‘ER’ show coached by physicians

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    By LISA MARIE MEYER

    Drama, intensity and life-threatening situations exist in NBC’s popular series “ER.” Although critically acclaimed, the show raises questions of realism in emergency situations.

    “ER” creator Michael Crichton originally set out to accurately portray the medical world. This method has worked for viewing audiences. “ER’s” homepage (www.nbc.com) said that in the 1995-96 season the show was ranked No. 1 among households in the key demographic group, ages 18 to 49.

    Dr. David Anderson, an emergency room physician at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, feels the drama is fairly realistic. The only problem he has with “ER” is the time element. In real-life emergency situations, Anderson said, procedures take more time and can’t be solved in an hour.

    The publicist of “ER,” Andrew Schipps, agrees the show’s dramatic license calls for an increased pace.

    “We have to compress time for television reasons, yet we still maintain an accurate picture of the emergency room,” Schipps said.

    Schipps said the staff members at “ER” are very meticulous in medical detail. Both the writing and the production are monitored by physicians. Doctors oversee the scripts as they are being written, and others coach the actors in motions, terminology and actions.

    The real emergency room at UVRMC calls for quick action, order and precision.

    So what’s the biggest misconception of the emergency room?

    Margaret Morrill, an emergency room nurse, said it’s a matter of immediacy.

    “People think that because it’s an emergency room, you should be seen immediately,” Morrill said. “Unfortunately, the ER is unable to accommodate every patient as soon as they come in.”

    Suzanne Lutz, emergency care unit coordinator, said UVRMC has the busiest ER in the state. They see an average of 150 patients a day, and last year they treated over 55,000 people.

    Because of the steady stream of patients coming in, not everyone gets first priority, and waiting time can last quite awhile. The triage area is intended to judge the patients by their vital signs, and more serious cases get first priority.

    Serious cases or not, a typical day doesn’t exist at the emergency room.

    “At our facility, we see everything,” Anderson said.

    Common problems the medical staff see are lacerations, fractures and seasonal injuries. In the summer, motorcycle and ATV accidents occur all too frequently, and many children are hit by cars during this time of year.

    In a short time of observation, a variety of cases existed. Patients experienced chest pain, chest pressure, motorcycle injuries, stroke symptoms, seizures and removal of stitches. The situations ranged from simple to severe.

    “The hardest part of the job is seeing a young parent or child die,” Morrill said. She also said she can’t help but weep along with the family.

    Although the atmosphere can be difficult sometimes, the staff feels it is very rewarding as well.

    Anderson said he gains satisfaction from helping someone who is hurt. He also feels it’s important to reassure the patients when they are frightened.

    Although serious situations occur, funny ones exist as well. A humor book has been collected over the years and documents amusing stories.

    One entry stated a lady brought in her son with the complaint “he is seven years old, and he is not growing!”

    Another woman had killed a black widow spider and put it in a glass to show her husband when he got home. She felt the need for a vitamin C tablet with a drink of water and suddenly realized she had used the same glass with the black widow in it.

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