ER doctor: ‘You never know what’s going to walk in the door’

Published 9:00 am Monday, May 29, 2023

Dr. Stephen Brown never knows what the day will bring.

As Medical Director of King’s Daughters Medical Center’s Emergency Department, Brown both leads the medical staff and works full shifts in the center.

In medical school, Brown said he thought he would specialize in internal medicine. But after a rotation in emergency medicine, he found both the work and the lifestyle suited him. “I work around 12 days a month, which gives me a lot of extra time with my family,” he said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Those 12 days can be intense.

“You never know what is going to walk in the door of the emergency department,” he said. “From the simplest patient to the most advanced medical problems, we see them all.”

Working in 12-hour shifts, the emergency doctors become experts in both providing care and time management. “You are seeing multiple patients with all different complaints at the same time and need to find a diagnosis and disposition quickly on each of them,” Brown said. “You also need to have a calming effect on the other people that are working with you.”

“The emergency department can be hectic and fast paced; the more calm the provider is the more calming effect it has on the members of the team.”

Being able to remain calm while working efficiently and effectively requires unique personality traits as well as training.

“All the doctors here in the ER at KDMC trained and specialized in emergency medicine,” Brown said. “We all trained in large systems like University of Mississippi Medical Center … we are trained to see the most complicated medical problems and patients. That’s what we like to do, and that is what drew us to this specialty.”

Even so, the work can be demanding, and doctors can face challenges. “Burnout is a big challenge you see in emergency medicine, really in all medicine,” Brown said. “We have really seen an increase in it since the COVID pandemic.

“I think it is extremely important to have other things in your life, such as hobbies, family, etc., and that you leave what happened in the hospital that day at the hospital mentally.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly challenging for hospitals like KDMC.

“I never want to see COVID or any other pandemic again,” Brown said. Several of our rooms in the ER were turned into ICU rooms during each wave of COVID. We were actually getting at least one ICU transfer a day from smaller hospitals in the central part of the state … There were days that we only had a few rooms to see ER patients in, as the rest of the beds were taken up with admitted patients.”

But Brown said the doctors and medical staff at KDMC weathered the COVID onslaught in no small part because of the commitment to their field and their community.

“Most of the doctors actually grew up in Brookhaven or the surrounding area … and came back to Brookhaven because we love the town and the people.”