One morning during a ballet class I did an extra-large backbend, fainted, flipped, fell and hit my head on the bottom of the metal barre I had been holding onto, awoke on the floor and stared at my colleagues, who hovered above. The company manager insisted I go to the emergency room. A friend who wanted to get out of her Nutcracker rehearsals that day volunteered to take me. We sat in rigid chairs and waited for seven-and-a-half hours in a seemingly not very busy ER before I was seen and told that I probably did not have a concussion. While I didn't mind waiting all that much (I was also getting out of back-to-back runs of the Snow Scene), I wondered how the experience could have gone differently. Were symptoms missed in the time that elapsed? Should I have gone to urgent care instead, to make space for more acutely ill or injured people in the ER?
I found resonance in a recent post on KevinMD.com by Abigail Schildcrout, MD, who describes a frustrating experience navigating the ER as the parent of a young patient. In it, the physician and mother emphasizes the need for patients to be assertive and hospital staff to be attentive, but also for both parties to be respectful of the other.
From the post:
We waited far longer than we should have for the test that determined whether a surgical emergency existed.
Yes, there are people who use emergency room resources when they’re not needed. But most of us go out of our way to avoid emergency rooms. When we’re there, it means we’re really concerned about something.
When I tell my clients and my readers to advocate for themselves and their loved ones, I know it’s hard. I know it’s a delicate balance between making sure you get what you need and not annoying people in the process. But it has to be done. And hospitals are working on seeing things from the patients’ side.