The Night Shift: A rare look at the complicated work of saving lives.
On a Friday night, a family passes time in the Legacy Emanuel ER’s waiting room, eager for news. In one year the hospital’s emergency department treats about 40,000 patients—around 110 per day. Only two Oregon hospitals, Emanuel and OHSU, are designated Level 1 trauma centers, equipped and staffed to provide the highest level of care to acutely sick and badly injured people. The two hospitals take in patients from across the state via ambulance and helicopter.
“Between 3 o’clock in the afternoon and 3 in the morning is when the sickest of the sick come in,” says Jennifer Parker, one of the hospital’s handful of trauma and critical care response nurses, a position Emanuel developed to keep its operation afloat through sometimes-crazy evenings and nights.
During a 12-hour-plus shift, the Legacy trauma unit treats a female gunshot-wound victim. Damage to her liver and bowel complicates the three-hour surgery. “Her leg might never be the same,” says Parker, who helps coordinate an effort that involves as many as 12 doctors, nurses, and technicians at a time. They also contend with a female patient who requires stitches after suffering a facial laceration from being hit by a car. The intoxicated patient struggles so much, restraints are required.
“In the course of one night, I can go from the cute kid who swallowed a penny to someone who’s screaming, swinging, and kicking at me,” says Parker whose position requires 300 hours of emergency nursing training. “In trauma, when people are dying,” says William Long, Legacy’s medical director of trauma services, “it’s the medical equivalent of what a football team that’s behind does in the last two minutes of a game.”
All images © Leah Nash
By Leah Nash