The personality traits of ER docs
Q: I hope you don't mind answering my question. I am not going to be an ER doctor but I am dating one. What personality traits do ER docs have or develop over time? I can tell they are accustomed to the position of control. Any thoughts?
Answer by Kevin Pezzi, MD: I don't think that ER doctors are necessarily destined to develop any particular personality traits. In particular, I do not believe that they are (in their personal lives, at least) any more controlling than other people. When I think of all the "control freaks" that I've known, none were ER doctors—or even physicians of any sort.
I even disagree with the premise that "they are accustomed to the position of control." The control that an ER doc has over an emergency department is more illusory than it is real. All of the significant variables—such as the number and type of patients that present to the ER, the availability of inpatient beds (a shortage of which can create a horrendous backlog in the ER), the nature of the on-call consultants (some are brilliant and easy to work with; some are jerks with less mental horsepower), and the adequacy and nature of the ER staff (some nurses, techs, and clerks are superb and a real asset; some are not)—are out of the ER doctor's control. Furthermore, ER physicians usually have no control over the hiring and firing of the ER staff. That would be tolerable if hospital administrators (who have the real power—now let's talk about controlling personalities!) took appropriate action when ER docs reported serious staff misconduct, such as being drunk on the job or intentionally grossly negligent. However, I reported such cases and no action was taken. In fact, the administrator told me that it was none of my business. None of my business? Go figure.
Incidentally, the administrator who told me to mind my own business was a pathological control freak who was hired because, according to the hospital scuttlebutt, the CEO was having an affair with her. He was a handsome man (controlling, too) who apparently could not resist such a beautiful woman and her hot legs that she displayed by wearing skirts that were inappropriately revealing for a hospital. Not just short skirts, but really short skirts. But this was the Peyton Place in which I worked and did my best to take care of patients, even when their care was sabotaged by a nurse with booze on board (I mentioned that case elsewhere in this site).