Meg Bowen in her Haverford jersey.

CCPA Summer Series 2022: University of Virginia Hospital Emergency Department

By Meg Bowen ’23

Funding Source: Primary Care Pre-Medical Internships

This summer, I worked at the University of Virginia Hospital Emergency Department. My roles in the Emergency Department (ED) included: assisting staff and patients in the patient care area (clinic), stocking supplies, making comfort rounds on stable patients, supporting families of patients receiving emergency treatment, tracking patients’ progress, facilitating communication with medical staff, directing families and patients to hospital and community resources, offering support as families await news of their loved ones, and escorting authorized visitors to the patients’ bedsides.

Going into this experience, my main goals were to gain more insight into the medical world and particularly large hospitals, and to gain exposure to challenging medical situations to see how the doctors and staff handle them. The University of Virginia is a level 1 trauma center, so the ED is very experienced and sees a wide variety of cases. For anyone interested in getting involved at a hospital, my main piece of advice is to communicate early and efficiently. Understand the various departments and know exactly what is expected of your role and responsibilities.

During my various shifts throughout any given week, I saw quite a spread of events. Some days I did a lot of rounding on patients, going back and forth to take visitors to their loved ones who are being seen in the ED. Other days, I restocked PPE and brought doctors forks when their unit had run out. No matter the day, there was always something to do and a way to be helpful to the nurses, doctors, and patients. Sometimes people just needed someone to talk to when they were in the ED, waiting for results and feeling lonely and scared.

I gained a lot of valuable experience from spending time around the ED all summer. One of my biggest takeaways was how to respectfully approach and interact with patients who have been waiting for hours to be seen when they are tired, hurting, frustrated, and most likely scared. In the waiting room, people don’t want to be watched over like a hawk, but it is important to be able to notice little things like people being cold or crying (or even cues to bigger things like seizures or throwing up or collapsing). Multitasking is something that I put to use very frequently during this experience, and is also a skill that I have learned to fine tune at Haverford as I balance academics and extracurriculars.

Inside the clinic of the ED itself, I learned that little things can go a long way. Being in an emergency hospital room is not the most comfortable experience to say the least. Asking someone if there is anything that I could get to make them more comfortable was always greatly appreciated, even just warming up someone’s cold food for them while they stayed with their critically ill loved one. It was rewarding to see how these small actions made a difference in people’s experiences at UVA health.

Lastly, getting involved with the UVA hospital allowed me to make valuable connections for shadowing or mentoring in the future with excellent doctors and staff. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to be close to informative medical experiences and take part in some of the behind-the-scenes work that helps make an emergency department function.