Emergency Department: When to join the patient in the treatment area

emergency department, emergency room, ED, ER ER waiting room, ED waiting room, family in ERWhile in Naples, Florida, my husband developed a raging cold, sore throat and dripping nose and was concerned he had strep throat when he started to run a fever. Not sure if we should go to walk in clinic, try to find a local doc to see him, or go to an ER, I called an ER nurse I know in Naples, who suggested that once a local doc heard Raj had a cardiac surgery history, he’d be asked to go to the ER. So we went off to a local hospital.

Raj got put in a quiet private ER room after his throat culture was taken. Flat on his back in a quiet room, he did the natural thing for him and fell asleep. In the waiting room I endured two loud people discussing life histories (horses with seizures, dogs with seizures, brain bleeds, and the differences between the east coast of Florida and the west coast, among many other topics). Behind me sat a woman who was sobbing from abdominal pain. She loudly sobbed for an hour. There was a TV playing the news channel, which taught me about a child who was left in a car for 9 hours while his mom was gambling “It was a one time mistake”, she told the authorities who took away her child. I learned about a teenager and mother who got stuck in a tree – and more. This news was repeated about 3 times over 2 hours.

The hyperactive child arrived
Then a mom and a two-year-old child arrived. The child spoke only Spanish (MIRA, AQUI, MIRA, AQUI) and paid not a bit of attention to his mother. He climbed all over the furniture. The ER receptionist put on a TV with cartoons to distract the child, so there were two TVs playing a few feet apart… different stations. The anticipated benefit of the cartoons did not occur. The child started to shriek. The shrieking Spanish child was the last straw; I asked to go back to Raj’s room. I was there only a few minutes in the blessed peace and quiet when Raj got discharged. His throat culture was negative but he got an antibiotic RX anyway. I think I was happier to leave than he was. I have a pretty low tolerance for noise, a low tolerance for television, particularly one that plays nothing but gut wrenching news stories, and a low tolerance for very active little kids.

Can you be with the patient?
Can you join a family member who is in “the back” or the treatment area? In some cases the person in the back of the ER needs a lot of care and the staff will not allow family members there. In some cases, the degree of trauma may put a visitor at risk for fainting. The ER staff do not want to see people faint. But in minor cases of illness, such as my husband had, you should not have to endure hours in a waiting room when you can be with the patient.

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