Dr Aima Giwa-Amu: Day in the life of an Emergency Medic
Dr. Aima, currently pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine in Dublin, is a graduate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Fun fact- She worked as a medic on the Emmy award-winning “Dr. Oz show”! How cool is that?
In this article, she gives us a glimpse into what everyday life as a medic in the Emergency Department is like for her. From a typical morning waking up at 6.30 am, to hospital rounds, on- calls, studying, leisure, her water bottle (Lol!), losing a patient, why she loves Chimamanda Adichie, Fenty beauty and so much more!
First alarm goes off
Second alarm goes off. The sun is already streaming through my North East facing window. I have an 8 am start today, so it’s a quick morning for me. Usually, I prefer to wake up about 3 hours before I have to, study, speak to my family, and have a bite to eat before heading out. But this morning I get up, shower, apply my war paint (Fenty Match Stix, yes girl!), grab a banana, have a brief argument with Alexa (my amazon Echo) about what the temperature really is, and head out.
I’m out the door. It’s a cloudy morning. Patients like to spend sunny days in the sun, and cold rainy days with us, their caring doctors, so I’m sure it’ll be a busy day today! I like listening to music (an eclectic mix of Fall Out Boy, The Script, and Rejjie Snow), or more recently an audiobook on my walk in.
I grab a quick cup of tea (strong, black, three sugars) from the break room before I fill up my water bottle, get out my battle tools, and get right into the trenches. I check on the patients I have inherited from my night colleagues and give analgesia to a patient waiting for a CT brain after a head injury. I check the computer system for the longest waiting, most urgent patient and assign their case to myself. First, I have an elderly female who sounds like she has a chest infection secondary to COPD, making it difficult for her to breathe. She will need nebulizers and admission for IV antibiotics for a few days. Older patients with infections can go downhill fast. I order imaging, go through the hospital guidelines, communicate with our fantastic nurses what the plan is with her, and then head for my next patient.
The first half of my day has been uneventful. Now I have a patient in the resuscitation room with an alarmingly low blood pressure. She is an elderly female with a documented abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). She is septic, and while this could be the cause of her hypotension, her history of AAA concerns me, and I need to assess for a leak or rupture. After giving urgent fluid resuscitation and IV antibiotics, I seek senior help. My registrar performs a bedside ultrasound. She teaches as she assesses the patient, showing me how both the IVC and the aorta may appear pulsatile, but the IVC will be collapsible compared to the aorta. This patient will need to be admitted, so I contact the Medical team and the Intensivist to inform them of her case. The next bedside ultrasound I require, I will be sure to ask the registrar if I may perform this under guidance.
We’re always learning in medicine! I attend a mandatory teaching session about Patient Data Protection and steal the opportunity to have a quick bite and another cup of tea. My water bottle has not been touched since I came into work, a bad habit of mine, and I make a mental note to drink it all at the afternoon huddle at 3 pm.
Back in the department after teaching, I attend to my patient in resus. I am satisfied to see some improvement in her vitals. While I am assessing her progress, we get a red call. A mid 50’s male, cardiac arrest. We glove and gown up. The patient arrives with LUCAS in place on compressions. Adrenaline kicks in, ACLS protocol goes into place. There is no family with him, the paramedics were called by passersby who saw him collapse while shopping. We are not successful in getting a pulse, and my registrar must work with the Gardai and the Paramedics to establish his identity and contact his family to break the bad news. I suggest that they use his iPhone emergency Medical ID which they do . We discover that he was diabetic, and had chronic kidney disease. My other patients need me, so as sad as the loss is, I must move on. I look over the growing list of patients under my care, and run through the plan for each of them, and discharge any patients who are fit to return home.
I always look forward to the 3 pm ‘huddle’ or NAPP round; Name, Age, Problem, Plan. We each give a brief presentation on all the patients we have on the go, ask questions if we have any, and state the plan for their care. This is another teaching opportunity. It is also my opportunity to attend to my still full water bottle…
My shift is over, and I hand over my last patient to another colleague. She is a young woman waiting for a pelvic ultrasound after a collapse. (Young female patient with abdominal pain and collapse is an ectopic pregnancy until proven otherwise!). I stop by the ENT department to see a good friend of mine. Working with colleagues who become friends is such a pleasure. Even better is friends who become colleagues, it makes for the best consultations (Hi Tonye!). He is on his lunch break, so a quick check in, and I head off.
I get home, change, have lunch (leftover Nigerian Jollof from my friend’s mom who is visiting, #jollofwars) and head out again, this time to the RCSI library in town. As a proud alumna (shout out the class of 2013!), I have access to the library and can make use of it whenever I can. I have exams coming up, which means I’ve had to let go of most of my extracurricular activities for the moment. I usually enjoy archery, beer and food festivals, and exploring this beautiful green island. Instead, I now take pleasure in visiting my family, getting brunch with friends, and listening to great inspirational feminists like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak!
On my day off I spend time preparing meals that will see me through the week. Honestly, my main form of exercise is pushing my luck (don’t judge), but I also use my 20 minute walks to and from work as cardio.
A typical day in the ED is hard to illustrate. The only thing you can be guaranteed is that you’ll get out what you put in. Show up with a good attitude, a willingness to learn, and always put in your best, and you will always have a good day or at least a day you can be proud of.
A big part of growing as a doctor is accepting that you’re rarely going to be perfect, but you’re always going to do your best. That’s what you have to accept and bring into everyday ~Dr Aima Giwa-Amu
Dr. Aima is a graduate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, currently pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine in a renowned teaching hospital in the Republic of Ireland.