A Night in the ER

By Gina Ford

October 28, 2010 Updated Oct 29, 2010 at 12:38 PM CDT

Level one Trauma Centers handle the worst of the worst when it comes to critically injured and sick patients. One of three level one trauma centers in the central part of the state is located here in Peoria. The other two are in Champagn-Urbana and Springfield.

You may have been to OSF St. Francis Medical Center under extenuating circumstances, but tonight we're going to show you what an overnight shift is like here in the ED.

I chose October 15th to do an overnight shift in the emergency department. Based on hospital data, it is one of the busiest weekend nights for E.D. staff.

"We see a lot of alcohol involvement on the weekends but particularly on the first and fifteenth of the month as people do get their paychecks," said OSF St. Francis Medical Center Emergency Room Attending Physician Dr. John Hafner.

The data proved to be correct. When we got to the 24-hour pod of the emergency department, there were already intoxicated patients resting in hospital rooms.

After sitting in the E.D. several hours, paramedics brought in a woman who- according to medical staff- was intoxicated and combative.

"Would ya mind cutting me loose? Because I don't wanna be here. I'm here against my will," she said as she was being wheeled into a hospital room, pulling against the straps that held her arms to a gurney.

We could not go into the room because it took a number of staff to calm her down, but from inside the E.D., we could tell she was unhappy.

"I'm not paying this bill!" she shouted.

"We see those more midnight to four, somewhere in that range a lot more alcohol intoxication coming through the doors," said Hafner.

The medical center's new emergency department has been open a matter of months and the layout is, according to personnel, state-of-the-art. There are three pods. The center pod, or orange pod stays open 24 hours a day.

Doctors and Nurses said the new layout is not only conducive to treating patients more quickly and but it keeps visitors away from the bustling inner circle of each pod, where medical staff are working.

If you are visiting a family member of friend here, you receive a hotel-style key card. You enter in a back door to the patient's room and through a second door, is the main cell of the E.D. accessible only to medical staff an personnel.

"When families and visitors would come see their loved ones, it was very disconcerting to them seeing all of the noise and the chaos and the environment," Hafner said.

And Trauma nurse Anthony Laredo said, you need a key card to get virtually anywhere in the ED, and it certainly puts his mind at ease when treating victims of violent crimes.

"Anybody can come in and say anything to try and get to them and finish them off," Laredo said.

The doctors and nurses said they try to save every patient that comes though the doors, but sometimes they're unsuccessful. Laredo said it is hardest for him if a baby dies. To cope, he swaddles and rocks them so they're not alone.

"I always call my wife and say, 'would you kiss the boys for me?' and she knows that something bad happened," said the nurse choking back tears.

"And certainly helping those people that we can't help medically, helping them spiritually or emotionally as best we can as well as their families," Dr. Hafner said.

But the third shift nurses say although their job is difficult sometimes, they do get a laugh in every now and then.

But after every lull comes an inundation of patients. "it's like the bus opens up or the hot donut sign turns on. Everybody comes in," said Laredo.

It was after three a.m. we learned a young man was being airlifted to OSF after a fall that resulted in serious head trauma.

"We got a transfer from an outlying hospital," said the trauma nurse as we waited near the hospital's duel helipads.

The man was quickly brought down to a fully staffed trauma team that went straight to work trying to save his life.

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