The ER Dream

Opening teaser, ER. Episode #67: "Dr. Librarian"

A few bars of theme music are heard, heavy with bass, emphasizing the dehumanizing bustle of County General Hospital in a tough neighborhood in Chicago. Scene: emergency room desk and hallway, camera swinging almost randomly, catching the faces of cast members with grim faces rushing to treat the next patient, and extras with various injuries and painful looks on their faces. After 10 seconds the camera focuses slowly on Dr. Mark Greene, tall, balding blond, late thirty-something, attractive for all that, looking very grim and tired. He is walking somewhere quickly; we see in a moment that he's on his way to the staff lounge to sit down for the first time in hours. He throws himself into a chair in the dark lounge and puts a hand on his forehead. Immediately Dr. Doug Ross enters, shortish but dynamically built, dark hair and eyes, permanent ironic smile, movie-star looks. He goes to his locker and rummages around in it.

Dr. Ross: Aw, you got a fever, little boy? Can't treat you now, I've got an asthmatic in trauma 1.

Dr. Greene: Very possibly. Where were you Tuesday again? I had to take all the peds cases and a four-year-old with the flu sneezed in my face.

Dr. Ross: You know I was at a little bed-and-breakfast with Charlene...Charlene...what's her last name? Anyway, I needed the R & R. You look like you could use a little yourself.

Dr. Greene: A little R & R, or a little...?

He gives Dr. Ross a vague smile.

Dr. Ross: A little of both! You really should start thinking of dating, Mark...we all know how you felt about Susan, but it's time you accepted that she's gone. Haven't you met anyone else that you're attracted to?

Dr. Greene: Well...I had Amanda this weekend and we were checking out some books at the library, and she seemed to think the children's librarian was just right for me...

Dr. Ross: Yeah, right, a librarian. Fine if you want someone to read Amanda ten story books every night. Probably not so fine once Amanda's dropped off to sleep, if you catch my drift!

Dr. Greene: (looking pensive) She was kind of cute...(glares at Doug) But you know I'm not looking just for sex. That's too empty for me. And I'm not settling for a librarian! I'd love to find someone here in the hospital. Just one brilliant, single female professional, is that too much to ask?

Dr. Ross: It's more than you're going to get now, unless you want to date Weaver...!

They both crack up at the idea.

Cut to the hallway again, very bustling. Dr. Greene is on his way somewhere, again quickly. He rounds a corner and walks straight into Dr. Friedman, a petite, attractively round woman in her early thirties, with long black curls and large, expressive brown eyes. She is dressed in a doctor's whites and a fashionable sweep skirt, and also obviously in a rush. They are both suprised and flustered. She reads his nametag, he reads hers, we read the instant interest in his eyes.

Dr. Friedman: Oh--hello! I'm sorry...!

Dr. Greene: Oh no, I'm sorrier! All my fault. Uh...Dr. Mark Greene.

He holds out a hand to shake hers. She takes it and shakes.

Dr. Friedman: Dr. Friedman. You're Dr. Greene? I must have just missed you at the desk...?

Dr. Greene: Yes, I was, uh, taking a minute for some R & R. You were looking for me?

Dr. Friedman: I wanted to speak with you, but now I'm on my way back to my office to meet with Dr. Vucelich...(Mark is impressed; obviously only people of importance make appointments to talk with Dr. Vucelich.) Will you walk with me?

Dr. Greene: Sure.

The camera follows them as they proceed down the hall, up the stairs, down another hall, etc. on the way to her office.

Dr. Friedman: I think this is the way to my office!

She gives a nervous but silvery laugh. Dr. Greene is visibly charmed.

Dr. Greene: You must be new here...?

Dr. Friedman: New here, and new to the hospital setting. It'll just take some getting used to.

Dr. Greene: (smiles encouragingly) You'll be navigating this place like a pro in no time. Did you work at a clinic?

Dr. Friedman: Not a clinic, no....This looks vaguely familiar--

She cranes her head down a hall, then looks relieved.

Dr. Friedman: I knew I'd find it again! My office.

She smiles and leads the way into a well-lit room full of computer terminals and books in neat bookstacks, with the word Library elegantly painted on the door in large blue letters. Dr. Greene follows her into the room, looking lightly confused. As they enter, Dr. Vucelich, a man of medium height, nearly bald, perhaps fifty, quite imposing in demeanor, rises from his seat at a computer terminal and greets Dr. Friedman warmly with a handshake and a smile.

Dr. Greene: The library is your office?

Dr. Friedman doesn't hear this.

Dr. Friedman: Dr. Vucelich! How nice to see you again. I hope I didn't keep you waiting.

Dr. Vucelich: Not at all, not at all, Jennifer! I was just taking a look at some of the web sites you've bookmarked on this internet browser. Making your presence known already! This girl's a dynamo, that's what I told the selection committee, and I was right!

Dr. Friedman looks modest.

Dr. Friedman: I didn't see any reason for us not to be on the Internet, with this great computer setup...(she smiles as if to wave the compliments away)

Dr. Vucelich: Mark, I see you've met Jennifer. Dr. Friedman, I should say! She's got a medical degree from Columbia and a library degree from Wisconsin, and she's straight from the Champaign-Urbana Medical Sciences library. She's our new Director of Library Services. We were very lucky to get her!

Dr. Greene: (looking bemused and interested, and remembering his earlier conversation with Doug about not settling for a librarian) Very impressive, Dr. Friedman.

Dr. Friedman: (laughing) Oh, both of you, stop embarrassing me, and please, call me Jennifer...!

Dr. Greene: Jennifer, then.

Their eyes lock, and there's silence for a moment.

Dr. Friedman: Dr. Greene, I need to talk to you about the patient education project, but I'm going to be pretty much tied up the rest of the afternoon...what time are you off today?

Dr. Greene: Six...

Dr. Friedman: Great! Would you be interested in dinner?

Dr. Greene: (getting flustered) Dinner? With...with you?

Dr. Friedman: (laughs) It'd be hard to keep up a conversation from different tables.

Dr. Greene: (smiling) You're right, you're right. How about...Antonio's at six-thirty?

Dr. Friedman: Sounds wonderful! I'll see you there.

She turns away from him and starts to talk with Dr. Vucelich. Mark watches, obviously unable to reconcile Dr. Friedman with his idea of the librarian for whom he was so adamant about not settling.

Dr. Vucelich: You were going to show me that new interface you installed for the Medline database?

Dr. Friedman: Oh yes, of course. I think you'll find it's easier to use than the old one. Why don't we use this workstation over here...(they walk around some shelving away from him)

Dr. Greene: (to himself) Doug's going to have a field day with this.

Cut to outside view of library, with the door and its bright Library sign in center shot, and Dr. Greene visible, looking thoughtful, with a small smile, through the window next to the door. The camera pans slowly back and away from him and the door. Before he is out of the shot we see Dr. Friedman in another part of the library, through a full-length window, bending over Dr. Vucelich (who is sitting at a computer and looking puzzled) and pointing at something on the computer screen. Cue theme music. Cut to commercial.

Note: In my dream I fudged with some facts...for instance, I was only 26 at the time I had the dream, I don't have a medical degree, and I've never even been to Champaign-Urbana. Also, I cannot for the life of me remember what Dr. Greene's daughter's name is, so I substituted "Amanda". Funny how these things happen in dreams.

Funnier still that when I wrote this, not only was I not working as a medical librarian, it had not even occurred to me that I would ever go back to medical librarianship (after all, even though my WIPRO job was my first professional job and a medical library job, I was only there 12 hours a week for a year and a half, and I got it by accident when I was looking for an internship in library school).

Believe it or not, the one thing I emphatically did not want to be, when I was in library school, was a medical librarian. During one of my UW-Madison summers during college (they wouldn't teach me Italian at Lawrence, so I had to take it in summer school at Madison), I did apply for a peon job at Middleton Health Sciences Library on campus. I remember vividly the day I walked in the main entrance, clutching my application. I looked up above the security gate and saw an attractive poster from the CDC or the AMA or something like that, picturing a smiling doctor giving a patient an injection, with some exhortation about how quality medical education made this possible. Now, anyone who knows me (and some who don't) know I have a real thing about needles. Phobia is too mild a word. I don't know how I got through that doorway, and I didn't get the job anyway so it wasn't an issue.

But quite frankly, when I took the job at NAHEC--emphatically a medical library position-- I was desperate in the extreme to get out of North Dakota and back to Wisconsin. I would have taken a job at a law library (and I knew how much I'd have disliked that, having sweated out a summer at minimum wage at the WI State Law Library). The job itself turned out to be exactly what I needed in many different ways, but the fact remains that I was not looking for medical librarianship: again I stumbled into it.

It's lucky I did. Strangely enough, for someone who still covers her eyes when they make a surgical incision on ER, I am darned good at finding, and helping other people find, health-related information. Not having had a lot of experience with the hardcore research literature, I have gravitated towards the lay literature that helps patients and families gain more understanding about their health concerns. For some reason this pursuit really resonates with me, I think because at various times in my life, I have seen how a little basic information and background about an issue, health-related or not, gives me so much more control over my own situation than others have.

I can't bear the idea that a person is worried, unable to sleep, unable to make a logical decision or communicate accurately with loved ones, because of a confusing diagnosis. We are not born knowing what lupus, parathyroidism, sigmoidoscopy, or melanoma is, or what it means if we or a loved one has one of these things. If I can give someone good information, thereby empowering him/her to make decisions, or even just to face what is happening with more confidence or hope and get some sleep, then I am making the kind of contribution to the world's happiness EVERYONE should be lucky enough to make.

So anyway...! While I do have some affection for other types of librarianship, right now I "do medical"--consumer health, to be specific. I feel like I'm doing what I was destined to do. Given that, it's just plain eerie how closely I predicted things in this dream, back when I was working in a state library agency in 1997!

©Jennifer Friedman 1/2/97; comments rewritten 6/8/00