Mike Norris is one of the few people who can spend 15 years working in the emergency room and not burn out. An emergency room technician, or ER tech, at MUSC, Norris works 12-hour shifts caring for patients who come in with everything from a jelly bean up the nose to a gunshot wound.
And actually, gunshot wounds — or, more generally, trauma cases — are some of his favorite cases to treat. Like nearly everyone who works in emergency medicine, he’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie. “I like the rush,” he says.
Before he was in the ER, Norris spent five years working on the general hospital floor and in the intensive care unit. In the 20 years he’s been in the industry, he’s seen patient care, especially emergency care, change dramatically. “The patient load has increased, and the technology has changed so much,” he says. “It’s so, so much faster and so much better than it used to be. Our success rate is a lot higher.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Norris’s footwear — the brand and style, that is. He wears Rocky boots made specifically for EMS workers that are black and seriously functional. They’ve got features like resistance to blood-borne pathogens and carbon fiber toes. Asked how many pairs he’s gone through, Norris says, “Oh lordy — hundreds. I average 13 miles a day [at work].”
When he’s not running around dealing with trauma cases, Norris likes spending time with his geriatric patients. “Trauma and geriatric are so different. That’s what I like about them.” MUSC gets a lot of patients who are referred from the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, so many of the patients Norris sees are veterans. “They’ve fought, and I’m able to do what I’m able to do because of them,” he says. “When they say thank you — those are two little words that mean so much.”
Talking to Norris, you get the feeling that he’ll be in the ER for a long time to come, despite the intensity of the job. “I have my moments. It’s stressful,” he says. “But you got to be able to leave here and not take it home with you. Otherwise you’re going to be burned out that much quicker.”