5 pm, UW Hospital Emergency Room

It is an uneventful Friday evening so far in the emergency room at the UW Hospital. Aside from the electronic beeps from scattered heart monitors and hushed conversations between unit clerks, the room is relatively quiet. Dr. Mike Abernethy knows, however, that this scene can change in a matter of minutes.

“You don’t know, that’s the nature of this business,” he says. “Things can change dramatically.”

Abernethy, entering his 20th year as an emergency medicine specialist, has encountered a wide variety of cases. With extensive knowledge in the field, the doctor has overcome most feelings of anxiety with his job.

“You train to do this,” he says. “If I wasn’t trained in emergency medicine, you bet this would be very stressful.”

The trauma unit is constantly in “disaster mode,” as Abernethy describes it. The ward is filled with skilled staff members dedicated to the traumatized patients in the sometimes exhausting 12-hour shifts.

Yet, Abernethy realizes he is not alone, and owes much of the emergency room’s success to the team surrounding him: nurses, medical technicians, and even those who clean the rooms in between patients. Emergency medicine, Abernethy declares, is “the pinnacle of teamwork.”

‘If one [group of people] fails, it affects us all,” he says. “We all respect each other and we work well together.”

– Michael Schuerman

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