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Current Member Spotlight: Dr. Nicholas Steinour

In this Spotlight, Dr. Steinour talks about having new experiences and nontraditional experiences as an emergency physician. Dr. Steinour is the Emergency Department Medical Director for Providence Health Network in Waco, represented by Senator Brian Birdwell and Representative Doc Anderson for Texas. Dr. Steinour is a constituent of Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Dawnna Dukes.

Changing It Up

I had the privilege of serving as a physician on an expedition to Antarctica this past winter. As board certified emergency medicine physicians, we have a desirable and portable skill set that transcends geographic and many cultural barriers. The result is some incredibly unique opportunities to use your training to serve in unique and occasionally very remote locations. My wife and I traveled to the southern tip of Argentina where we set sail to Antarctica and South Georgia. My responsibility was the health and safety of the 106 passengers onboard. Some interesting variables that challenged my usual modus operandi for tackling chief complaints involved considering resources (or lack thereof) and the reality that if things went horribly wrong, I could be stuck manually bagging a patient for 3 days awaiting evacuation. I was equipped with some fantastic supplies that were fully waterproof and a basic pharmacy cache that covered the basics for most urgencies/emergencies. I realized quickly how at times I take for granted our nurses and techs, as in this situation I was not only Doctor, but nurse, tech, splint applicator, EKG tech, you get the idea… Having to manage care without the luxury of labs and imagine quickly reminds us of how valuable our exam skills can and need to be. In the end, everyone arrived home safely and I was able to combine a love of travel with my passion for care and returned with lifelong memories and friends.

 

I think it is easy for any of us to go on autopilot from time to time. We usually work in the same environment with the same staff. Many of our patients present complaints that are common. After years of the familiar, we tend to take things for granted. Stepping out of my normal environment reminded me of all the amazing things that happen each and every shift. The efficiency of our departmental processes and the reliability of our lab, radiology, pharmacy supply, and proficiency of the staff that allow us to provide the care that we do is something that I grew to expect and when all that is gone, I found it refreshing to return to a fairly well-oiled machine that characterizes many of our emergency departments. I found myself with a new appreciation for that I had slowly taken for granted.

 

When I became an emergency physician, I knew I fit in with others in the field. I knew it was work amidst a sea of chaos and seeming unpredictability. It was intense and exciting and I left each shift having given it my all and came back the next day recharged and with baited breathe awaited the next surprise pathology that would come my way. What I have come to realize over the past several years of practice is how this job gives us recurring glimpses into the extremes of the human condition. Utter joy when a child is born, profound sorrow at the loss of a loved one, pivotal and defining moments in our patients lives and we are the ones that they look to for guidance and next steps. I am truly humbled everyday when I connect with a complete stranger on that level. This is something that I did not fully appreciate until I was several years out from my training. Additionally, I am excited to learn about all the nontraditional applications of our training. From leading groups to Antarctica, rafting the Grand Canyon, trekking Nepal, cruise ship medicine just to name a few. We have a set of skills that others find comfort in knowing that we are there, at the hospital or by their side on an adventure. It is gratifying to get genuine appreciation from people as they recognize the value of our life's work. I am proud to be an Emergency Medicine physician and truly cannot imagine a more fulfilling life and career.

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