According to The Emergitones, it’s easy to find similarities between practicing emergency medicine and performing with a band. Both environments require collaboration and the ability to respond intuitively to the emotions and vibe of others around you. Teamwork is key, according to Dr. Rossip. “The most satisfying shifts are when everyone is working together to help the patient—nursing, admin, consultants, family, etc.—with each person doing their best to help the others do their jobs as well as possible,” he said. “The same goes when playing music on stage: The audience always picks up on the performers’ interactions and also their attitudes toward each other. It’s a great experience when each player’s first goal is to make their bandmates shine.”
For Dr. Hobbs, it’s all about the thrill: “The absolute rush of being onstage is very similar to the rush I get with my challenging patients and clinical situations in the ED.” Dr. Dattaro agreed, saying that emergency medicine and music both have “drama, pace, impact, tempo, and passion.”
There is a common rhythm to both the emergency department and the stage, according to Dr. Rossip: “The intensity and thrill of it all—the whole ebb and flow of moments of relative quiet building up to moments of extreme excitement and then back again.”
Jazz has the fundamental musical elements of melody, harmony, and rhythm, but it has a little something special, too—improvisation. It’s that creative, flexible nature that appeals to emergency physicians, who have to be similarly adaptable to stay in tune in the emergency department.
“In emergency medicine, you can’t be rigid. You can’t treat every patient the same way,” Dr. Reisdorff said. “In our field, that ability to figure things out and improvise—I think really does make you a better emergency physician.” He said the ability to change is essential in jazz as well because jazz musicians will adjust what they are playing based on the sounds they are hearing.
These emergency physicians and jazz musicians have practiced and trained in both disciplines enough to expect, and enjoy, the unexpected. “You never know exactly what’s coming, but you’re generally pleased with the results,” Dr. Henry said.
For The Emergitones, music is both personal and communal. On an individual level, they turn to their musical outlets for solace, relaxation, and reinvigoration. It helps them wind down and find balance after long shifts in the emergency department. However, art is meant to be shared, and having a band of musicians who live in different parts of the country is a testament to music’s magical way of bringing people together. The Emergitones formed a special connection through purpose, profession, and passion, and that has a nice rhythm to it.