To be a patient in the ER, has to bring about a level of anxiety and uncertainty that unless experienced, can not be explained. The doctors, nurses and tech’s run around poking things into your arm, placing stickie’s on your chest and hand cuffing you to a bed with clear lines and wires that monitor your heart and vitals. It could make one feel a prisoner in their own body. If that’s not enough, anyone and everyone in scrubs feels they have the right to do whatever they please with your  body, wether they ask your permission or not. And, the information they hold onto for hours upon hours is information only they know about your body. Why can’t you be previe to this information sooner? Perhaps there’s a line of patients in front of you that gets to learn of their fate before you do? People swirl in and out of your room (quickly), looking at monitors, taking vitals and they think they have the right to your blood as well.

I’m sure the nurses are nice and professional. I’m sure the doctor’s care and explain the best way they know how, even though medical speak is their native language and speaking common people language is foreign to them. I’m sure registration staff is kind. Everyone smiles. People aren’t mean, but perhaps they aren’t “there”. And, you understand and cut them a break, because they’re busy saving lives, including possibly yours. What more could you expect from them? You can’t ask for another blanket, and you feel bad to ask to be disconnected from the bed to pee. You don’t want to piss the nurse off. You don’t want to be that patient. You wait for hours and hours for some kind of results or information on your status, and not one person has stopped in to give you an update. You don’t know what to except and you’re starving. Maybe someone has finally offered you a drink, but then you feel guilty that your friend or family member who waits with you, is probably starving too. No one has offered them a drink. You start to become angry and you want to just walk out, but they know the results of the test and blood work that was taken, it’s like they have power over you. All of this time can’t be in vain. So, you stay, but as time passes you become angrier and angrier. Can’t someone just come in and give you an update, because even if they tell you ‘we won’t know for 3 more hours’, then at least you’ll know what to expect and you can settle in. You could even tell your loved ones to run for food.

There are those exceptional techs and nurses though, that perhaps you get lucky enough to be assigned to. They truly make you feel comfortable and you know are happy to help. They are a breath of fresh air and a relief. You go above and beyond to praise them, because you want them to know that how they care for you and others really matters…. and more so for the fact that you hope they remember your words and don’t become jaded.

But then there’s the other side of the coin, that you as a patient can’t see. The nurse is taking care of 6 patients, juggling giving med’s to each, doing physical assessments, recording history and spending hours on the computer charting every last detail of your life and the 5 other patients he/she cares for. Each patient wants undivided attention from the nurse, but yet each patient has a different set of orders, a different set of symptoms, and a different plan of care. There is communication that had to take place between the nurse and doctor, nurse and social worker, nurse and financial assistance, nurse and family, nurse and admissions, nurse and new nurse on the floor you’re being transported to, and the list goes on in regards to the amount of staff the nurse has to communicate with. The complexity of just caring for one, let 4-5 at a time can be daunting, especially for the newer nurse. There are moment’s when the nurse feels or thinks ” this isn’t why I became a nurse”, I can’t even think for  a second, let alone act like I care about the patients in my care….”I feel like I’ll cry right now”. But, the nurse can’t say that to the patient, and the patient wouldn’t understand anyways.

Both the nurse and the patient are in a tough spot, equally frustrated.

If just one person stopped in to say “Hi. What can I get you? How can I make you feel more comfortable? Is there anything you need?” and they stood there in a most patient and unhurried way, with a smile on their face, in a way that communicates, I really care about you… would that make you feel as a patient? What if they even went above and beyond and offered your loved ones a drink or snack too? What if they asked questions that sparked conversation other then the reason for your ER visit….more casual questions that you might ask someone you’ve met on a flight to New York. What if every once in a while, that same person popped in just to let you know the status of your wait, or be the carrier/translator of your questions to the nurse or doctor? What if you had your own personal advocate?

What if the nurse had an advocate too? Someone who could run errands and ask doctor’s simple questions like “can the patient eat or drink now”, or “will the patient be discharged or admitted?” Someone who could take care of simple things like providing a turkey sandwich or juice when the patient is hungry or assist the patient to the bathroom. Or, someone who could just kill spend time with the patient to help the time go by, a sort of distraction. All of these things seem simple tasks that could be done by the nurse, but that time is precious to the nurse and adds up quickly in one day.

I think your stay would be must better if that person existed. I think the nurses and doctor’s would be happier if that person existed. And that person did exist over this past summer.

At the start of the summer, I was approached about an opportunity to work in an ER close to home. The ER physician’s at this particular hospital decided to start a 4 month customer service pilot program, in the very ER I hope to work in someday. I received an e-mail, asking if I’d be interested in the position and without a second thought, I accepted. This opportunity would help me gain experience in a different kind of setting then I’m used to, I would get the chance to work with ER physician’s and nurse’s, and after everything was over I could add “customer service in the ER” to my resume. So it seemed a no brainer. It  has been a great experience so far. I’ve spent my shifts walking the ER floor, giving 5 star care and attention to the patients who sit, wait and wonder. I’ve met some amazing physician’s and built a rapport with them. I’ve also met lots of wonderful nurses and tech’s, who may be my colleagues some day. I’ve had the chance to see and feel the emotions from both sides of the population in the ER; the side that consists of the patient and their family and the healthcare team side. I understand both sides and the emotions that each side feels. As a matter of fact, I understand it more now then ever because my mom was a patient in the ER a few weekends ago. If only each side would be a little more understanding. But, that’s not about to happen because when the patient has visited the ER, the only thing on their mind is how to feel better, how to get out of the hospital and all the questions and uncertainties that overtake the mind. The minutes appear to be hours and with each minute the uncertainties and questions snowball. It’s a very scary place for the patient, and sometime as healthcare providers we forget this because this place is like home to us. It’s as natural and comfortable a place as the place we sleep and eat in at night, and I don’t mean those nights that we sleep on a gurney in the supply room. We are overwhelmed too, but we can’t forget that this place is not as “homey” feeling to our patients as it is to us. Creating and adding a patient advocate, someone who makes rounds into the patients rooms, someone who pops in to offer a sandwich or drink, someone who listens to cares and concerns, someone who diffuses “fires” in the ER, someone who helps the nurses and doctors with small tasks or communication with the patient,  is in fact a true asset. I’m glad I had the chance to experience this kind of work and viewpoint over the summer.







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