All I Really Need to Know — Still — I Learned in Kindergarten

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Author: Andrew W Phillips, MD Med
Originally Published: Common Sense July/August 2015

While still being far from hitting my full stride as a “real” emergency physician, I feel that I’ve come a long way now that I’m finally finishing residency. And while I’m cautious of being overly nostalgic or simplistic at this point, I find myself reflecting that life’s core lessons change very little. The medicine changes every five to 10 years, but certain constants never change, and they all have to do with playing together well in the sandbox.

Thus, based on Robert Fulghum’s timeless classic, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, I humbly submit my version of the top 10 things for the emergency physician.

  1. Share everything. A patient neither lives nor dies by one person’s actions.
  2. Play fair. Follow the Golden Rule.
  3. Don’t hit people. Avoid being hit by the patient in a methamphetamine-induced psychosis.
  4. Put things where you found them. Put extra supplies back yourself. They won’t walk there on their own.
  5. Clean up your own mess. Put away your sharps (or suffer the RN wrath).
  6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. The staff refrigerator is sacred.
  7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. This is controversial, but at least a generic “I’m sorry” can be very meaningful to patients and families. We’re not perfect.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat. No one likes C. diff on their dinner.
  9. Flush. Flush.
  10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Sometimes it takes sugar and chocolate to make it through a night shift.