Today’s guest is Elijah Smith! Experienced security officer, knife sharpener and all around interesting individual. I was floored by some of the stories Elijah had to share. Listen is as he shares his years of experience “in the trough” as he puts it.
Elijah Smith has been working in the security industry for 25 years, with a focus on hospital security for the last 16. At the hospital, he is known as the “patient whisperer”, or the “psych whisperer.”
He likes to say “talk them down or tie them down.” Most of the time when he goes in he can keep it to de-escalation. He states he has a bag of tricks, but thinks the whole process is very simple. Elijah thinks it’s about paying attention and human connection.
Currently he has started to transition out of the industry and into his own knife-sharpening business.
- Elijah feels that hospital security is the most interesting and extraordinary thing he has ever done.
- He urges healthcare workers to “stop and listen.”
- Elijah feels his specialty is contact- that deep connection he forms with a patient.
- He comments on how to “attack without attacking.”
- Elijah thinks that people want to hear from security because like all roles “we want our voices heard.”
“We Rescue People”
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Andrew Tisser 0:05
Elijah Smith, welcome to the Talk2MeDoc podcast.
Elijah Smith 0:17
Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited.
Andrew Tisser 0:22
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you again, the response was overwhelming that people want to hear from security. So I’m so happy you accepted my invitation
Elijah Smith 0:32
is exciting also in that we, we often feel like we’re at the bottom of the barrel. So it’s pretty, pretty wonderful to have people want to know about us.
Andrew Tisser 0:41
We’re going to explore all those things today. I already pre recorded just a little few sentences about you. But in your own words, if you could give the listeners just a bit about who you are, what your career has been thus far and kind of what you’re up to.
Elijah Smith 0:55
Okay, I’ve been in security for about 25 years. started out working at Reed College in Portland and ended up working as security at the Benson hotel, which was a fascinating and interesting site. I paid well, I’d still be there. And I worked at the American Red Cross, and then I stumbled into hospital security. And then I was stuck. That was the most interesting and extraordinary thing I’d ever done.
Andrew Tisser 1:27
stuck in a good way. Then.
Elijah Smith 1:28
I was stuck in a good way. I got people there was a I had been in a job for about two weeks and there was this gaggy old heroin meth addict and we were in the hospital room and they were holding her down and she had thrown up and they had tried to do a stomach flush and sometimes and hadn’t worked and there was blood everywhere and there was charcoal and throw up and she had peed herself and I was holding one arm down
I had one arm up under her chin and she was trying to bite me with her snaggle teeth and the doctor looked at me and he said, I am so sorry. And I looked down and they were trying to get a feed into her femoral artery could you didn’t have any available veins and the blood run across her leg and was running down my leg and I was soaked in blood from my knee down to my shoe with Hep C positive blood. And I thought this is the most interesting thing I have ever done.
And that was it. I was I was in you know,
Andrew Tisser 2:38
that’s terrifying. I don’t think a lot of people would have that same response.
Elijah Smith 2:42
Well, I mean, I’ve been doing security for a long time and it’s observe and report and I have always referred to myself as a security diplomat. It’s not about you know, this is what you got to do. That doesn’t ever seem to work with anybody. It was about communicating with people and talking to people and Suddenly I was in the hospital and this was real. It was real stuff. And it was a life and death stuff.
And I’ve been. I’ve been in with people when they were dying. And I had one guy, give me his last words. We didn’t know he was dying at the time. But he, we talked, and he’s been a kind of a problem. And I went away, I calmed him down. And we talked for a while, and he looked at me and he said, grab my hand, he looked in my eyes, and he said, I’ve got to tell you this.
He said, this is really important because I said, Okay, and he said, I did not become the man that I meant to be. And I’m so sorry. And then about a half an hour later, all the systems collapsed, and he died. And and I went to our chaplain, I said, the guy gave me his last words. And so she went to the family and told him that someone had been there and that he had talked about his family and that he had last words and their response was they didn’t want to know
This is just like it was a different anything I ever done, you know?
And I, my parents were extraordinary people who served the community and took care of many, many people. And so I was raised with this concept that everything you do in some way have to be of service and of all places to find out that the place where you did serve people the most in the most intimate in the most terrifying moments was security in a hospital.
Andrew Tisser 4:35
Wow, yeah, that I mean, I am floored by how powerful that moment must have been for you. That’s what why do you think he he trusted you with that?
Elijah Smith 4:47
Well, that gets into my philosophy of security and my specialty. So everybody, the nurses, everybody, they’ve all got their specialties they go in and they you know, they’re the one person’s really good at doing it. These one person is really good at this, you know, it doesn’t feel good, a lot of things. My specialty is contact. I go in and I make contact with people. And you know, in the days of my use, I mean, I was a massage therapist and I studied Pastner meditation and and so what I do I go into a room and I’m big and I’m rested my big security guard, I look pretty threatening, evidently.
And I walk in and I and I make contact and there are a lot of tricks. You know, one thing is a lot of people tattoos, the tattoos and you make a comic second, I’m where’d you get that? And people having a terrible day and you’re all upset. And the tattoo no matter how screwed up they are, they will tell you where they got that tattoo. And so what it mean, you know, or, you know, why did you get that and then that takes them back to where they were when they got it.
So it takes them out of the situation that they’re in takes us back to a better time. And you know, one guy, I was talking to him and I said, so, you know, you’re a musician, and you’ve got to start this up and he says, How did you know that? He said, I am a master guitarist. He said, How did you know? And I said, you just have this aura of music about you. This is gonna be sensitivity and he was all excited. And well, he had a music bar tattooed on his arm. So what else?
You know, there was one guy who wasn’t as nice, but he was yelling and screaming about so Okay, so then I said, you are, you are descended from the Kings you are who come from a long lineage. He’s like, Yes, I will. He had Viking tattoos on him. And, unfortunately, he was also a racist, you know, but um, you know, I have a card, the box where I have this box on my chest, and I walk into a room and I take out compassion and I say, Here’s compassion. And people that say Screw you. And I say, hold on a second, let me make my black like, take out logical.
So here’s why, you know, let’s talk about, you know how we can help you in situation. It’s a screw you and I say, Okay, let’s let’s take out man to man, you know you you are a man. So here’s man to man and he say screw you and pick up off his stocks. And they go whoa. And I say, Well, hold on a second, let me just off back in the box and I’ll take out compassion again. And then they offer compassion. And usually they say, Okay, well put that this is actually pretty good. They usually take compassion at that point. And what I tell people is that if you really pissed off, he says, lost the battle.
But it’s just one of the tools being pissed off is one of the tools.
After 16 years, I have realized also that being compassionate is only one of the tools and if you’re too compassionate, you’re a sucker is a work in this. And so you take compassion out as a tool. You still have to keep your guard up and there’s a whole thing about being compassion and firmness in the security world.
Andrew Tisser 8:13
yeah I’m that’s that’s a very interesting perspective that you have you know, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that before. But it makes a lot of sense intuitively.
Elijah Smith 8:22
And actually, that takes me to the one which is the room. So you know, and I talked to the nurses about this. We had a young nurse. It was it was an old woman and she had Alzheimer’s and her skin it kind of peeled and it was just that because we were holding on to her and we will hold on to it, the skin starts to come off and you’re screaming and she’s kicking and she’s trying to bite and I look up in the nurse, just look the deer in the headlights. And you could tell that she didn’t know what to do and I just looked at the nurse and told her she needed to walk away.
And so later I, we sat down and talked a little bit, I said, so what I do is I pretend that my mind is a big room. And I’m looking out through the windows and I’m really close, I’m looking out through the window. And when things start to get bad, I just back up a little bit so that I can kind of see the window. And everything is a little farther away, and I can hear my breath. And that gives me a little bit of perspective, a subtle moment to step back and look at what’s going on and, and focus on my breathing.
My wife gave me one of those, you know, Fitbit things, I hated it. Suddenly I thought they were uncomfortable, and they wanted me to do a lot of stuff I was I didn’t want to do, but I found them interesting, in that it told me what my heartbeat rate was. And so in the middle of a restraint process, I would look over at my wrist and check in and see my Heartbeat rate is below normal right now.
And that’s the way it should be that when you go into into a restraint code great You should be as calm as you possibly can be. And that includes like, you know, little jokes with your co workers, like, I have a clown nose in my pockets. And people think is for the patients, I would never use that for a patient. But before going to a shrink and I’ll put it on, and I’ll turn to my co workers, they’ll say, don’t be a clown.
Pocket, well, I’ll go in the room and also have a philosophy we call it attack without attacking, which is we have this patient he’s like six foot something, you know, huge guy and he’s getting more and more agitated is coming the room and coming out and it’s coming out. And so we think, okay, we’re gonna have to go to restrain it.
Well, let me try. Let me give let me give it my shot. So I go up to the gate and say, so, you’re getting really agitated, you’re scaring everybody. You know, and he’s going on, you know, so, I’m thinking that you know, if you don’t come down, we’re gonna have to, we’re probably gonna have to restrain you. And while I’m talking I’m putting the restraints on him as we’re standing in the hallway. And I’m putting one on his right wrist, and I put him at risk and we’re talking and and and at some point he kind of looks down and says, are you really doing that?
And I say, Well, yes. And I say okay, and then other officer grabs the other risks and I grit and crap that when we shove them back to the room, swim down on the bed and we restrain him, say, How did you do that? I say, because I don’t, it doesn’t appear that I’m actually doing it. I it’s attacking without attacking I’m completely conversational. And their mind is all in this big cloud of confusion and upset stuff. And if you come in in an aggressive manner, they will resist but if you come in completely non aggressive, they don’t really even recognize what you’re doing.
You know, and it is amazing how many times they have put restraints on people. Just like coming in saying you know what the We have six people by the door, we’re all waiting to run in. And I go in and I sit down, I say, Hi, here, I’m going to start doing this. And they don’t know how to respond. So they don’t until it’s too late, you know, and then it St Pancras we also have the full bore, fighting, kicking, screaming, you know, and my lead officer currently is pretty aggressive. I wouldn’t call it aggressive.
She’s no nonsense, by the book. And I have learned a lot by working with her. Because I’m too much. I’m a little, maybe a little too touchy feely in the world. But you know, she’s very clear. And so, very often I step back and let her take over, watch what she does, and try to learn from her. And then the other lead officer is a saint on the earth. He’s, he makes my level of compassion look pretty weak. He’s just on And kind of people and consider it any advocates for them and you know, you have a patient who is upset.
You know this wasn’t the thing about give him a sandwich you know a lot of people kind of knew what a sandwich give me a sandwich. That’s the first thing they say. And we don’t want to feed the bears, we don’t want to encourage that. At the same time. There are moments where you come into a room and someone’s gonna get you a warm blanket. You know, you bring them a blanket, either and you wrap them up in it feel good and with a feel good. And so anyway,
I can go on and on, you know about this for hours. I think
Andrew Tisser 13:46
this is your show.
Elijah Smith 13:48
I think about we got I got pre contact where when you have a patient who is potentially a problem, you drop by an Indian Do some yourself before the problem gets too big. You something say Hi, Mike to me, john. hi I’m Elijah, can I get you something? And and then when things start to go bad or they find out they’re not allowed to leave because there’s a slight cold or even waiting for six hours and they start to get upset and you come in person he says hi remember me? And and you’re their advocate.
You know, you often have the patients will say, Oh, I won’t talk to my list he’s here for you know, all the little tricks. One of the tricks is you walk into a room where there’s going to be what might be a difficult interview with the doctor and I just wondering, I wonder over in a kind of get in the corner, where I’m out of eyesight. And so after a little while the patient forget some there. And so then the things start to ratchet up. All you have to do is kind of step forward a little bit and I kind of appear.
But also if there’s a physical turns physical, I’m there. And we had a woman who was restrained to the bed and what we call the sacrum and we already had cyclin. So we have restrained beds and she’s restrained and she has. She’s harmed herself pretty severely, and she’s tied down and she’s attacked an officer. So she’s tied down and the doctor comes in and he says, so how can I help you today? What can I do for you? She says, My neck itches, and I can’t reach it. And because he’s tied down, and the doctor looks at her, he says, Hey, you wouldn’t bite me, which she said, No, of course. My neck itches and he reaches over to scratch her neck, and just as she lunges for his hand, I grab a handful of back We’re heading anchor head.
just crazy. It’ll look on the doctors face was priceless because, you know, and my boss was watching said, and that was fast and I said, Of course she was gonna bite. t was obvious she was gonna bite the guy. That’s what she was waiting for this opportunity to bite him.
And she gets forgotten that I was there. Cuz I was just standing behind her, you know, and waiting to see what will happen.
Andrew Tisser 16:29
Well, I, Elijah, it sounds like communication plays a huge role in your day to day work. Could you comment on team based communication as a whole? Do you think maybe not only at your facility, but do you think there are issues within the greater health care team?
Elijah Smith 16:47
Absolutely. There’s, there are issues of Pascal, where security we are there. We’re always there. And so we speak Everything. And when we see, we see who’s good and we see who’s bad, we see who’s taking care of the nurses and we see who don’t who doesn’t. And we see when there’s passed down.
And, and often when we see biases, you know, where people will come in, and there are some nurses don’t like that particular type of person. And that’s not necessarily racial. I mean, it could be a lot of different things. It could be life choices, it can be, you know, they don’t like alcoholics. They don’t you know, whatever it is. And so, we’re not dealing with that patient very much. And so that patients kind of sliding and they don’t like the patient when past outcomes, they don’t really say much.
And so often, there’ll be a passed down and stuff gets missed. And we had a series of patients who get patients who come in who are chronic for something and the worst star, we’ve had a lot autistic patients come in, in Alzheimer’s patients come in, who do seriously live in can’t handle them anymore. And so they, they send them to the emergency room, emergency room has no place to put them. And so we just warehouse them while we’re looking.
And we can’t let it go, we can’t put it out on the street. And we don’t have locks on the doors. And so that turns into a whole nightmare. And, and then from shift to shift, you know, one shift will learn what works for a particular patient, and then they won’t tell the next shift, what works. So every shift has to we learn the problem. And, and some of these patients are made, they may have chronic issues, but they’re pretty smart and they start working it you know, like, this patient isn’t allowed to do this. So you wait till the next shift, and then he gets to do it and he says, well, they allowed me to do it.
So and then they People who like well, they know it all, you know, and so they don’t listen. And it’s, you know, I’ve got to say that we are pretty good in our hospital and we’ve got a great team, we’ve got good social workers who listened to. And you know, my whole thing is all about communication with most of it is focused between me and the patient.
You know, that’s my specialty is communicating with the patient. One of the things that I tell them, there’s so will be up on the floors, and they’ll be a problem patient. And I’ll go and I’ll talk for 10 minutes. So I’ll come up I say get the fixes in. And the patient, the nurse goes into patient apologize and says sorry for their behavior and they won’t do it anymore. And the patient said, the nurses, how did you do that?
And I said, Well, I can teach you everything. I know in under two minutes ago it was, this is all the new nurses, the old nurses all laugh, they know exactly what I’m doing. So I tell parents, I say sit out nurse sits down, I say, Give me your hand, she gives me your hand. Like, I take her hand, one hand, I put my other hand over it, there’s a trick there, which is that if it’s a patient, and you’ve got your hands, both hands, they can’t hit you with it.
And I lean forward, and I say, Are you okay? And they go, Yeah, no, I’m serious. Are you okay? And then they wait for him. And often, you’ll see tears well up in their eyes. And what was that? And I’ll say, how many times in your life does anybody stop and pay attention to you to stop and focus on you and pay attention to you? And they’ll say, never nothing. That’s what I’m teaching you right there. You go in the beginning of the shift, and you sit down with that patient, five minutes and you say how are you and you actually Listen to them, it will change your career.
And that’s the thing that’s sometimes missing in the hospital situation is people stopping and listening, whether they’re softly listening to each other, or listening to the patient. They’ve all got a little things, gonna give them a pill, they’re getting tested and take their blood, urine sample, they changed them, whatever it is, and they haven’t stopped to communicate with the patient.
And the patient comes in, because it’s wild environment, this crazy place, and they don’t understand how it works and they don’t, you know, all this stuff happened, you don’t know anything is for and people come in and start poking them and demanding things from them and they get scared and they get upset, they shut down. Whereas if the nurse comes in and stops and says Hi, I’m here and then just waits for a little bit.
Then boom, that patient has an advocate that patient will love that person. And so in terms of the communication within the department, I think that the key is stopping and listening. The administration, of course, to a whole nother world where, you know, the bean counters have their priorities, administration is their abilities. And you know, and I’m not very good at that, and I try to stay out of it.
And that’s one of the reasons I’ve been there 16 years. One point A number of years ago, they said to me was I interested in being a lead officer and I said, I would rather stab myself in the face with a pencil and be a leader. Because the lead officer is the one who has to go and talk to you ministration and has to work on policies and has to write the reports in the in the proposals and and I don’t want to do any of that. I want to go in and sit and talk to the patient and
You know, and I gotta say the nurses that we get something about know that. I know that a lot of scary people worried about how they’re viewed by the staff or the doctors don’t look like they have a lack of respect within our facility, I don’t see that. We are often sit with a patient for hours, trying to control them trying to redirect them, you know. And so often, when the doctor goes in, the doctor will stop and say, so what’s going on? What do you think? And, you know, it’ll be an FBI patient, which is suicidal ideation in the docs. Do you think okay, you know, it’s baloney.
Obviously, this is a serious issue. This is serious, this person really is really lost. And, you know, sometimes you’re dealing with a patient and you’ve been redirecting their redirecting them and I’ll go find a doctor and say We need a little out of this, we need something to help to bring this patient down. You know, and for the most part because I’ve been there 16 years and people I think, pretty much trust me for the most part people listen.
You know, I get along pretty well with most of the staff. It takes sometimes it takes well people arriving they think or security is going to be this marketable, you know, tough guy doesn’t walk in and, you know, like, stop and tell people what to do. But after you’ve worked with them for a while, and when you come to enough of their patients down for them, redirected people enough or been there at that moment of violence where when the patient Swan, you were there waiting for it, and you’ve rescued their butts, then they start respecting you. And
Andrew Tisser 24:54
sounds like you have a great relationship with the physicians at your facility. Sounds like they actually are involving you in their decision making, which is, which is wonderful. Do you think that’s just a function of your time and experience? Or is that with some of the more junior officers as well?
Elijah Smith 25:12
That’s a good question. That’s part of it is we say it’s how close to the trough Are you in security? Security is an interesting world and I’ve been in it for a long time. And there’s this whole thing and you can’t fly with the Eagles when you work with the turkeys. And there is you know, I, I worked for a while at UPS and honest guys, the officers there were a disaster. On the other hand, they were not getting paid very much. And so, you know, the company didn’t have a lot of options.
There’s contract, there’s in house security, and as an in house security officer, I get paid much better than a contract security officer. Much better benefits. And so we have 150 officers in our system, multiple hospitals 150 officers, and I’ve got to say I’m proud to work with them. We all have our different styles. Some of them are, can be more aggressive or more black and white cut and dry about their approach. But none of them are losers. And a lot of us stay for a long time and we stay for a long time because it’s a decent job.
And it pays well and so when you get contract and they’re just pulling people in and plugging them in, and they’re not allowed to go hands on because of the liability issues. Where is we’re in house we go on hands on a lot. We make a lot of decisions. The same time we have a much better educated And conscious group of officers. So I think that you know, Mark, my boss, people listened to him.
And my, you know, my my direct lead, she is extraordinary. And people listen to her. And the authors who aren’t reliable, they don’t last, you know, they they move on. So I, it’s not just me and I, you know, I mean I love what I do and I’m very dedicated to it and I have all my little tricks and all the stuff that I do, but but I certainly would not say I’m the best officer there. There are a lot of good officers and we all have our own styles and I have an enormous respect for my co workers. Sure.
Andrew Tisser 27:49
Sounds like you have a great organization. The I wanted to ask if one of our previous episodes was with a security supervisor, Rick George. And that far, in a way is the most popular episode thus far. Any idea why people are so interested to hear from security?
Elijah Smith 28:11
It’s kind of amazing to me actually. I know that in the world of security, a lot of people are pretty ashamed of their profession. I mean, a lot of the markets, a lot of them do extraordinary things and extraordinary situations, but but it is not a high profile, cool jobs curious. I have never had a moment where I’ve been ashamed of what I do. I am enormously proud of what I do.
And when I tell people, they’re almost always interested. We deal with the burnout in in the ED for nurses about six years, and then they look to the baby winners. They moved to the or, you know, because it’s just, you get jaded and it gets crazy. And although we don’t have to wait, but, and, you know, that carried bedpans, although, you know, we often get into patient care. I’ve distracted myself and I can’t remember what I was saying. What was the question?
Andrew Tisser 29:28
Why do you think people want to hear from security?
Elijah Smith 29:30
Okay, if you want to hear from security, we’re down in the trenches with the worst of the worst all the time. You know, it’s when when it goes down when the shit goes down, and we run towards it, not away from it. You know, so and we rescue people. You know, a lot of a lot of hospitals don’t have success. Or the security they have is contracts period is not allowed to go hands on. And that’s an extraordinarily difficult situation.
But we are know we have a we have a pager system where when a flag patient patients been flagged for violence comes in, we get an automatic page. And so we just show up. And so just about the time the nurse starts thinking, Oh, this is a bad situation, they turn around, and I’m standing behind the door waiting. And they’re like, oh, okay, so when we were allowed to as a profession, we are the knights and white armor.
We show up and we rescue people. And we see, you know, in a nurses day, she sees you know, maybe one or two or sometimes it’s battle day, but they see difficult patients periodically, where we see them All the time, that’s all we do pretty much is typical situations. And I think that I think that there is a deep appreciation amongst hospital staff for that. You know, when I walk down the hallway, people say, Oh, hi. Like, they’re excited to see me.
And when I run into the nursing supervisor, you know, you have a new officer, and we’re walking around the hospital, the nursing, nursing supervisor stops and introduces herself to us. And, you know, when you get new security, they’re like, Wow, that’s amazing. Well, that’s what hospital security is. It’s it’s interesting in the trenches, difficult work, and I think, I think it’s, people are curious about it, and you know, I, to be a good officer, I think it takes a special kind of person.
And it’s not necessarily Early, you know, people say will be a great position for an ex police officer for military. And sometimes that’s true and sometimes it’s not, but it really comes down to you’re a good, you’re a good officer if you’re a peaceful person. And if you are good at communicating, and I don’t know if any of that answers the question is kind of a surprise because you know, we are kind of lower in the hierarchy, and we get paid less than the nurses do. You get you get doctors, nurses, techs, security, and then housekeeping. You know, which is interesting, because the whole system revolve housekeeping, I think should be way further up in the hierarchy than, than they are.
Andrew Tisser 32:45
I agree. One of our future episodes will feature one of the housekeeping stuff, so stay tuned for that one. I mean, the goal of the show is to hopefully try and eliminate some of the hierarchy that’s really an ancient concept and unfortunately, so persists in medicine, not really, so much and other industries. So my goal here is to try and break down some of the barriers and see how everyone can work together as a team to really benefit our patients. So I’m glad I mean, I’m glad that you have had such a lovely, fulfilling career that that you’re proud of and hopefully can inspire more younger officers to have the same
Elijah Smith 33:24
Well yes, I had a co worker who did not appreciate my approach to things he felt I was I was coddling patients and that I was too touchy feely and he was a little bit more came from a police background and well, we had a patient to one his crutch was going to clock my coworker and I stepped up and I blocked the crutch and I turned around I used the quest to pin the guidance to the to the bed. My coworker looked at me like, Oh my god, I said, you just saved my ass.
And from that moment on, he and I got along like a house on fire. And what he figured out pretty quick was that if I went into a room first and tried to de escalate the situation and tried to, to turn it away, the chances are we weren’t going to have to write a report. And if you went in first chances are we were gonna have to write a report. So pretty quick. We go to we go to a fight, and we both stop and say, Okay, you go do your thing. And I go away, and I try to work it and I try to calm the patient down, and I try to do whatever we can. If we can’t, we can’t, but it takes all kinds and we all work together.
And if you’re effective, you gain the respect of your co workers and the younger guys. When they see me walk into a room, I felt the there was a big fight in the room and one of the officers had his pepper spray out, and it was all kind of going to hell in hand. baskets and I walked in, I kind of stepped off, excuse me push the way out each way forward and said, Hi, I’m Ellie, I’m here for you. I’m Elijah. You my hand, I said, I’m here. And I stopped and you said took my hand. And I said, Let’s talk the fact that on the day, next week, we started talking. And the young girl says, How did you do that? And they say, well, it’s the expectation of success. It’s everything is this cranked up.
And it’s an opportunity to stop it. Nobody really wants to fight is an opportunity. And I, I just want to say hi, I just expect this to work. And I’m going to say it’s going to be completely normal in this situation, and completely friendly. It’s amazing how often that works. And you do that in front of your young officers a couple of times, and they start trying to figure it out. That’s fine. That’s interesting. And I’m I had been kicked punch bit spit on Pete on name it over my career I you know I I just gotten a tattoo on my arm of a dragon and I was walking someone off the property and I touched your shoulders you put down a bit me right in the face of the dragon head flush down my arm, like oh my god, did you fit me
but uh most of it is it’s all about diplomacy and communication and things I wanted to say was I caught the milk of the Viper.
It stings while it poisoned foot so you have all these amazing experiences and these almost transcendent connections with people sometimes. And it is exhausting and 16 years of it, I’m like, I just about had it is time for the younger kids to take over. You know, there was a short the one to say was there was a we had a patient, big guy who evidently in his normal life was a fixer kind of like, the story was that a friend of his, her husband had beaten her. And he went and he beat the tar out of that guy, and said, if you ever touch your wife and I will come and kill you, and so this is a guy, but now we have him. He has Alzheimer’s, he can’t talk anymore.
And he’s in what they call it Posey bed, which is a hospital bed with a cage built around it, soft cage. And these if the patient in so the patient can’t wander. If this guy’s in a Posey bed, and he has pooped in the Posey bed, in he’s violent and he’s aggressive and which always tells me that he was a strong character when he still had his mind because people are getting Alzheimer’s and they still want to get their way. They don’t know what their way is anymore.
They become frustrated and they want to get out and they, they want something they don’t know what it is. And so they call me and I come running in that a lot of stuff going on in the hospital. And I went and I unzipped, I unzip the Posey bird, and I reached in I’d say, Hi, nice to meet, you put my hand up, like I’m going to shake his hand, which is a kind of an unconscious thing that people do. And so his hand comes up, like he’s going to shake my hand and I grab it before he can realize what’s going on. And his eyes get wide and reaches for Windows gonna grab that hand, got both his hands, and he is ready to rage. And he’s a big guy and I and I lean forward and I say you want my sunshine, my only sunshine. I think it’s just funny look at as it starts to sing along.
And not only does he think that he knows all the words and he’s good We’re singing together and all the nurses are coming into the room doing what’s going on in here. And he and I are singing You are my sunshine and other nurses are unzipping the other side of the bed and they’re cleaning the bed and they’re cleaning him and they’re, they’re wiping everything down. And for some reason he has piled all this poop up in a little pile up at the top of the bed. We don’t know why he does that, cleaning that up and they put diapers on him. And then we go from, you’re my sunshine, we go into my wild Irish rose.
And then he starts speaking in a brogue and he’s got this great broke, and he starts flirting with the nurses and saying, I’m pretty good, right? You know, and it’s just hilarious. And then boom, is inside the cage up, I let go of him. And you see his eyes go wild again and he’s gone again. He’s not home anymore. And then he starts thrashing around. And it’s one of the most amazing moments of my career. And one of the most difficult because there is no happy ending. guys never really going to be okay again, he’s gonna die. It’s gonna be a miserable, hard, difficult death.
And although he’s had this incredible experience with him, it’s a drain, and you go home and you’re exhausted, but he had to fight or not. And another old lady who was sitting in a room and she was just sobbing and sobbing, she wouldn’t go back to her bed. And little teeny thing and I came in, and I sat down. Next one, I said, Come on, babe. And I just put my arms around her and pulled her to my chest. I’m wearing the big security best with all the stuff on it and everything. And I just pulled her to me and I say it’s interesting, sobbing uncontrollably.
I want to go home and she doesn’t know where home is. And she wants to see your family and there’s no family around. And I say, Let’s sing a little thought. So I thought, my sunshine and she spent away It always works. But she starts to sing and she saw me she sees And so you sing that for a while, and I said, Come on, let’s go back to that. She says, okay, she’s still sobbing and I take her back to a bed and I tuck her in. and I say, it was really nice meeting you, honey. And she looks up at me to you.
And then I leave, and that’s what the job can be. And at the same time, you know, I had an encounter with a with a young autistic kid who we interacted for a little while, and he he put his arms around me and gave me a big hug. And then he hit me in the nose so hard just about broken. I read for two weeks, and it was right out of the blue, and that’s what he does. And nobody else why he could be saying I love you. We just don’t have a clue.
Andrew Tisser 41:58
thanks for sharing those stories with us. They’re, they’re really powerful honestly and varied. But thank thank you, Elijah for everything you do.
Elijah Smith 42:06
It’s it’s a fascinating job and I’m looking forward to retirement here pretty quick.
Andrew Tisser 42:12
I think you’ve earned it. Hey, we’re gonna run out of time. But I’d like to ask you just a few more questions. Okay. Just to get to know you a little bit more. I myself am an avid reader. Do you happen to have a favorite book or and or a book recommendation for the listeners?
Elijah Smith 42:30
Well, I love I love Kabuki Murakami as a Japanese author, I love everything he does. Fascinating voice. And I love it. One of my favorite books was the God of small things by Arundhati Roy. I love how they handle language. You know, I love historical novels, I love novel space and other cultures. But mostly what I really like is People who handle the language beautifully. I find that often, for whatever reason, there are a lot of foreign authors or authors who I think handle the language better than most American authors. Arundhati Roy is certainly one of them, I would recommend the God of small things.
Andrew Tisser 43:17
Okay. I’ll be sure to check those out. What do you what do you like to do for fun? Well,
Elijah Smith 43:25
about seven years ago, I come home from work. I’m just wired to the gills and it’s been difficult and painful and exciting. And so I would come home and I would sharpen knives. And that was another rabbit hole. I got involved in that I got deeper into it, I got better at it. And the next thing you know, I started a little business. And so I sharpened about 10,000 knives a year on the side of a master knife sharpener. And it’s very centering and meditative, and how
Andrew Tisser 44:00
So are these did people like walk into your shop? Or how to how does that work?
Yep, was my that’s my retirement plan I I realized also I was getting too old for the business and for his hospital business. I’m almost 65 I’m way more fragile than I used to be. I takes me longer to heal. And so I started sharpening more knives I got involved in a little bit of doing social media advertising, which I really enjoy photography and I do little videos and I play with with that. And so we’re looking at retiring this year in sharpening full time which is it’s my hobby and my in my joy and, and my business now, and that dogs still
Andrew Tisser 44:50
My dog just happened to walk right into the office right now, just as you said that
Elijah Smith 44:56
both both of my dogs have been coming in and out during the entire interview. demanding attention and I absolutely love dogs I love, you know, communing with them and bonding with and sleeping with them and you know,
Andrew Tisser 45:11
I’m with you they definitely enrich our lives. And another question for you if you could give physicians or other clinicians just single piece of advice in the realm of communication, whether that be within the team or with their patients. What would that be?
Elijah Smith 45:30
stop and listen. That’s it. It’s all about listening.
Andrew Tisser 45:39
I agree. I’m going to try that trick that you were talking about earlier you did with the nurse, maybe on my next shift.
Elijah Smith 45:46
Oh, you’ll be amazed if that doesn’t one is it? You know, answers often come from surprising places. Sometimes it’s a security and OCD. Sometimes if the housekeeper who knows the answer, and often this the tech, the Ed Tech, who knows the answer Ed techs are again, one of the things that makes the whole thing work.
They’re amazing and they’re there and they do everything. And they often know, they spend often more time with a patient than the nurses do. And so, security and Ed techs are our real resources for doctors and nurses. Pay attention and listen.
Andrew Tisser 46:33
I agree, I can’t tell you the amount of times texts have saved my butt security has a not only in a physical or dangerous situation by just something I didn’t notice or something the patient mentioned to them. And if we didn’t have that kind of relationship where we can just chat then I would have been in a lot of trouble a few times.
Elijah Smith 46:53
So of our doctors, we got the greatest doctors ever. You know, the doctors in our emergency department are being Catholic, I don’t think they’re, you know, they’ve all got different styles. But it’s a great team and I’m proud to work with them.
Andrew Tisser 47:09
Yeah, that’s amazing. I’m very happy that you have such a great working relationship. So alijah if people wanted to reach out to or learn more, either about security or sharpening knives or anything you want to tell them, how can they reach you?
Elijah Smith 47:23
Well, I have a website, it’s www.patronsaintofknives.com. And I’m also on Facebook as a patron saint of knives. And that’s my business things.
Andrew Tisser 47:38
Great. And for the listeners, all that will be in the show notes with links. Live has been a lot of fun. I learned a lot. I definitely I’m going to take some reflection on some of the things you said today and see how it can help improve my relationships throughout my job and my home and everything. So I want to thank you again for coming. On the show and thank you again for your years of service you here a very incredible person and I hope to talk to you again soon.
Elijah Smith 48:08
Okay, well, thank you so much if I’m an eclectic person, if nothing else, but it’s been great talking to you, and I really appreciate the interest and I can say all of us in the emergency department, the hospital. We want our voices heard, and their amazing stories that happened every single day, and I’m proud to be part of it.
Andrew Tisser 48:33
thank you again. We’ll talk soon.
Elijah Smith 48:35
Okay, thank you so much. You. Take care
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