“Gigi”: An E.R. doc’s warning to his residents

by Carolyn Thomas

An experienced E.R. physician is supervising a regular training lesson for residents in his hospital’s Emergency Medicine program one morning. The class is reviewing EKGs, going over interesting cardiac cases from their E.R., and reviewing subtle abnormalities in lab work or x-rays.

His residents are willing to put in this extra time to become better E.R doctors.

On the EKGs shown overhead on the big screen, the name of each heart patient being discussed is whited-out to protect patient confidentiality. What isn’t hidden, though, is the name of the EKG tech who performed the EKG procedure on the patient. And there, in the left lower border of EKG #6’s information box, the E.R. doc spots the technician’s name.


He later writes of that moment, on his award-winning blog, StoryTellERDoc:

“Oh, Gigi. How you are missed! As talk continued in the room, voices dimmed as my mind raced back several years, to thoughts of a spectacular human being who reminded me of the power of human kindness and compassion. Of the lost art of wanting to learn about your fellow human being. Of just being a good person wearing a big smile as much as one can.

“She was a hero of mine. She was a person who cared about me, who cared about my family, and mostly, who cared about my son’s battle for his life. She was real. A co-worker like her I will never have again.

“The residents finished interpreting the EKG, but before clicking to EKG #7, I held up my hand to speak. I hesitated before speaking, all the residents’ eyes on me:

“There is something more important about this EKG than its tracing. Look at the  name of the technician on the left lower border.”

“All of the residents’ eyes glanced at the name, and then turned back to me. ‘Do any of you remember this technician?’ I asked, knowing that Gigi left right before our most senior residents arrived. They all shook their heads ‘no’ to my question.  I continued:

“Well, then, let me tell you about this magnificent lady.”

“And with that, I proceeded to share Gigi’s story with them (I knew she would have let me). I told them how she treated patients in their room, spending the five minutes it takes to get an EKG learning about the patient, their family, and their illness.

“Sometimes I heard laughter, sometimes I saw the beginnings of tears, but always I witnessed the boundless kindness and caring compassion that Gigi gifted to every patient she encountered.

“Then I told them about her concern and hugs through my son’s illness and beyond. She saw through my anxiety, my hurt, my pain, and my fake smile as I struggled to maintain my professional life while my personal life was in shambles.

“She is one of my heroes, and when she passed too soon from this life, I knew the angels were singing in heaven.

“The residents continued to watch me as I finished talking:

“Just remember that it is a privilege to help a patient and their family through a time of need.

“You can make this ‘a job’, going through the motions of what is expected of you, or you can embrace the privilege you’ve been given and do your job with pride and compassion.”

“The room was quiet. I was still being watched. ‘That’s all I have to say about that EKG, then.’ Most of the residents slowly turned back around to face the big screen, to review the next EKG, but a few lingered.

“I think they heard what I had to say, but one can never be sure.

“I’m not naive. I know there are people who probably laugh at the thought that one can always be compassionate and kind, especially in a busy E.R. such as ours. And they would be right. It is impossible to extend oneself to every encountered patient. Heck, even I get cynical and sarcastic, some days worse than others. I am human, after all.

“But my hope, by continually harping it, is that some of our residents remember why they went to medical school. Not for money. Not to play the number games that we now must play (insurance company numbers, patient survey numbers, patients seen per hour numbers). Not to expose oneself to lawsuits.

“But rather, to make a difference, a real difference, in some of their patients’ lives.

“Thanks, Gigi, for the reminder.”

© 2011 StoryTellERDoc.com

♥  ♥   ♥

As a heart attack survivor who’s now had more EKGs done than you’d ever want to undergo (at least two during terrifyingly stressful emergency visits to the E.R.),  I can tell you that I’ve never once had an EKG or echocardiogram tech whose bedside manner even remotely resembled the wonderful Gigi described here.  In my experience, most techs (and far too many physicians and nurses, in fact) don’t bother introducing themselves or even making basic eye contact, as I described in “An Open Letter To All Hospital Staff”

If only there were more like Gigi working in our hospitals . . .

Q: have you ever had an EKG tech like Gigi?


2 thoughts on ““Gigi”: An E.R. doc’s warning to his residents

  1. “You can make this ‘a job’, going through the motions of what is expected of you, or you can embrace the privilege you’ve been given and do your job with pride and compassion.”

    THIS should be embraced by ALL medical staff!!!

    I personally have been Blessed by many GIGI’s in my times in the hospital but I am sure that there are many out there who have never had an idea that GIGI’s exist! I only hope that they get to meet one before the entire medical field’s reputation is in ruins by those who have ‘No Heart’ to share a kindness with that troubled soul laying on that bed!


    1. Thanks Lois. How lucky you were to have met many ‘Gigi’s’ during your hospital stays! If more med students, interns and residents were compelled to absorb wisdom like this, your experience would be far more common.


Your opinion matters. What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s