With no script, the pace, challenges and “saves” are all real on a new emergency room documentary airing this month, says Oak Bay-raised Dr. Bri Budlovsky.
Emergency Room: Life + Death at VGH on the Knowledge Network follows Budlovsky and her peers on shift at Vancouver General Hospital.
“It is a true documentary in that the crew showed up to the emerg. every day and put microphones on us then disappeared. What you see is really our day-to-day life,” she said in a phone interview from her Vancouver home. “There are always challenging cases, that’s the nature of the job. There are times you want to take a break on shift whether the cameras are there or not. The nature of the job is that after that interaction you have to take a deep breath and put a smile on your face.”
A former Glenlyon Norfolk junior school student, she attended St. Michaels University School for her high schooling then moved out of Oak Bay for her undergrad. Budlovsky lived in Vancouver the last nine years, returning home to Oak Bay for visits with her parents.
“It was easy to decide to be a part of it. It’s an honour to be a part of it and whatever we can do to show everybody what we do is wonderful,” she says. “It’s a chance for my parents to see me at work, which is cool. We’re proud of what we do in the emergency room and we’re proud to be a part of the team and do what we do for people when they come in and are ill or in need.”
Budlovsky had the benefit of witnessing the “humour and humanity” of the first season before filming started on the second season.
“It was exciting to be a part of and show the public what we do every day. We have a public health care system and it really belongs to everybody,” she says. This program accurately demonstrates “why wait times might be long and care staff might look sweaty or rattled.”
Vancouver General Hospital is one of Western Canada’s largest and busiest emergency departments.
“It’s a high-volume tertiary centre and it’s a big emerg.,” she said. “There’s always stream of patients coming through the door. It keeps us on our toes.”
The second season of Emergency Room: Life + Death at VGH continues to examine the high-intensity, life-and-death stakes of emergency medicine, and the issues that arise. It also takes a closer look at the patient’s medical journey, at times following their story with medical specialists beyond the walls of the emergency room.
“I hope people will tune in because it is a public health care system and for us it’s important to start a conversation and demonstrate what we do behind the scenes. We’re proud of it,” she said. “(And) I like to think we all have a really good sense of humour, the drama is there.”
“The first season of Emergency Room: Life + Death at VGH was a complex and risky project for us. But its record-breaking success showed that British Columbians care deeply about these stories and these issues,” said Rudy Buttignol, president and CEO of Knowledge Network. “We were not contemplating a second season so soon, but the public kept asking for more. We are fortunate that our partners, Vancouver Coastal Health and Lark Productions, fully embraced the opportunity.”
Among the issues explored in the six-episode season are problems created by an aging population, the impact of common accidents, and the life-saving role of new technology. One episode is dedicated to the nurses that make up 81 per cent of Vancouver general’s emergency department staff.
Emergency Room: Life + Death at VGH returns to B.C.’s Knowledge Network April 12 at 9 p.m. Episodes will be simulcast at knowledge.ca/er which will also feature 49 web shorts and interactive surveys to spark conversation around health care.
“It’ll go online when it premiers April 12 and that will be the first time we see it too. It’ll be fun to watch and see our colleagues,” Budlovsky says. “There are a few cases they highlight the emergency and then follow up and see the specialty teams on the ward.”