Works and Days

California Emergency Physicians with Dr. Ruth L. Selvidge: Karla Velarde, Winter Shadow 2016

This January I shadowed Dr. Ruth Selvidge, an Emergency Department (ED) physician at Natividad Medical Center (NMC) for a week. NMC is a Level II trauma center and it is located in Salinas, California. The ED at NMC consists of a triage area at the front where patients are first reviewed by physician assistants and nurses. Based on this first examination, the patients are either discharged or they are sent to the back of the ED for further examination by the ED doctors. This is where Ruth steps in. Her job consists of examining these critically ill patients and determining the proper treatment. Ruth is usually accompanied by one or two ED doctors during her shifts, but there are some instances where she is running the ED by herself. She has 23 years of experience and was recently assigned as the temporary Assistant Director of the ED.

During this externship I shadowed Dr. Selvidge and discussed the cases with her. I learned about filing charts, illnesses and diseases, the scribe program at NMC, residency programs, and what a day looks like for an ED doctor. I learned a lot because Ruth always took the time to review the cases and explain their differential diagnoses. I observed interesting cases because, as Ruth put it, I brought a “black cloud” to the ED since every time I stepped in there were more trauma cases than usual: car accidents, gunshot wounds, stab wounds, among others.

Ruth informed me that the hardest part of her job is the humanitarian aspect. She explained that recently doctors are in front of a computer far more than with patients, due to the way information is archived.

I fell in love with emergency medicine during my time at NMC. Ruth was an excellent teacher as she is extremely passionate about her profession. During my time with Ruth I learned multiple things. I learned that the most important skill for a doctor is being able to communicate with a variety of individuals and having rapport. Additionally, I learned about how information is obtained from patients, EKGs, the different medical procedures depending on a patient’s symptoms, the medical jargon utilized in different situations and how a Level II trauma center works. I realized that I am interested in working in a hospital similar to NMC because you get to interact with and serve a different population. Salinas has long been known for its gang violence as well as for its agricultural and immigrant community. Many of the patients who came in for care were victims of violence or were concerned about receiving care due to their financial circumstances. By interacting with patients from a city known for having problems with street gangs, poverty, and poor education you get a real view of societal problems.

I applied for this winter externship because I am passionate about medicine and equal access to healthcare. It was a really great opportunity to learn about emergency medicine and get a feel for what it takes to become an ED doctor. This externship was an exceptionally valuable experience because as a first generation college student I was intimidated about pursuing a career in medicine, because I had a rudimentary understanding of what it consisted of. Ruth was able to ease these concerns by sharing her path, telling me about the process, providing tips, and letting me know what I should expect. I cannot thank her enough for that and I am glad that I had the opportunity to shadow her and form a friendship. 

Tags: winter shadow, winter externship, medicine, trauma, sociology, ses, doctor