Nightmares Case 2: Pneumonia

This is the second in a case series we will be publishing that make up “The Nightmares Course”.

The Nightmares Course at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) was developed in 2011 by Drs. Dan Howes and Mike O’Connor. The course emerged organically in response to requests from first year residents wanting more training in the response to acutely unwell patients. In 2014, Dr. Tim Chaplin took over as the course director and has expanded the course to include first year residents from 14 programs and to provide both formative feedback and summative assessment. The course involves 4 sessions between August and November and a summative OSCE in December. Each session involves 4-5 residents and covers 3 simulated scenarios that are based on common calls to the floor. The course has been adapted for use at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Calgary.

Why it Matters

The first few months of residency can be a stressful time with long nights on call and the adjustment to a new level of responsibility. While help should always be available, the first few minutes of managing a decompensating patient is something all junior residents must be competent at. This case series will help to accomplish that through simulation.

Clinical Vignette

Mr. Jim Smith is a 64 year old male that was admitted 3 days ago. He was diagnosed with a community acquired pneumonia and started on daily Moxifloxacin. The nurse is concerned about his increasing shortness of breath since she started the night shift 4 hours ago.

Case Summary

In this case, the patient has been admitted for pneumonia and treated with the usual antibiotics. However, the team has not yet recognized that the causative bacteria is resistant to this antibiotic. The pneumonia has progressed and the team must manage the patient’s respiratory distress and sepsis. The patient requires a change in antibiotics, non-invasive ventilatory support and IV fluid resuscitation.

Download the Case Here

Nightmares Course #2: Pneumonia

EKG for the Case

Pulmonary disease pattern COPD ECG

Chest X-ray for the Case

Chest X-ray:

Acute Respiratory Distress

This case is written by Dr. Lindsey McMurray. She is a PGY4 Emergency Medicine resident from the University of Toronto who is currently doing a Resuscitation and Reanimation fellowship at Queen’s University.

Why it Matters

When the cause of acute respiratory distress is clear, its management can feel routine. However, as many senior physicians can attest, sometimes the cause is quite uncertain. It is important for junior learners to work through this differential because:

  • Acute respiratory distress is a relatively common patient presentation
  • Simultaneous initiation of investigations and treatment requires significant resource management skills
  • Delays to treatment in the critically ill patient can lead to poor outcomes

Clinical Vignette

You are on the Gynecology service and have been paged by the ward nurse to attend to a 78 year old woman who is having trouble breathing. She is POD #0 from a 4 hour TAH+BSO operation for ovarian CA. She just got to the ward about 1 hour ago. You enter the patient’s room she is hooked up to an IV with NS running at 150cc/hr.

Case Summary

A 78 year old woman post-op from a TAH+ BSO for ovarian CA has just been transferred to the ward when she develops acute shortness of breath. When the resident arrives, the patient is in significant respiratory distress saturating 80% on RA. Oxygen and medical therapy will not adequately relieve the patient’s distress. The resident will need to recognize that the patient has a Grade 3-4 LV and received 2L of fluid intra-operatively. When BiPAP is called for, it will be unavailable. Ultimately, the patient will require intubation.

Download the case here: Acute Respiratory Distress

ECG for case found here:

ECG lateral changes

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CXR for case found here:


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