Thursday, May 7, 2015

Are ED Patients Selfish?

When I first read it, I didn't think it was a joke but actual research. When I read further and figured it was a humor based website-- I was a little disappointed. 

Why? Because the article validated what I feel like at work many days. Parents of patients have a limited view of the total department and its needs or demands on my time. They simply want their problem fixed as immediately as possible.

The problem is, the reality of the ER will never meet those expectations of . . . really anyone. 

How often have you had to wait for a doctor's appointment? That is, an actual scheduled time to meet with your physician. Rarely, am I seen within 30 minutes by the actual doctor. First, the office schedules you before your "real" time for paperwork, etc and also for the hope that you'll show up on time for the actual appointment time even if you're running late.

Did that make sense? 

My point is . . . why has it become the expectation that emergency care means you'll be seen expeditiously? I'll be the first to say that we've not helped ourselves as emergency care providers in this arena. I actually think posting wait times (like a restaurant) feeds into this idea that you'll be seen upon arrival. 

Our goal is to save the sickest people first. That means we may not see you in order. That means we may not get to you in the hour you've allotted for your emergency care to take place. 

In my experience, most patients want to be seen by the provider within fifteen minutes of arrival and discharged home in sixty minutes. 

Once, when I worked in a dedicated urgent care, we had a sick infant come in who needed to be intubated. When explaining to families why there was a delay, someone actually said, "That doesn't mean we should wait. That family should have gone to the ER."

That may be true but now they're here . . . with us . . . and we have to manage their illness. 

I'm not sure what the answer is. How do we make your ER visit more enjoyable? More timely yet still cost effective? Isn't that the crux of the problem? You're coming with a problem to be solved and a time frame in mind.

Just what if we can't fix either? Is it our fault?

Curious to know what you think. 


  1. It seems to be our culture today. In stores, someone would interrupt the clerk as she rings me up. An older person, woman, usually. I work in a long term care facility. The most common question is where's the aid? Usually, she is with another resident. Doesn't matter, "I need it now." They are definitely not on Planet Wait Your Turn. (Sorry, 3-2-1 Penguins reference). I marvel because this is the generation that taught us politeness, manners and the Golden Rule. Seems they have forgotten. But I also remember they are not well,either.

  2. Yes, when you're in pain or your elderly parent is in pain and you've been waiting three hours it's often hard to remember that there are only so many staff and that they can only work so fast.