“It requires a lot of flexibility and problem solving”
May 23 – Shannon Berry, an emergency physician at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, wonders if she could become a doctor.
She was fascinated by physics and astronomy but realized in college that these fields were not very social. As a scientist, she wanted to work with human beings rather than in the laboratory.
At the University of Washington, she applied to both nursing school, nurse practitioner school, and medical school, feeling the latter was out of reach.
“I doubted myself a lot,” Berry recalls.
She was accepted into all three programs.
After UW, Berry completed an emergency medicine residency at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital, which now employs her at Columbia Memorial. She joined the small critical-access hospital in 2017, commuting from southeast Portland until she and her husband moved to Astoria in 2019.
Berry is also the medical director of the Medix Ambulance Service, where she oversees staff training, reviews medical cases and develops protocols.
Before medical school, she wanted to be an obstetrician-gynecologist. Her goal was to open a birth center.
But the emergencies, the diversity of the patients and their conditions, called him.
“I grew up quite poor and without health insurance,” she said, “and so it really meant a lot to me to be able to treat people from all walks of life, regardless of their ability to pay.”
In the emergency room, Barry treats people suffering from medical emergencies, mental health crises and traumatic injuries. From people suffering from heart attacks and strokes, to psychotic or suicidal thoughts, to the fallout from car accidents, Berry and his colleagues see everyone who walks through the door.
“You have to know a bit of everything,” she says.
Even without a pandemic adding pressure on hospital staff, ERs face complex social issues – such as the effects of homelessness and intoxication – that seem to take longer and longer. staff resources.
People at the end of life—those who cannot care for themselves at home and have no one to watch over them—often don’t know where to turn. There is nothing imminently wrong with them, but they live with the threat of something happening – a fall, an inability to feed or go to the bathroom – after they come out.
Berry worries about them when they leave.
“I try my best to solve these problems, and often I just feel ineffective and a little helpless, and I want to help, but I just can’t because of the constraints of the health system,” she said. declared.
Despite the challenges, Berry loves her job – the collaborative environment, the team approach, the interactions with her patients. “It requires a lot of flexibility and problem solving, and those are skills that really interest me, that make the job very interesting,” she said.
Originally from Virginia, Berry is a world traveler, foodie tourist and a “Northwest action figure type”, she said – a skier, hiker, cyclist and outdoor enthusiast .
Berry wants to get into sailing, fishing and crabbing. She is less interested in surfing because of the shark injuries she sees in the ER.
She also plays soccer and wonders why there is no women’s soccer league on the north coast. “I think trying to figure out if we can make it happen,” she said.