ER Waiting Times – How Lucky We Are

skeletonI recently told readers about an ER practitioner in another country down-under who had some amazing stories to tell. When we first starting comparing notes, I will never forget the question he asked me. He asked, “So do you guys make people with colds and sore throats wait in the waiting room for like 8 hours before you see them?” I can’t say that the thought has never crossed my mind (or that if it was legal, heck yeah I would do it).

But I told him all about the two devils (Press-Ganey) and their effect on ER practice in the US where now the patient was a “customer” and entitled to customer service. The thought initially bothered me and my colleagues quite a bit, but now that I have a chance to see it from the other side, I’m kinda glad that we took this road.

In some ER’s in Eastern Europe, if you show up at night with anything less than life threatening (it won’t kill you in at least the next 45 minutes) there have been confirmed reports of the docs telling the patients to wait until they finish their coffee and vodka. Just hope they won’t be suturing, right?

Or in some parts of the Far East, if you are over 75 years of age, then your services will be cut back. One of my teachers in residency used to always refer to people over the age of 70 as “living on borrowed time” due to the average life expectancy. In these countries though, they take it a few steps further and essentially send the message, “hey, look you had a nice life already! Don’t fight it and go easy.” Seeing the way people are “surviving” in Nursing Homes though and the abuse they not uncommonly receive, it makes me wonder about my own wishes in this regard.

When talking about waiting room decor though, US ER patients really have it made. Free, and usually fresh, coffee; a TV to keep you entertained (wide screen plasma in many places now as well) and magazines arranged in a nice semi-circular pattern. Believe it or not, at the University of New Mexico they even hire a live harpist to “soothe” people as they wait. Try waiting in some ER’s elsewhere in the world where you might get malaria, suffer poisoning from the free coffee (or maybe that wasn’t coffee after all), waiting outside in the elements, or being told to go out and buy your own gauze and supplies because the hospital ran out.

So, the next time you have to wait a few hours in the ER to get your sore throat checked out, or to “check” if you are pregnant, just remember the alternatives. At least you will be greeted in most cases by people with a smile (damn you Press-Ganey!), all efforts will be made to get you well and your doctor will be relatively sober.

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8 Responses to ER Waiting Times – How Lucky We Are

  1. Tunde says:

    Just another reason to be thankful for living in the USA, where doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you still receive medical care equally.

    also, it might be in some eastern European countries they drinking their vodka and other stuff but i had seen several eastern European countries where medical care is excellent and waiting is shorter than some of the ER s here.

    LBT comment is common, but rest assure when it comes to their own mothers fathers etc, they will not act like those people living on borrowed time. I Think it is inhuman viewing people by their age and medically treating them accordingly.
    I had seen 70 years old patient who was more fit than an 18 years old, so it is just what quality life they can live.

    The long hrs of waiting is a problem due to all the paperwork or charting on the computer , so everyone can cover their behind from law suits, and of curse all the looser they show up and make problems can create longer waiting. Well i guess we just have to live with it and be thankful, that although we wait an hour or two but at least our life and our loved one’s life is being respected and treated well…at least most cases.

  2. yazzia says:

    lol nice article! well i lived in Eastern Europe for like 20 years so i know health care system there even if it is not not good! i always have to wait like hours to get to see doctor who seem to be just chatting over coffee sometimes! i’m now living in the Mideast and its a little better! oh the diff is that here there is no such thing as an ER near where i live! age doesn’t matter ! people are the way they feel ! they can be at 30 and look 18 so totally right the comment of Tunde ! and i know people at their 20s and looking older so yes mistreating older people is totally a crime in my opinion but totally cool article !

  3. Nurse K says:

    We have “guest services” people in the lobby who “round” on all the “guests” and give them puzzle books, coloring sheets for the kidz, coffee for the visitors (on a tray w/cream and/or sugar of course). For me, it’s okay because it keeps them from pissing me off in triage as much, but it’s still hilarious.

    We all got celebratory emails because we reduced the “left without being seens” by 50%. Of course, those who usually leave right away are the colds or itchy arms or pregnancy tests.

    Thank you, Tunde, for d/c’ing the CAPSLOCK finally.

    • ER Doc says:

      Sounds like airline service doesn’t it? Next they will be giving them little bags of peanuts and in case of allergies, some cookies. All while they cut nursing pay, hours and overtime of course.

  4. yazzia says:

    lol really nice threat ,in my country people will think ur joking if u offer them free coffee!not talking about all the other extras u can’t even dream about them! smile rarely and puzzles – only for the fancier places i can never afford in my country ! lol gotta go to visit the USA !and not talking about the poverty around and all the sick people and children !

  5. Sabra says:

    For most of my adult life, my ER experience was with Navy hospitals. The thing I hate the most about the military system is that appointments are so blasted hard to get–even though urgent appointments are supposed to be given within 48 hours–that pretty much everything is funneled to the ER. When the front desk at my daughter’s civilian doctor offered to see her the very same day we called to make an appointment, I nearly died from the shock.

    Needless to say, “amenities” like coffee & harpists were nonexistent; however it turned out to be rather amusing to spend election night ’00 in the ER. I really thought there was going to be a riot when it looked like Gore had won.

  6. Heather RN says:

    Our waiting room has a welcome tray, and the other day we got a complaint from some patient that the coffee is old. I guess we should send these guys to some 3rd world country that was mentioned above, so they can appreciate what they have.

  7. Gary Hill says:

    I was a patient and I think Press-Ganey is crap.

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