UNC Hospitals' Hurricane Katrina Response Blog


As part of the response to Hurricane Katrina, a team of UNC Hospitals' physicians and staff left Friday, Sept. 2 to travel to the Gulf Coast as part of the MidCarolina Trauma RAC's State Medical Assistance Team II. The team from UNC Hospitals is comprised of: Christine Clark, RN; Randy Kearns; Preston "Chip" Rich, MD; Michele Rudisill, RN; Ed Wilson, RN; Ben Zarzaur, MD; and Janet Young, MD. A second team from UNC Hospitals left Sept. 9 to relieve the first group of volunteers. The second team to help staff the K-Mart Klinic in Waveland, Miss., is comprised of: Alberto Bonifacio, RN; Joe Manese, Radiology Tech; Peter Milano, 5th year surgical resident; Andrew Millager, Pharmacist; Jim Rawlings, Pastoral Care; Tina Schade-Willis, MD; Renae Stafford, Trauma Attending Surgeon; Jim Starlin, Air Care Communications; and Wes Wallace, MD., attending, emergency medicine.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I wish....

I've found that being in an environment like this, it has been far easier to have meaningful conversations with others. This is not so say that such exchanges are not, and have not taken place back home. Here, however, there seems to be a greater sense of openness... a willingness to drop one's guard and let someone view the person behind the fortress.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to share thoughts with several people. I had three separate conversations that stood out and made me think. They all dealt with the simple topic of listening, perceptions, and realities.

The first conversation was with a team member who commented on how 'impressed' he was with the caliber of doctors we have had the chance to work with. He quickly amended his observation and stated that he was certain that all the other doctors on the other teams were of equally high caliber. He noted that since this was the only group of doctors he had worked with through these deployments, he could only comment of their performance. He finally said that the people he was making the comparison with were those whom he had had to work with 'back home'.

We agreed that indeed all the physicians that have joined these teams have been of an exceptional quality. It was not so much the level of their expertise that impressed us, it was their willingness to listen, help, and display the highest level of professionalism towards everyone in the team. We concluded that it would not be a surprise to either one of us if the doctors here are exactly the same 'back home' as they have been here.

Later in the day I had a conversation with two physicians. They were from different generations, but both equally of a high professional caliber. During this conversation one of them commented on how happy they were to have had the chance to practice 'real' medicine here, rather than what they had to deal with 'back home'. One said that it was frustrating to have to spend so much of ones time dealing with forms, committees, regulations, insurance carriers, and the plethora of other inconveniences that the practice of medicine carries today. They concluded that they wished that they could have as much time with the patients 'back home' as they have had here.

A group of us were latter having a conversation with one of the younger team members. We were inflicting upon her a good amount of playful teasing about the need to toughen her up. I commented that we needed to get her over to the 'dark side'. Finally, we all advised her that she needs to cherish and enjoy her youth and innocence. She, however, should not be afraid of opening herself up to the challenges of the word; those things that 'toughen' one up. We explained to her that she was fortunate that she had many years ahead of her to explore these things, and that she ought to enjoy this time and accept life for what it was - a series of challenges and experiences that may sometimes be wonderful and other times difficult.

'Back home' there are so many things that clutter our lives that we fail to hear each other through all the background noise. When a doctor seems irritated when they are working with the staff, it may not have anything to do with the person at the moment, but rather other things that complicate their lives. When a staff member seems particularly unresponsive towards the needs of a doctor, it may have more to do with having had to deal with the innumerable list of 'do's and don'ts' that they are saddled with. When a new nurse ask for help from one of the 'veteran' staff and receives a certain level of indifference, it may not have anything to do with any personal feelings that person has towards them, but rather a level of frustration of having been given yet another task to do.

There are walls that we all start building around ourselves. These walls are not necessarily meant to keep others out; they are designed to protect ourselves from the repeated injuries of life. Maybe, for those of us who have shared this experience, one thing we can share with others 'back home' is the experience of having others see pass our barricades. We worked well with each other here because we were given the opportunity to interact openly with each other.

I for one appreciate this. 'Back home' I've always tried hard to consider the person behind the 'walls'. Much like myself they have their concerns and share of daily irritations. I try hard to let them understand that I recognize this, and that working together we can accomplish more, rather than wasting our energies trying to find ways to work against one another.

In the field of healthcare the only people who are injured are those that are already in the most defenseless position - our patients.