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Homaira’s Note: Please read “Teamwork Part 2” before starting on this post.

…and a gentle whooshing sound played from the lecture hall’s loudspeakers.

“The tsunami has hit the village,” Dr. Moser announced over the microphone. “You either survived… or you didn’t.”

And thus, the simulation came to an end. For the entire duration of the scenario, our team of 8 students had not moved from our desks, instead preferring to mime CPR movements from across the table and sort supplies by level of priority with a pen and paper.

After a short break, an emergency physician from our school spoke to our class about the implications of this scenario in true emergencies:

  • What it’s like to have your lead physician incapacitated during an emergency, precisely when you need her most
  • What it’s like to be forced to favor the lives of some of your colleagues over others – to send inexperienced personnel, such as medical students, downstairs into the path of danger while protecting more knowledgeable members of the team
  • What it’s like to be treating a patient in the ER, and to have to abandon the patient when faced with an active shooter
  • What it’s like to crash an Air Ambulance helicopter into the forest behind the hospital, and to have to run for your life, without the patient, because the helicopter might burn down at any moment
  • What it’s like to triage patients in an active shooter emergency – to favor the patient who is more likely to live, and to say to the 400-pound man, “Sorry, dude, but I can’t get you up the stairs in time.”
  • What it’s like to reflect back on an emergency – and come to the realization that you abandoned a patient who was indeed salvageable

Most importantly, we learned to value members of our team who we might have otherwise overlooked. The office assistant had no medical skills, but during the tsunami emergency, he served an integral role in communicating with patients. In fact, in the event of a real tsunami emergency, much of what is needed to be done could be accomplished by anybody, regardless of medical knowledge – fetching water and supplies, moving bedridden patients, etc.

Bottom line: Emergency Medicine is an intense profession.