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But it matters to them . . .

Brady Griffith, PA-CBrady Griffith, PA-C graduated from the Augsburg PA program in 2016. He is now working as an Emergency Medicine PA at Ridgeview Medical Center. Before PA school, Brady was a ED Technician at Ridgeview and loved it so much that he knew he wanted to return there after graduation. He recently penned the following reflection and permitted us to share it: 

But it matters to them . . .

That short, simple phrase has had a profound impact on my practice.

Working in emergency medicine for the past 2 years has generated plenty of opportunities for introspection. On my late drives home from an evening shift, I found myself reflecting on the day. Did I sign that chart? Will that 88 year old do ok at home that I felt warranted admission but declined? Will the 5 month old with RSV do ok with just supportive cares? Will that dog bite that needed repair get infected? The list goes on.

One of my favorite parts about the emergency department is the variety of patients that walk through the door. While there are plenty of true emergencies on a day to day basis, there are plenty of… not so true emergencies. At least from our standpoint.

I remember driving home one night after a shift reflecting back on the day. It was a busy shift with high acuity patients. Trauma, stroke, heart attack… you name it. One MD and myself trying to manage the chaos. There were sobbing family members for a patient who had a serious head injury, screaming babies, an intoxicated patient yelling at nursing staff, and a distressed family of a young child whose j-tube had dislodged. We were doing our best to frankly stay afloat and safely practice medicine.

In the midst of the chaos, more ambulances were on the way heading our direction and the waiting room was filling up. A middle aged patient with the chief complaint of “personal matter” registered. Due to his overall stable clinical appearance and vital signs, the patient was triaged as low acuity and therefore waited about 2 hours until I saw him. He did not divulge any specifics of his concern to nursing staff and instead wanted to wait for a provider. He seemed very concerned explaining his problem to me although in my mind there was nothing concerning about his story. He had plantar warts.

I gave him some recommendations, provided reassurance, and discharged him home. In my mind, I was thankful for a patient that didn’t need a massive work-up. I couldn’t help but think at the time, why didn’t you just make a clinic appointment for this? This is not an emergency.

But it mattered to him.

As I was driving home that night, reflecting on the shift, I found myself thinking about the guy with warts more than the critical patients we served. It was the perfect juxtaposition in the context of that particular day. He frankly didn’t need to be there, but there he was.

Because it mattered to him.

That profound phrase has had a meaningful impact on my practice, friendships, and even my marriage. How often in life do we hurt someone unintentionally and then selfishly put the blame on the other person for getting hurt? Too often. Bottom line is that if it matters to the other person, it should matter to us.

Empathy must be at the foundation of medicine and life.

My realization that night was that if I ever stop caring about what matters to patients, I should step away from medicine, no matter how big or small the concern may be. Because, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what matters to me when I come to work…This is the beauty of medicine.

-Brady Griffith, PA-C