Overnight Heroes: ECMC's emergency department

Posted at 8:05 AM, Nov 21, 2017

The Erie County Medical Center is home to Western New York's only adult level one trauma center, handling more than 69,000 cases each year.

The emergency department at ECMC serves more than 1.5 million people in the eight counties that make up WNY. 

The staff, including doctors, nurses, technicians and so many others have trained to be decisive, methodical, confident and most importantly, kind. When a patient comes through the doors of the emergency department staff are ready to go within seconds.

When our 7 Eyewitness News team shadowed the staff as part of our #OvernightHeroesWKBW series on Monday night, the ER had 17 patients that had already come in. Around 1:30 a.m. the only trauma of the night rolled in, a victim of an assault. 

Within moments of the department being alerted, doctors, nurses and technicians were putting on blue gowns inside a trauma room. The trauma rooms are all equipped for immediate, life-saving surgery if needed. "We have a very methodical process we follow with every patient, it ensures we don't miss anything," says Dr. Jennifer Caldwell, Attending Physician of Emergency Medicine at ECMC.

That process also ensures every person inside the trauma room has a role and patients receive the most effective and speedy care. "One person is managing the airway, one is making sure there's IV access, someone is obtaining vital signs," says Don Giordano, a clinical resource nurse in charge of training.

In this case, our victim receives some x-rays inside the trauma room before being transferred to CT for scans to check internal injuries, then for more x-rays to check for broken bones. This kind of trauma is common for the overnight shift. "We see a lot more critical patients, accidents or assaults, gunshot wounds, stabbings," says Dr. Caldwell. 

One of the biggest complaints from visitors to the ER is the wait time but Dr. Caldwell says if you're waiting, it means you're lucky. "We will get to you as soon as possible, but if you're not the first to be seen, you should be thankful because there's probably someone else who needs our attention more." The staff at ECMC is just asking for patience, because they're experts in knowing who needs to be treated first in order to save their life.

Of course, we had to ask— how similar is ECMC's ER to the ones we see on Grey's Anatomy or The Good Doctor? The crew in the ER says the biggest difference is on TV, doctors follow their patient through everything: from the trauma room, to the operating room to their lab results. At ECMC, each person has their own specialty they focus on.

You can follow our other Overnight Heroes segments here: We followed AMR, the Niagara County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police.