Monday, March 16, 2009

Life in a Real Chicago area Level One Trauma Center

TV Show ER goes off the air, but Loyola’s Emergency Room continues to save lives

MAYWOOD, Ill. - Though the lights of County General will soon fade from our TV screens the glowing red emergency sign outside Loyola University Medical Center's Emergency Room burns bright as a symbol of hope during times of chaos and tragedy. Last year 54,000 people turned to Loyola's ER for help in their time of need.

"Our hospital is staffed to respond to any kind of emergency at any time of day. As a level one trauma center we have the capacity to help with all emergencies including surgical, neurological, cardiac, and offer services from some of the finest subspecialty physicians," said Dr. Catherine Johnson, emergency physician at Loyola University Health System. "But it's more than just treating the patient; our Catholic Jesuit philosophy impacts our level of care. You know when you come to Loyola you are going to get exceptional care no matter who you are."

From Dr. Ross to Dr. Gates the fascination with the men and women on the frontlines of medicine has been fueled by the beloved show ER. Many of the characters have found a place in the hearts of people across America, but they don't compare to the real-life ER physicians. Loyola emergency physicians Dr. Catherine Johnson, Dr. Michael Pulia and Dr. Ethan Sterk know the pain of telling a family member that a loved one has died, the triumph of saving a life and the stress of trying to prioritize patient care. Still, there's no job they’d rather do.

"I know when I'm at work I'm helping people in need," said Dr. Sterk. "When I walk down the street and see a homeless man or someone who is often cast aside I feel like I'm making a difference in their lives as well because our doors will always be open to anyone, no matter who you are."

The TV show ER has been a spotlight on the emergency medicine profession and has made an impact on it as well. It played a factor in Dr. Pulia's and Dr. Johnson's desire to become ER physicians and interest in emergency medicine residency programs has followed the show's popularity.

"I think the show is the most accurate portrayal of an ER on TV," said Dr. Pulia. "Of course there are differences like we're not all supermodels and they take every interesting case I'd see in a month and pack it into an hour show. It's really a dream world for an ER doc. It's how we'd like our days to be."

"The cases we see are equivalent if not more emotionally challenging than those on TV," said Dr. Johnson. "We interact with every part of the hospital and are able to put our patients in touch with the physicians that can provide them with the help they need."

Though the doctors have highest praise for the show, some of the biggest real-life struggles, like ER overpopulation, are often overlooked by the show's producers.

"Everyone wants to know that when they have an emergency that a team of people will be ready and available to handle it. The reality is if the overcrowding continues it could affect people who have a real emergency. ER doctors are having to help people and handle things that could be taken care of in other service areas due to the state of our health care system," said Dr. Pulia.

The doctors agree that personally and professionally they will miss the TV show ER.

"There was an excellent episode this season concerning a patient who was a pioneer of emergency medicine at County General. We are a rather young field and it showed how far we've come in only a few decades," said Dr. Sterk. "Unless someone works in the ER it's hard for them to understand our role in the hospital and the show did a great job of helping people realize all that we do."

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.