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London Health Sciences Centre (University Hospital), September 19, 2023
London Health Sciences Centre (University Hospital), September 19, 2023 Photo by Geoff Robins

Dr. Rebecca Barnfield examines a patient who came into London Health Sciences Centre’s emergency department with pain that wouldn’t let up. Barnfield is a resident in emergency medicine at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

Beyond the physical exam, she also provides warmth and reassurance. “When you see someone in the emergency department, you see them in their street clothes, you see them with the stuff they came in with in their pockets, you see them as they are and as they exist outside of the walls of the hospital,” says Barnfield.

“You also see some patients on the worst day of their lives or at their most vulnerable.”

This patient is one of many Barnfield sees on this day, from another in tears after a night in pain, to those seeking emergency treatment for mental health or addictions.

“Given the overwhelming burden on the system as a whole, it means the role of an emergency medicine doctor is expanding,” she said. “For me, the human side of medicine — understanding all the factors that led them to the emergency department — is why I chose to practise medicine in the first place.”