Words From a Nurse: Why You Wait 6 Hours in an Emergency Room
Are You Frustrated? I Know I Am
Have you ever been to an emergency room where you spent the better part of your day either in the waiting room or lying on an uncomfortable bed on wheels, desperately wondering when someone was going to tell you what it is that is wrong with you—or fix what you already know is wrong? Me too! I work in one.
Not only is visiting an emergency room a grueling experience for you, it is a grueling experience for those of us who work in them as well. As a registered nurse, I have found that we, the nurses, typically take the brunt of the population's frustration with the ever popular (sarcastic sigh) American health care system. This saddens me and makes me want to spread the word to all that it's just not our fault! (Not all of us anyway).
I think you may be surprised to find out that long wait times in emergency rooms are typically not caused by the staff at all. Why so long then? Are you ready for this? The patients make wait times so long. Don't believe me? The next time you are in an ER wretching your guts up because you have some vicious gastroenteritis and haven't even been able to hold down ginger ale...take a look around you. You just may see someone else with the same complaint as you, but they are kicked back, laughing. Why are they there you ask? Well, that is the question of the day—every day—if you are staff in an ER. This is only one example of many that I can provide you. And this is the exact reason that ERs are flooded to and above capacity. Somewhere along the line, ERs have become America's clinic or replacement for a Primary Care Doctor.
What this means to you: as a patient that is in severe pain or discomfort, you must wait your turn as others bombard us for pregnancy tests, gynecological exams, work excuses, sore throats, sniffles, and sneezes that would not normally be considered in need of emergent care. Don't get me wrong, I love my patients, and even the ones who come in for the less than emergent care often make my day and bring a smile to my face. But as I care for them, I could be caring for you faster and more efficient. When they walk through those ER doors, they rate my attention as much as anyone else does, unless a life or limb situation presents.
What this means for me: you are mad at me. You are mad at the doctor. You are mad at the world because you are hurting, or vomiting, or your loved one is sick and you are sitting in the waiting room because there are no beds in the ER. You hate me when I walk into your room because I made you wait. You hate me because I am wearing that blue uniform and I am one of them. You hate me because I cannot give you anything for pain without a doctor's order and it may be another hour before a doctor makes it in to see you. You hate me because you feel like I am going to let you die right there.
I know that you are angry and that you hate me. But I will still do my job, and I will care for you to the best of my ability. You will argue with me and tell me how incompetent I am and that my place of employment is a joke. I will smile. Not because I am laughing at you, but because I am struggling with the very same feelings that you are. I am angry too. I am angry that I cannot heal you and that I cannot take your pain away. I am angry that you had to wait. I am angry at the person who was in the room before you complaining of abdominal pain eating their Doritos and drinking their Pepsi. Their tests were all negative (meaning they're okay), and nothing was wrong with them. But they did ask me for some Vicodin and a work excuse on the way out. And we gave them Vicodin and a work excuse because pain is subjective and who are we to judge.
That is why you wait 6 hours in an emergency room.
All my love to the truly sick people of the world. I hope that someday you will reclaim emergency rooms everywhere!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2009 coryann