Newswise — 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." Dr. Catherine Johnson, Dr. Michael Pulia and Dr. Ethan Sterk are available for interviews concerning life in a real Chicago-area level one trauma center and the TV show ER.