Paint it black: Doctors Q&A on new LA hospitals

The Loft in Drescher Hall had mostly nursing students seated at its long, board meeting-esque, natural finish table, noshing on vegan food provided by the health club. If Jamie Eng and Luis Enriquez, two of the medical professionals featured in "Code Black," were invited to speak to the Santa Monica College nursing program about their experiences in the field, it would have essentially been the same thing. The humanization of medical professionals that began with the screening continued with the Q&A. This didn't feel like it should be a Q&A session for the documentary "Code Black," a documentary about the daily challenges emergency room doctors and nurses face at LA County+ USC Medical Center, which was screened in Art 214 on Thursday morning. While the actual screening was practically filled with students, most of them left for classes afterward or stayed just long enough to be counted for extra credit for clubs and classes.

What they missed was a session where nearly everyone seemed to hang on every word Eng and Enriquez said, be it anecdotes or practical advice. SMC English professor David Burak, one of the event's organizers, said that he'd never been to a Q&A where everyone was so focused on what the guests had to say. "The payoff is that the people appreciate the event. They're serious about what they want to do."

As far as what has been done about the lengthy patient wait times discussed in the film, it is a widespread problem that goes beyond our county's health system and has yet to be solved. County+USC saw 500 patients a day according to the film, and had 140 beds available, while one of Eng's current hospitals, Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center, sees 200 patients a day to thirty-one beds, evidence that emergency care is becoming the public's "main source of care," in Enriquez's words.

Given that mostly nursing students, arguably the most excited about the film, were present, most of the questions would be the type of questions nursing students would ask: questions to help prepare them for their future. They had essentially just spent an hour and a half watching what they might face in the near future, and used the Q&A as an opportunity to network as well. Eng and Enriquez had their share of advice to give about going into the field, much of which anyone with a job could relate to or use on some level. "You have to have a lot of gumption, a lot of self-initiative. If you're not learning from your job, that's a job you don't need to have," said Eng.

"Shoot for the hardest thing possible"…because you'll get farther ahead than if you set a low standard," said Enriquez on what it takes to work in the ER. Both advised making mistakes while learning because "this is the most acceptable time to make mistakes," and "failure, or the risk of failure, drives excellence," according to Eng and Enriquez, respectively.

Bureaucracy and lengthy paperwork aside, according to Enriquez,"you gotta be a cowboy" to be a good ER nurse, despite the film's insinuation that the days of taking matters into one's own hands in the ER to make patients a priority were over. On screen that meant breaking Cal-OSHA guidelines, risking a HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, violation, or suffering a fine for doing so in order to reach patients in less than twelve or eighteen hours. This meant the ratios given in the above graph, and "training yourself to do what's right," according to Eng for a quick recovery from the emotional toll the environment of the ER can take as well as its frustrating bureaucratic side. "You have to build up your mental went into this job because you wanted to do the right thing."