Writing About the Lock Haven Emergency Room

Visits to all of our field sites in Sociology 215 are meant to do three things:

(1) Encourage you to think about readings and class topics and to use those materials in your discussion of the field experience;
(2) Raise issues for you about participation in community life and political activity and to discuss how engagement and social responsibility, or disengagement and social irresponsibility happen;
(3) Give you field experiences to prepare you for other courses that will have more intensive field experiences, like Anthropology/Sociology 201.

Your paper is not meant to be long. Three or four pages is enough. You also should not try to write about all of the themes given below. Pick your focus, state it, and give lots of description and detail to develop your points.

One of the most important things about the time you spend observing is that you should not be passive. Be involved in activities and, most importantly, talk to people. Try especially to meet people other than the hosts who bring us into the settings. In addition to the main participants in the program (the kids in a school), seek out and talk to some of the people who are more in the background---office people, family members, custodial staff. Look at the questions given for each assignment and ask people in the setting what they think about the issues that are listed.

The Objective of Visiting Lock Haven Emergency Room

1. Professional Orientation.

Meeting with Dr. Vosk and the other Emergency Department staff, you will have an opportunity to learn how these professionals view their work. It is important for you to be exposed to their philosophy of work and to learn what they do. We have talked about how institutions create morality. Spending time with these people will give you information of how value-driven and moral emergency room work is.

2. Considering Institutional Selfishness

We have read a lot about financial pressure on medical care and economic self-interest of major players in the health care system. Having close exposure to the health care system through a unit like the Lock Haven ER will show you that this "institutional selfishness" is not so easy to see up close.

3. Organ Donation

The reason I first thought about having students in Sociology 215 visit the emergency room is that it is the origin point of cases that result in organ donation. When people have terrible accidents that result in brain death, as we saw with the Armando Dimas case, they are likely to begin at an ER like that in Lock Haven. How are such cases viewed in this kind of small institution and how do ER personnel relate to families in lethal situations?

What to Write About

a. In all of our writing assignments, one task for you is simply to tell about your experience. Write about what you did, what happened, who you talked to, what caught your attention and what you learned.

b. In more focused terms, one thing to gain from talking to Dr. Vosk and experiencing his tour of the emergency room is that he views his work in highly moral terms, even if he is does not anchor that sense of commitment and higher purpose in religious values. Using your conversations with Dr. Vosk as a base, what does it mean to say that medicine or emergency room work is moral in character? In discussing this, think about whether the contrast of "moral work" with "economic utilitarianism" is visible and clear to you as a contrast. What would it mean for a physician to present an economic view of his or her work?

c. You may or may not learn about the nature of the emergency response system. The system as it relates to the hospital has two parts. One has to do with the coordination of work within the hospital and the other has to do with the community emergency response system. To the extent you can, learn how each of these systems of emergency response works and describe it.

d. Dr. Vosk is one of the physicians Linda Potter works with in the Gift of Life Foundation program of organ donation. I wanted students to understand something about the culture of the emergency room so that the "downstream" culture of the organ donation system would be more clear. You will hear important things if you talk to Dr. Vosk about how he views mortally injured patients and how he views and relates to their families. Ask him his views, report what he says, and reflect on his responses.