What are the most disturbing things seen in the ER?

The things that are most disturbing to those working in health care are very different from what the public would think


A question posted recently on Quora asked, "What is the weirdest/grossest/most disturbing thing seen by emergency room staff? Do you ever find it difficult not to faint?" Lou Davis gave her opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments.

If I'm honest (and generally I try to be, although obviously this can vary) the things that the general public would find 'gory' are not the things that bother those of us at the 'sticky end'.

For example: amputated limbs, degloving injuries (where the limb has been, literally, 'skinned') head injuries with visible brain, impalings on posts, railings and other objects, awful burns etc - none of these has the power to make me feel 'wobbly'.

Generally, we all tend to have the thing which makes us dizzy, and they are usually minor, often bizarrely so.

My 'things' are:

1. Trephining
This, basically, involves drilling a hole through a finger or toe nail to release trapped blood. This makes me faint - actually physically hitting the deck.

2. Pus
Can't stand this, it makes me want to vomit. On a memorable occasion, a colleague (let's hear it for Omar!) got a mouthful after draining an abscess. He never recovered from this (quote -'I think I need to freshen up') and I certainly didn't!

3. Snot (mucus) 
Specifically the mucus expelled at the speed of light from a tracheostomy when a patient coughs. This can be propelled 20ft across a room.
If it touched me, firstly I would faint. Then I would take a year off sick - at least!

4. Maggots
We had one of these the other day. Maggots mooching about in a wound of an unkempt chap. I would rather remove my own liver with a spoon than look at these. Plus, I nearly fainted (again).

So, there you have it. It isn't the massive injuries that bother us, it's the little things that make us ill.

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"The Question" section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on EMS1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of EMS1.

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  2. ER
  3. Medical / Clinical
  4. Quora

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