Thanks to Danny Ben-Eli for pointing me towards this hilarious post by Greg Henry MD on Emergency Physicians Monthly. Please check out the full post on the site, this is an excerpt only...
...Then it came to me like relativity came to Einstein. All understanding is from a specific “frame of reference.” All things we learned in physics class are useful, but must be viewed from where we are. Remember the Corvette and the speed of light? We violate physics if we ignore our experience. I propose that we discuss ER physics with modifications to our definition. I don’t just mean the implicit trivial stuff like the fact that Ohm’s Law is merely an application, which can be applied to the circulatory system. No, I mean real stuff, stuff that we come up against every day. I propose developing a dictionary of physics we studied in our undergraduate curriculum and relating it to the emergency department. Let me start this project with some suggestions, but this is in no way complete or set in stone. Leaders are encouraged to send me suggestions for additions or modifications to this protean assemblage. A certain panache is, of course, required. Here goes:
Physics: In quantum mechanics, an intrinsic property of elementary particles and systems like atoms.
ED Physics 1. The story given to you by the patient who needs another Vicodin prescription. [i.e. my dog ate it; 10 dudes took it from me, etc...] 2. The story told to you by the resident who did not check the weak patient’s gait, or the reason why he’s late from lunch.
FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS
Physics: The assertion that energy is always conserved in a thermal phenomenon in a closed system.
ED Physics: The assertion that everyone will conserve energy by not getting off their ass and moving even when the department is going to hell unless acted upon by an outside force, such as the arrival of the pizza delivery man.
SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS
Physics: The assertion that entropy (disorganization) always increases in a closed system.
ED physics: The same (i.e. chaos gets worse and worse as the evening moves on). This is particularly true as it gets closer to the time you are to leave for home.
Physics: The speed necessary for a body to escape the direct gravitational effects of the more massive body.
ED physics: The speed you must be moving to escape the nurse who wants you to see one more patient before you leave, directly related to your need to get home for your child’s soccer game times the chaos in the department. Please see the second law of thermodynamics above.
Physics: First stage in development of relativity (Einstein, 1905) referring to inertial frame of reference.
ED physics: The relatives of the patient in Room 5 think they are special and can occupy the entire department, eat food, play their music and use their cell phones next to the patient who has a pacemaker. Modification in rich people hospitals of special relativity: The family knows special people on the Board of the hospital and are willing to complain to them at any moment of the day and night.
Physics: Not to be confused with special relativity. Extends the theory of relativity to the arbitrary accelerated frame of reference.
ER physics: The relatives of the patient in Bed 5 have now moved from special to general pains in the ass by wanting each and every doctor they know on the hospital staff called, just to make certain (see Heisenberg uncertainty principle) we have multiple, mediocre and uninformed opinions.
THE HEISENBERG UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE
Physics: A quantum principle that you cannot measure both a particle’s velocity and direction at the same time due to the effect of measurement.
ED Physics: You can never be certain when the resident of the admitting service will actually arrive in the department to see the patient you want admitted. It is also extended to the fact that you cannot actually measure both this resident’s intelligence or desire to do anything for the patient at the same time, because they are speaking at the speed of light in a language which you do not understand.
Physics: The process whereby massive objects in the universe, such as stars, bend and refocus light and other electromagnetic radiation in different objects.
ED physics: The way the 600 pound patient in bed two bends the stretcher such that you cannot get a tech or a nurse to help said patient. This employs the law that bodies at rest will stay at rest until it is break time or lunch time. It also brings us back to entropy, which is the unavailability of a system to do work. Also related to this theory is the patient’s bending of the stretcher will probably result in the staff bending their backs, and they will be on off on Workman’s Comp for six months.