Editorial: The Patients’ Purgatory

When it comes to places you do not want to find yourself during the Christmas holidays, a hospital emergency room is probably high on the list. It can be a dreary, depressing place, and the majority of the time you spend there will be filled with a great deal of idle, nervous waiting. A good book helps, but not much.

Not knowing what lies ahead or how it will all turn out is more than a little distracting, and the certain knowledge that the wait will not be a short one adds to the gnashing of teeth. After all, you are only one of many, and many of the many need attention more than you do and will be seen before you are—which is as it should be. It’s hard to sit patiently, though, when all you want to do is go home. Right now.

Even Job, I suspect, would begin to fidget impatiently in the ER. The inevitable (and quite necessary) bureaucracy that attends the ER’s processes merely adds to the unpleasantness. You must wait to be triaged, which is when someone will eventually call your number, ask all sorts of questions that seem (but aren’t) irrelevant, take your temperature and blood pressure, and then tell you to go back to waiting. The person for whom you will wait will—eventually—call your name and then register you, which involves asking more questions, typing a lot, putting a plastic bracelet around your wrist, and then telling you to go and do some more waiting. The clock will tick, you will fidget, and perhaps pace (I recommend pacing), and one day (well, probably sooner) someone will call your name and escort you to a room—where you will wait. Alone, unless you had the foresight to bring someone with you (I highly recommend that, as well). And when the undoubtedly overworked but remarkably calm ER doctor finally appears, he or she will patiently do everything possible to make you well.

For all the reasons I’ve mentioned and probably a few that haven’t occurred to me, no sane person wants to go to the ER, even if it isn’t during the holidays. A broken leg or something worse gives you little choice, but whatever the reason, if you think you need to go to the ER, do not, ever, let that quite understandable reluctance stop you. Go. And despite what I said earlier, take along a good book. It couldn’t hurt.


Murray Lewis, Editor-in-Chief


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