I broke my leg, doc, so why is that lady playing the harp?

The Emergency Room at St. Joseph's in New Jersey is integrating alternative health options into their everyday care, including music therapy and therapeutic touch

A few days after Heath Belden roasted a chicken for the first time in his life, he fell violently ill. Throwing up every few minutes, he couldn’t even hold water. The then 37-year-old stage manager for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival ended up in the Emergency Room at Ashland Community Hospital where doctors put an IV in his arm to rehydrate him.

Though that was four years ago, Belden and his family have spent a lot of time at Ashland’s ER: His wife Melissa Malm, 45, was treated there for what she thinks was a kidney stone, his 85-year-old mother-in-law has been there three times in the last three years—for impacted stool, a thorn in her foot, and cellulitis—and Belden’s 7-year-old daughter Naomi had to have 16 stitches after a trapeze slammed into her forehead during Circus Camp.

Belden, a quiet man with brown hair and a closely trimmed beard, felt he was treated with respect and kindness at the hospital.

His daughter Naomi, who walks shyly in the door from her tumbling class, had a good experience too.

She got chocolate pudding and animal crackers.

After getting hit in the head with a trapeze, Naomi Malm had to get stitches at the ER. She thinks "heart" music would have helped her heal. Photo courtesy of Melissa Malm.

After getting hit in the head with a trapeze, Naomi Malm had to get stitches at the ER. She thinks “heart” music would have helped her heal. Photo courtesy of Melissa Malm.

But when Jessica VanDerslice, a 24-year-old single mom who runs two businesses out of her home, started hemorrhaging after a miscarriage last week she had a very different experience at Providence Medford Medical Center in Medford, Oregon. Even though her doctor sent her immediately to the ER for a D&C, VanDerslice sat in the waiting room for over an hour. The ER staff were unable to locate her paperwork or reach her doctor for instructions.

“They finally admitted me after I bled all over their bathroom,” VanDerslice explains in an email. “I sat in the room for seven hours while the nurses pulled blood and ran tests, that had already been done thatday by that hospital.”

The doctor who was supposed to perform surgery stalked angrily out of the room—he was furious because the nurses had given VanDerslice water, which was counterindicated for surgery.

A nurse came back later to apologize for his behavior but VanDerslice, already devastated by the miscarriage, felt belittled and ignored.

Mark Rosenberg is trying to make ERs more friendly and inviting for patients and doctors

Mark Rosenberg is trying to make ERs more friendly and inviting for patients and doctors

“I couldn’t believe the miscommunications and unprofessional attitude I experienced this time.”

Many of us have had similar experiences: a high level of personalized care at a smaller community-oriented hospital but a much lower level of care at bigger hospitals where staff can barely keep up with the patients coming in.

Now one doctor in New Jersey is trying to change that.

Dr. Rosenberg is a well-spoken man with a confident demeanor who has a lot of titles after his name.

His mission? To improve communication, integrate holistic health techniques into the emergency room, and provide personalized community-like care at even the country’s busiest emergency rooms…

Read the rest of what Mark Rosenberg is doing to integrate alternative techniques into Emergency Room care at The Rogue Valley Messenger.

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is the author of The Business of Baby. She lives in Ashland with her husband and four children. This article was written in collaboration with the Gerontology Society of America and New American Media’s Metlife Foundation Journalists in Aging Program.

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Categories: health and wellness.


  1. Lauren

    I enjoyed your article! Some of my nursing school friends work as technicians one of the nation’s busiest level 1 trauma centers. They talk about bad attitude, burnout, and high turnover among the nurses. It is a very stressful environment. I remember reading a study about a certain kind of forensic ER nurse (sexual assault nurse examiners, or SANEs) that found a positive association between lower rates of turnover and less of the “agreeableness” personality trait; that is, nicer RNs were less likely to stay in their roles. I wonder if this could be true for ER nurses as well? From the patient side of things, I have read studies that patients have clear expectations that ER personnel skillfully and efficiently execute their roles, a sentiment that was echoed by the people you interviewed for the article. I have experienced how sometimes people have such a great need to be heard, and the nurse has to set limits on the amount of therapeutic communication she can engage in so that she can be efficient and help all the people who need it. It’s a fine line to walk, but it is possible, and it’s what good nurses try to do in the provision of care. It might be easier in a less busy ER, and it is definitely easier when you feel less stressed.

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