celebrities, criminals—just about any and everyone. The room and I are a lot alike: we try not to judge and we take all comers. If
you’re really injured badly or really sick, we’re your best friend.
I’ve developed some of the best professional relationships I’ve ever had there. Within those four walls I’ve worked side by side with some of the most brilliant people in health care.
I’ve learned lifesaving skills in the room. I learned to focus and
compartmentalize when stressed, I learned to always do the right thing for the
patient there regardless of how I felt, what a policy says or what conventional
wisdom would allow me to do. I learned that it is usually basics over brilliance that saves lives, that
consistency matters and that I should trust my own instincts. I became adept at
working 12 hours without a meal or bathroom break. I’ve been hugged, nearly mugged, spat upon, congratulated and have felt every
emotion imaginable within those four walls.
I saw things in the room that have stayed with me for all these years. The room
and I have seen a lot of death. On many occasions I’ve seen the housekeeper’s mop bucket water turn red from all the blood shed on that floor.
The room has had many a documentary, news piece and reality TV event filmed
there. It is somewhat of a star that is a little older and faded.
Hundreds of people have died in the room. At times it’s almost seemed like the hungry spirit of death was in the room. The heaviness
of all that has happened in that room overwhelms me if I let it. My stepfather
was treated in the room and died shortly thereafter in VUH.
I’ve heard many a prayer lifted in that room and many a cuss word said. I’ve seen both good and evil, tragedy and triumph but most of all I’ve seen great people doing the right thing for people in need.
The room is now a larger part of the Emergency Department; trauma and acutely
ill patients normally go to another set of rooms down the hall. The room has
more of a quiet and sedate side to it now. It has mellowed.
The room has changed over the past 20 years; a few coats of paint, new
countertops and some basic remodeling have changed its appearance slightly.
Same thing with me—I’ve changed. I no longer work as an ED nurse or as a flight nurse. I’m still a part of what has been going there for years, I’m just not at the tip of the spear. The core mission of the room stays the same.
It’s always here ready to receive someone that is ill or injured. The room and I
are much the same, we change, we evolve—but we remain here.