It took a trainee…

…to remind me I have one of the coolest jobs in the world.

I came in to start my shift, and the department was abuzz.  Thoracotomy!  Some kind of trauma, open chest, etc.  Big mess is all I saw, and thought about the low yield and hazards.

That’s what I thought about: big futile mess.

Later, as I was getting coffee (yes, I’m back on the sauce), I asked two EMT trainees, in passing, if they’d seen anything interesting.

Their enthusiasm was palpable, and it was because they’d seen the spectacle.  They were completely energized, exited about Emergency Medicne, and will easily finish their studies solely on adrenaline.

It made me consider my first thoracotomy (fear and perspiration, mostly, with the awesomely frightening yet thrilling ‘am I actually doing ths’ moment).  Something I take for granted (and even dislike a little, as I have yet to have a positive patient outcome), but their viewpoint made me realize I’m jaded, and reminded me I have the coolest job in medicine.


  1. Beary Potter says:

    You know, that happens in teaching … after 35 years … and sometimes it takes the student that suddently “got it!” or a new teacher’s excitement, or even the past student coming to share that they are graduating high school or college to pull me back into the thrills of the job. In addition, I’m now teaching students whose PARENTS were in my classes and they talk about things we did “way back then” that they still remember fondly. I suppose “jadedness” happens with any “long term” career. Thank goodness those moments happen often in education to keep me motivated and eager to see today and the next, too! I think “retirement” then a moment of encouragement is found and I go on…. :-)

  2. Great post. A few months ago, we (the trauma surgeon, my senior resident, and myself) did a thoracotomy on a patient. Like you said, the outcome wasn’t positivie. But for the rest of the shift, my senior resident walked on air–he was so pumped up about going the extra step to try to save the patient and besides, it was his first one.

    It did take me back to when I was in that stage of training…this job is the coolest and the reminders are great to keep up grounded and focused.

    Stay warm!

  3. Beary Potter says:

    Same thing happens in teaching. Thank goodness the kids have these “ah-ha!” moments or alumni come back to proudly tell me they are graduating HS or college or I even have students now whose PARENTS were my students and they tell their kids about activities we did in the classroom years ago. Yes, after 35 years of elementary teaching, sometimes I get tired and a bit jaded, but something always seems to happen that lets me realize that I am not as close to retiring as I sometimes feel I may be…

  4. Yes, you do.

  5. Beary Potter says:

    oops. I didn’t see the morning post so I tried posting again this evening. I guess that’s the repetition of being a teacher….

  6. We had an awesome outcome with a thoracotomy once. It pretty much required the alignment of 7 planets, a blue moon and the ideal placement of a CV surgeon. But a 21 year-old kid walked out of the hospital when he, by all rights, should have died.

    I remember seeing my first one. All I remember was the trauma surgeon crawling inside this guy’s chest while I stood between the pts legs squeezing in two units of O neg. The ER doc used his hands to separate the ribs because the spreaders were FUBAR. I will never forget the crack…

  7. Long time lurker…. I know of also 1 successful thoracotomy. 12 year old, accidentally impaled his axilla on a broomstick and caught his subclavian artery just after the takeoff from the aorta…He was both unlucky and lucky at the same time

  8. As a Paramedic, and an instructor for nearly 20 years, I get those students coming back into class after rotations. It’s true, the same ole same ole, that we take for granted can surely be renewed by listening to their excitement and enthusiatic renditions. Bravo for your ah-ha, wish I had more ;)

  9. Thanks for your incredible blog, GD. I’ve volunteered in my community to become an EMT and am waiting for a lengthy clearance process to end… and I have no doubt i’ll be completely overwhelmed with interest and excitement throughout the process.