A Tribute to Dr. Lorna Breen

While the horrendous continuous barrage of tragedy Dr. Breen probably faced is second to none, it's important to understand the devastating effects of moral/mental injury EM physicians face daily in order to do their jobs. I can't help but feel a strong connection to her story.

Maybe, it's because she stood out to me as a Female Medical Director of a rather large and well-respected Emergency Department, when there are unfortunately still such few roles for women in leadership. I too was a Medical Director of an albeit much smaller ER. As many Directors will tell you, we often walk on the tight rope of doing what’s right for colleagues, while appeasing the demands of Administrators.

Maybe it’s because she too was traumatized by seeing the death of her patients en-masse. Maybe like so many others, she felt helpless. Before I decided to change jobs, I worked in a Level 2 Regional Trauma Center. I had PTSD for months after the unsuccessful resuscitation of a three year-old pediatric patient of mine, who had succumbed to traumatic injuries at the hands of her abuser.

I will never forget her face. She was the same age as my daughter at the time.

This job weighs heavy on our souls and we often carry our work home with us long after our shifts are done. While there may not be any physical bruises of the battles we face, we have suffered wounds on our hearts and our psyches. We are not soldiers trained for combat. We too often fail to recognize or even chose to ignore the psychological and mental strains of our practice.

The moral injuries thrust upon us by Administrators, Corporate Managers, malignant metrics, patient satisfaction scores and among things only contribute to feelings of inadequacy. We need this to stop. It must to stop with this pandemic.

We have to come out on the other side of this crisis, as one of the most well respected, valued, supported, and fairly compensated specialties in the house of Medicine.

After all, the risks we take are very real. The burdens we bear are ever-lasting. “ She should be honored as a hero, because she died doing what she loved.

Saba Rizvi M.D.

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