Meet Dr. Katrina Green
I have been working in an urban hospital that cares for inner city uninsured and Medicaid patients as well as a critical access rural hospital.
Tell Us About Your Career Path
I’ve worked in the Nashville area since graduating residency, nearly 10 years ago. I was at the same hospital until I became more aware that I did not like the way my for-profit hospital was being run and my efforts to improve patient care in my ED never went anywhere. I gave myself two months off to rest after working hard throughout the pandemic. I then began working at Nashville General Hospital, a public hospital serving a high percentage of minority and uninsured patients. At the same time, I decided to try rural medicine and now cover the night shift part-time in a town ninety minutes from Nashville where I am the only physician on duty in the emergency department. It’s been a big change, but a refreshing one, and I’m glad to be caring for the most in-need patients at both sites. The inner city and rural settings are similar in the numbers of patients who have no insurance or access to primary care, thus using the ED for all their medical needs.
Can you cite any particular instance(s) or individuals that influenced your career choices?
Jennifer (Walthal) Sullivan, MD was one of my attending physicians and a program director for t my residency program. She leads the advocacy track at Indiana University and has inspired me to do advocacy work and community activism going throughout my career. She also taught me that it’s very important to bring snacks for night shifts, a critical hack that continued to do throughout my career.
Are you active in any AMWA initiatives?
I have not been involved in any initiatives thus far but I’m very interested in joining the advocacy committee at some point. This pandemic has taught me that it’s very important for physicians to be vocal advocates for public health and safety in times of crisis.
What challenges have you faced in your medical career?
The biggest challenge was obviously this pandemic. I had never faced anything like this before in my career. Even the H1N1 outbreak that occurred when I was a resident was not anywhere near as hard. However, I remember vividly how scared I was when we were watching young people infected with the flu going into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome ARDS and needing to be intubated. The husband of one of my attending physicians was one of those young people needing to be admitted to the ICU and put on a ventilator. Fortunately, Luckily he pulled through. I was the first physician in my hospital to have treated a patient with a positive Covid test in my emergency department. I remember how scared I was thinking that I could end up with the virus that I had seen killing our colleagues in Italy and China.
With my fellow emergency physicians, I continue to work hard and follow the changing CDC and WHO guidelines. We saw interesting things happen in our Emergency Department as the number of admissions dropped volumes dropped initially because as people were worried about contracting the virus and were actually following the advice of public health officials and staying home. Eventually, the admission numbers climbed volumes picked back up as the virus surged and we found our hospital, which has always been short-staffed, even further stretched even further. I clearly remember clearly on one night shift where my entire hospital was full, my emergency department was full, and many of those beds were occupied by patients who were admitted and waiting for a bed on beds upstairs.
The waiting room had over 20 patients waiting to be seen in it and we had three ambulances on the way with transfers from other hospitals. The EMS radio then went off despite us being on diversion, letting us know they were on the way with a critically ill patient coming from home. My charge nurse and I looked at each other and we just felt defeated. We had no idea where we were going to put four critically ill patients in an emergency department that was already operating way above our nursing capacity. That was one of the hardest nights of my career. I almost cried on shift that day but I managed to hold back keep in those tears until I got and shed them at home
Given your lived experiences, do you have any advice for women in medicine?
Make sure that you are able to keep the passion for medicine alive, whether that means trying to improve conditions at your workplace on a committee, volunteering outside the hospital, or mentoring others. Also, remember that work is not everything. Having a good work/life balance is incredibly important, especially when times are as tough as they are now. Make sure that you have a good support network with people you can count on.
Is there a moment that has impacted your career trajectory or impacted your professional path within or outside medicine?
My big aha moment came when we nearly lost my mother-in-law to COVID. It reminded me of how precious life is and reinforced how important family is to me. This is one of the factors that has played a role in my decision to remain part-time as an emergency physician, giving me more time to be with my family.