You rush to your local ER with a broken leg, fill out all the paperwork, and have a seat. Then: nothing. Nada. For three hours, you wait. When you finally see a physician, she then sends you home with a cast and a referral to an orthopedic doctor.
Twelve endless hours later, you’re finally home. What gives?!
Well, there’s a lot going on behind the closed double doors of the emergency room. The staff’s job is to keep up appearances of efficiency and order, so you’re probably not aware of half of the chaos. Here, the nation’s top doctors and nurses spill their secrets, with one thing in mind: Giving you better care, and some perspective about what’s really going on.
We may have just experienced a horrible trauma.
Even if your ER nurse seems cool, calm, and collected, he or she may have just witnessed a horrible event. ER staff members are trained to have poker faces and pride themselves on not bringing in the negative emotions of other cases to your room.
Dr. David Gatz, MD, an emergency physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, says: “No matter who you are, I walk in with a smile on my face. The reality is I may have just pronounced someone deceased three rooms down or told a mother she’s have a miscarriage. It can be a real challenge to silo those emotions and walk into each new room as if nothing is wrong.”
Nothing surprises us.
There’s no need to be embarrassed if you have a strange condition or symptoms. Chances are, your ER staff has seen it before and you’re not the first one to walk in for treatment. According to Dr. Gatz, MD, “Patients are often afraid to admit drug use or uncommon sexual practices. The reality is your ER staff has seen it all. Nothing surprises us anymore.”
Your doctor can call ahead so the ER expects you.
To reduce your time in the waiting room, you can have your doctor contact the ER so the staff knows to expect you. The clerk will complete a “pre-expect” form for you and if there’s room, you may be taken back for treatment right when you arrive. If there isn’t a room for you right away, your wait time may still be less than if you walked in without asking your doctor to call ahead.