I have Olympic fever. I get it cyclically, every four years or so. The symptoms are excitement and an obsessive desire to watch and record obscure sports like women’s ten meter air rifle shooting. (China won this year.) Fortunately the cure is easy: watching the actual Olympics. They are repetitive, overhyped and ultimately fairly boring, especially with so many pro athletes unilaterally thrashing the national teams of tiny countries. I am no sports wonk, but I think I can confidently predict the outcome of the Tunisia vs. U.S. men’s basketball match-up. Still I’ll probably watch, just for the sheer improbability of the match ups.
Unfortunately I am scheduled to work in the ER during much of the competition and so I have made up my own Olympic events to watch while at work. None of these events occur where I actually work because we are all busy taking care of truly sick patients, but I have heard of this in other far away ERs.
The Olympics of Emergency Medicine
Opening Ceremonies will feature a procession of ambulance patients on stretchers parading in a circular route from the ambulance bay doors through the ER, past all the treatment bays and ending rather unceremoniously in the waiting room. The games will then commence with the first event, triage.
Triage: consists of two disciplines: Jumping and the Speed event. Triage jumping involves calling an ambulance in order to be seen more quickly than the walk-in traffic. The winner will actually be seen more rapidly, the runner’s up will be participating in the opening ceremony parade.
The triage speed event will involve walk-in athletes trying to speed through the triage blockade to reach the treatment area more rapidly. Look for such key moves as chest clutching, the standing slow collapse, the dramatic and technically difficult wheelchair collapse with full head flopping into unconsciousness, and the risky, rarely successful maneuver, arguing with the triage nurse.
Repetitive story telling is the next event. It requires discipline, focus and patience to tell the same story multiple times for no apparent reason. Athletes are automatically disqualified if they slip and utter the phrases “don’t you people write this stuff down?” or “don’t you people talk to each other?” Of course we do. Remember, this is a test. Points will be deducted for frank contradictions and obvious dissembling. Points will be awarded for consistency and bonus points may be earned by increasingly insightful retellings with practice.
Patient Waiting is the next event and it is traditionally performed in the dark. Points will be deducted for wildly overestimating to the staff how long the athlete has been waiting. Extra points may be earned by correctly pointing out to the staff that all of the athlete’s tests have been completed for an hour.
Gurney Riding is scored by number of crashes into the walls or equipment (add extra points if fracture jostling is involved).
The next events are strictly for the pros, those well-seasoned competitors with extensive experience in the ER Olympics.
Drunk sleeping is scored by length of unconsciousness. The athletes will be disqualified if admission is required due to depth of coma and an ICU admission will result in a lifetime ban from competition.
Narcotic Seeking is scored by the number of unwarranted and fraudulent prescriptions obtained. Score is cumulative over multiple visits to multiple ERs for the same condition. Prescriptions scored from brand new interns only count for half. Extra points may be awarded for creative storytelling and the degree of difficulty will be determined by the distance traveled from the athlete’s hometown.
Drunken Boxing and Drunken Wrestling: No points can be obtained and severe penalties will be assessed through the local police if any staff are injured.
I could go on but my shift has ended and it is time to go home and watch the real Olympics. The 20-kilometer walk is coming up and I must watch.