Oh, if you are extremely lucky, and the ER has a Fast Track, and they aren’t very busy, and your problem truly isn’t serious, you might be in-and-out quickly. But the reality is, there is going to be some sort of waiting involved.
I recently wrote a blog post on how to de-stress your ER visit, including a tip on bringing something to do while you waited. This brought out a few comments, such as:
“If you had a real emergency, you wouldn’t have to wait!” and
“If you are waiting for a long time, you probably don’t need an ER!”
While I can see the point behind my colleagues’ comments, they are a bit disingenuous. You see, while a “real” emergency or urgent problem may get you into a room and seen by a physician on arrival, what happens after that isn’t always immediate.
You need labs drawn? Those are drawn quickly, but you wait for the results. Depending on the test, and how busy the lab is, you can be waiting for a while.
Need an x-ray? Patients there before you are also getting x rays. Unless you are critical and need it STAT, you are taken in order. That means you wait.
Are you going to be seen by a specialist? You wait for that doctor to arrive.
Are you going to be discharged, but getting an IV antibiotic first? Some antibiotics take 90 minutes (or more) to infuse. You’ll be waiting while that happens.
Are you being admitted? You could be waiting for hours in the ER before going up to your room, with no access to a phone (unless you have your cell phone and are allowed to use it) or television to keep you occupied.
Saying that “real” emergencies don’t wait in the ER is not true. Everybody is always waiting for something.
So I stand by my “tip” for emergency department visits of all types, for both patients and their friends and family. When you go to the emergency department, unless you are whisked off by ambulance in a true life-threatened state, take something with you to occupy your time while you wait.
You’ll need it.