Monday, November 26, 2007

The ER Waiting Room: Too Many Squeaky Wheels

It is at Triage that many of the problems dealing with the public begin.

Not understanding or caring that the ER is not Burger King where one may very well not have it their way, the triage process is of little importance to the patient who insists that his problem is worse than anyone else’s. The consequences of the “squeaky wheel” mentality on a waiting room full of frustrated, anxious, sick, and angry patients can best be described by envisioning the abandon ship scene in the movie, “Titanic”.

As the boats are filled with women and children (think of these as the really sick people), the men (people who are not as sick, have chronic conditions, and are well enough to sit in the waiting room for hours) are left on deck hoping for rescue and singing “Nearer my God to Thee” while the stewards put out more deck chairs. Much as these patients believe it, however, the ER waiting room will not sink; this means it is pointless to storm the triage nurse to explain how badly one needs to be seen as soon as possible (consider this clamoring for a spot on the stern of the ship). Eventually, there will be a boat for everyone, even it is takes 6 hours. If a patient is likely to require a kidney transplant by then,he/she will be seen sooner. Otherwise, the waiting area is a little like Disney World: just when you think you are getting in, there is another 2 hour wait before you actually get on the ride. Alas, there is no "baby swap", and sending your 7 year old to inquire for the fifth time in 20 minutes how much longer it will be just wont' fly. And it doesn't matter if you have another appointment, dinner reservations, a meeting with your parole officer (pimp, ex-boyfriend, drug dealer, your child's teacher, life coach). Remember, patience is a virtue.