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Observations of an Emergency Room

Mar 6, 2022

Introduction By Brad Gibbens, Acting Director, CRH

We generally do not run articles or commentary that has not been solicited, or is original content developed from CRH or another source. This is an exception because the story is so compelling, so reflective of what rural health is about and the quality of care delivered. This is the experience from one rural hospital but it really represents all of our communities. It is a beautiful story that describes how people treat each other and go beyond standard medical care by melding medical science with humanity. Yes, this is a story from Cavalier but it is really a story of rural health in Anytown, North Dakota. Enjoy!

By Heather Duerre

Heather Duerre
Heather Duerre

I work at Pembina County Memorial Hospital Association (PCMHA) as the spiritual/grief coordinator. This is a fairly new position, so I am still trying to navigate through various roles I am able to play at PCMHA. The other night there was a first for me that I would like to share.

I was woken up by a phone call around 1 am, and was asked if I could come in to the emergency room (ER). There was a young patient that the medical staff was not sure would survive. I jumped out of bed and scrambled to get ready. I grabbed my keys and drove the six miles to the hospital. This gave my mind ample time to play out every scenario possible.

Pembina County Memorial Hospital I knew nothing other than it was a young person, and that they were in grave danger. As I drove up I could see the Cavalier ambulance along with another local town's ambulance. I entered the ER and was briefed on the situation by one of the nurses. I quickly found the family of the patient and knelt beside them holding their hand. This is when I was able to observe the most amazing thing.

I watched an entire team of healthcare workers tend to the patient as if they all working as one unit. There were nurses, a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a radiology technician, a lab technician, emergency medical technicians, and a paramedic. Everyone had the same concern of helping the patient. Each knew their role, but the communication and team effort made me speechless.

As I sat there watching this, I heard a voice above me on a screen. As I turned and looked, there was a gentleman talking to our staff about the whole situation. He knew everything as if he was standing in the ER with us. He and our staff talked back and forth about the patient and was able to assist in giving the patient the care that was needed.

Later I would find out that this "telemedicine" service is called Avera eCare (now named Avel eCare) and is staffed by a medical team in South Dakota. They provide a service for rural healthcare that is so...for lack of a better term...AMAZING! This service is able to provide hospitals like ours medical expertise in fields in which we may not have providers.

The nurse on Avera was able to see the patient and provide another set of trained professional eyes on the situation. Not only was everyone working together to help this patient, but they were also so kind to the family members in the room. I can imagine in those situations that the medical staff may get "irritated" if they can't concentrate on doing their "job." However, I never saw one person get short with another staff member or the family.

Instead they realized that there was another side to the story. They were there to treat the patient, but the family was there and scared to death thinking they could lose their beloved family member. I witnessed glances of understanding, hand and shoulder squeezes to show they cared, and words of comfort to ease the difficult situation.

Thinking back on this night makes me teary eyed. Not because it was scary or a life was hanging in the balance, but because of the care and love I witnessed amongst everyone in the ER that night, even the staff on Avera.

The patient was transported onto another facility, but that wouldn't have even been possible if it wasn't for all the medical staff from our local area. It began with an ambulance ride and ended with an air lift to another hospital. I can't express how naive I was before this.

I knew we were lucky to have services in our local areas such as the ambulance, clinics, and hospitals, but this night made me realize just how critical they really are. I will continue to support all the local medical services, but now I will be more of an advocate than I was before. I will continue to share my experience with the hopes that others see how fortunate we are to have what we do.

I encourage everyone to support their local rural health care services in any way they can. Whether it be financially, through volunteering, simply expressing their gratitude to health care workers, or saying a prayer for their safety and wellbeing. It could be my loved family member that needs an ambulance ride someday, and I for one want to ensure that we will always have the kind of professional and empathetic care I saw that night in the ER.