Something amazing happened a few weeks ago, and it came from tragedy. Philadelphia was the scene of a horrific train crash that injured hundreds of people and took eight innocent lives. The injured were taken by the bus loads to hospitals throughout the city, where they were triaged in parking lots, and mass casualty protocols were put into effect.

Countless stories are coming to light about the heroic efforts of the medical teams to save the lives of so many people who suddenly found themselves in a strange city, confused, and afraid. As a Philadelphian, I am proud to say that I know many of these heroes personally. 

What I find most amazing is the ability of the medically minded person to react in times of catastrophe — you don’t think; you just do. The hospitals were able to treat so many people because of the amount of staff that ended up working 20 hours or more, the staff that turned around as soon as they got home to return to the hospital, and the staff that just showed up without being asked because they knew they would be needed.

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These are the kinds of selfless acts that happen so often in the medical field, but go far too unnoticed.

This applies not only to the doctors and nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, it also applies to the groups like registration, transport, and housekeeping whose jobs are vital in keeping the emergency department the well-oiled machine it needs to be during these times of crisis. 

Being involved in medicine, we start getting really good at realizing the best way we can help out in a situation. This was demonstrated when a hospital in Texas knew sending pizza to one of the emergency departments in Philadelphia would be a way they could help from 1,500 miles away. Again, a selfless act that demonstrates how in medicine, we’re always trying to help others, and always trying to have each other’s back.

What happened was an absolute tragedy, but it reminded me just how amazing it is to work in the field of medicine. People tell us every day we’re crazy for choosing our jobs — but giving up the opportunity to work with such great coworkers? We’d be crazy not to.

Jillian Knowles, MMS, PA-C, is an emergency medicine physician assistant in the Philadelphia area.