The Shift before Christmas

December 23, 2010 —

Today, in the spirit of the season, I’d like to share a piece of poetry that I’ve just concluded as a departure from my usual blogging style. In recognition of the men and women who continue to work in EMS and emergency rooms across the country this holiday season, I’d like to present my latest literary creation: a med student’s version of “The Night before Christmas.”

“The Shift before Christmas”
By Nathan McConkey, first-year med. student
Twas the shift before Christmas, and all through the ward,
Not a patient was stirring – so the students were bored.
The IVs were hung by the bedsides with care,
In hopes that recovery soon would be there.
The fourth-years were nestled all snug in their beds,
While nightmares of board scores were haunting their heads.
Though doc in his long coat, and I in my short,
Were meeting with lawyers to settle a tort.
But out in the hall, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.
Away to the ER I ran from third floor,
I scanned my ID and threw open the door.
The shift turned exciting – I knew that it would,
As I ran to the spot where the ambulance stood.
There, two paramedics unloaded our guest;
He looked full of pain and was clutching his chest.
With a look at his vitals from my well-trained eye,
I knew in a moment it was an MI.
As swift as an eagle, the attending came,
He called for his helpers, though not quite by name:
“Come students, come interns, come PAs and nurses!
And you, family members, best open your purses…
This EKG’s bad; it soon will be flat…
Now dash to the cath lab, dash away STAT!”
And so we all knew that we’d certainly try,
To do what we could so that he wouldn’t die.
We ran down the hallway, all doing our part,
To maintain the beat that was leaving his heart.
And there, in the lab, was a sight truly blessed;
‘Twas old Dr. Smith, and his RCIS!
As we brought in our patient and turned him around,
Doc Smith had been donning his lead-covered gown.
He was dressed in blue scrubs from his neck to his toe,
Plus a hat on his head and a mask down below.
He passed in the cath so the plaque he could wrestle,
And worked for some time to re-open the vessel.
Then the patient awoke! He seemed oh so merry!
His face had turned red like a freshly-picked cherry.
His once-lifeless form had recovered its glow,
His artery once more maintaining its flow.
We all took our much-needed sigh of relief,
Such tasks could have ended in joy or in grief.
But the man was quite large, and his stomach quite round
In men of such size, complications abound.
He was chubby and plump – and for this he had paid,
He may well have perished if not for our aid.
For too much indulgence in Christmas feasts past,
Had finally caught up with the man’s heart at last.
As such, we sat down for a much-needed chat,
Some changes were made to help trim off some fat.
The man seemed accepting, resolved to his fate.
Perhaps it was time that he watched what he ate.
As D.O.s, prevention was our favorite tool.
(It IS what we learned at our favorite med school).
So as he walked out, with his life now on track,
We yelled: “Merry Christmas! …but please don’t come back.”


Nathan McConkey discovered DMU all the way from his hometown near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After graduating college as a teenager with a degree in molecular biology, he wanted to begin a master of public health degree online while working as an EMT and teaching labs at his undergraduate college. Eventually, the plan was to attend a local medical school in Pennsylvania. Little did he know, however, that his exposure to the MPH program would eventually lure him all the way out to the Midwest to pursue his medical training at Des Moines University instead. When he’s not working on his two degrees or over ten different jobs and volunteer positions on campus, he enjoys discovering new reasons why the city of Des Moines isn’t nearly as boring as his East-Coast perspective had led him to believe.
  • Tea

    *applaud* great poem! happy holidays!

  • Tea

    *applaud* great poem! happy holidays!