I’m sure everyone has been there once in their life, waiting for what seems like forever to see a doctor. In doctor’s offices’ it is almost assumed that if your appointment is at 4PM you really will be seen at 4:45. However, it seems that when patients decide to register at their local ER their “emergency” is the ONLY one, not the 30 other people with their “emergency” sitting in the waiting room….so in order to blow off a little steam and maybe shine some light on WHY emergency department wait times can be so lengthy I’ve created my top few reasons:
1. Acuity – you know that back pain you have had for the past 6 months? Well hate to break it to you but that is not a life or death situation. However, that guy that you just watched and specifically point out to me that “hey that dude was here waayyyy after me and he just went in” well that guy, sir, was hit by a car at 30mph and any second now you will hear a trauma paged over head. I bet he has worse back pain than you.
2. Diagnostics – As nurses, we generally like to move our patients into and out of the department as fast as possible, however we are not responsible for labs ordered, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI’s – any sort of imaging, we don’t have the student loans to back up those types of orders. All those tests take time, they allow staff to make the right decisions about your care. In the ER, bloodwork is drawn and resulted in about 45 minutes, radiology is completed and resulted in a few hours…imagine if you did that all on an outpatient basis – it would take WEEKS!
3. Communication – so the ER doc as decided you’re sick enough to win yourself an overnight in the hospital, whoo! Free hospital food! So although you think since you’re “admitted” it means a bed is ready and waiting for you with a RN at your beckon call you couldn’t be further from the truth. Now the MD who is going to be responsible for your care in the hospital has to come and evaluate you for themselves. then write orders, then put a bed order in, then if we are BOTH lucky you will get a bed assigned….
4. A bed is assigned, Great! Now you are no longer my problem, I’ve been getting tired of answering your call bell for a ginger ale when I am up to my eye balls in diarrhea in the room next door. Now comes the chore of attempting to call report to the receiving RN on whichever floor you are going to be staying. This process can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, so when that room that you’re staying in could’ve been turned over for another patient, depending on the report process it might take that much longer.
5. Sick patients – The ICU in most hospitals has a patient to RN ratio of 2:1, in the ER, if we are LUCKY and it is a relatively slow day we have 5 patients, any number of those patients can be critical enough to go to the ICU. If I were caring for your Mom and she was intubated, being kept alive by 6 different drugs, wouldn’t you want all my attention to her? Yeah, I thought so. Sick patients are time consuming, they deserve to be. So while I am trying to take care of your dying Mother, the rest of my assignment is going to crap. All those people in the waiting room don’t care that I’m sweating my ovaries off sticking tubes in every orifice I can, they just want their stretchers and warm blankets out of the waiting room.
So, folks, next time you’re in the ER and are getting pissed about the wait time, think about it..could your emergency be solved Monday morning at the clinic or your primary? Also, please don’t yell at the staff, we get called every name in the book all day ‘er day, it gets old, it wears on your, it sucks your soul – treat us just like you would any other human. We are humans with families and this is our job, please respect us as much as we respect you.