Emergency: True Stories From the Nation's ERs (1997)

While much of healthcare is a business these days, it is certainly more than that. Much more. Within the walls of any given hospital, on any given day, is birth, life, death, suffering and hope. Probably the part of the hospital that exemplifies this more than anywhere else, all simultaneously, is the Emergency Room (Emergency Department if you wish to be PC).

From the view of the outsider, what goes on in an ER can be likened to controlled chaos. Even for those that work there, it can be a draining experience as they run from one disaster to another patching together the very broken.

It can also be a somewhat mystical experience. In my orientation to medical school, a priest on staff at the hospital welcomed us, and exalted us the "Priests of the new millenium." At first it sounded like blasphemy, but it wasn't. While none of us were putting on a collar, or carrying healing oil for sacraments, we would be trained to deal with many of the same life changing moments that for the past two millenium or so that were the exclusive playground for the priesthood.

With this as a jumping point, the book Emergency!, edited by Dr. Mark Brown seeks to share some of these tales from the Emergency Room. It is a collection of truth stranger than fact stories collected not only from doctors, but also from physician assistants and nurses as well. All the names have been changed, and besides, this was before all of the HIPAA privacy stuff started anyway.

Many of the stories felt familiar. Let's face it, change the location, but people pretty much do the same things everywhere whether its sticking things into orifices that weren't intended as receptacles for anything, illicit drugs, violence, or trauma.

After a while, the stories felt too short, and I wanted them to be a little more developed as many of them were only a paragraph or two and deserved a fuller treatment. It was also wearing to read many of them back to back, kind of like running around the ER for 24 hours straight with pain in your feet, for example.

With some better organization, a more even tone, and better developed stories, Emergency! could be the best thing since "Grey's Anatomy" hit the small screen. As it is, if you want a glimpse into what goes on in an ER, it's worth a quick look.

Overall Grade: B-

Reviewed by Jonas

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