What You Should Know About the Emergency Room
Whenever someone learns I’m an emergency room physician, they reflexively ask ‘What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?’ I get it — television shows like the eponymous ‘E.R.’ depict my job as full of lust, gore, and foreign objects in unexpected places.
I can humor you with stories all day long, but I’m not sure I want to. No one has ever asked me what I think is the most important question about my job: ‘What should I know about the ER if myself or my loved one is ever a patient? Any insider tips?’
There’s only one thing that unifies the thousands of patients I’ve seen in over 13 years as an emergency medicine physician: none of them ever expected to be in the ER, and certainly not at that moment. Should you ever find yourself in that position, here are 5 things you — and every patient — should know about the emergency room.
Be a squeaky wheel. But a nice one.
In an average shift, I make hundreds of decisions, big and small. And I’m usually interrupted every few minutes — a phone call from a consultant, an ECG to sign, or a “Hey doc, the patient in room 2 would like more pain medication!”
Even if I’m adept at multitasking, I forget things. Especially the smaller, not life-or-death things.
Did I update you three hours ago that I’m just waiting on the results of your X-ray to discharge you? Ask me about it! Most likely, it’s slipped down the long list of priorities I’m juggling. Maybe it fell off my radar completely. A well-timed reminder may be helpful in getting me back on track and getting you the information you need and deserve.
The reality is this: squeaky wheels get things moving in the ER. The critical caveat is: just be nice as you squeak. Our job is already stressful enough, we don’t need to be yelled at. I once had a patient burst into a room demanding his discharge papers as I was actively performing CPR on another patient. Don’t be that guy. But do check in with your providers — things do get overlooked and forgotten.
My greatest worry is the quietest patient
Our job in the ER is to tend to the sickest people, not the people who’ve been there the longest. This can be really…