Monday, 17 September 2012
Overheard in the Emergency Room
Assuming that all hospitals are similar, this is the protocol for Emergency Room visits.
First stop, front desk where you briefly explain what brought you in.
Second stop, a more private check-in room where identification and insurance cards are copied and once again you explain what brought you in.
Once your name is called you are guided through heavy doors and allowed to bring along one person.
I was that one person.
Inside cubicles are cordoned off with sliding curtains. It feels private except for the noise of a baby crying loudly down the hall and all the patients in the vicinity explaining what brought them in.
During downtime when the nurse is not taking vital signs and the doctor is not doing a physical exam, one can't help but be drawn into the surrounding drama.
This is one of the conversations that took place next door in cubicle number 10.
Medical Person: What brought you in today?
Male Patient: My chest was hurting.
Medical Person: Is it hurting now?
Male Patient: No.
Medical Person: When did it start hurting?
Male Patient: Oh, this has been going on for days and days. My chest will hurt and I will say to myself, "I really need to see a doctor." And then it will stop. So I don't. And then it happens again. But then it stops. Tonight I thought, "Well I didn't see a doctor so I better just come to the hospital."
Medical Person: Do you have a doctor?
Male Patient: No.
Medical Person: Is there any pattern to when you experience these pains. After you have eaten or some other time?
Male Patient: No. Well, I haven't really noticed. I just get these chest pains and then they stop. But then they start up again. And then they stop.
Medical Person: Are there any other ailments or conditions that I should be aware of?
Male Patient: Yes.
Medical Person: And that would be?
Male Patient: I have psoriasis. See, it is right here on my head.
I wondered if this was the third time the gentleman had shared what brought him in given the nature of the emergency room process.
If so, was his story becoming more or less detailed with every repetition?
What I learned Saturday night is that it must take an inordinate amount of patience with your patients to work in the field of emergency care.
But just imagine the collection of stories they have gathered...