Understanding the emergency department
When you’re in a hospital, especially a large one with those giant glass atriums, mile-long corridors and patients on gurneys racing down the hall, you probably feel like you’ve landed on planet Mars. Entering through the emergency department and getting your own little exam room may help a little, but it’s still a pretty overwhelming set-up.
Well, here’s a few things you should know about hospitals that might help you navigate the system:
* It’s fine to questions, often: Any time you’re the slightest bit unsure about what’s going on, ASK. Nobody should ever gloss over your questions, though they might need to hand them off to a more qualified party.
A few examples of questions that come up often: ”Why am I getting this IV? What’s your name and what do you do? Why are you performing this test? When will Dr. X be seeing me? Are you my nurse? What is this medication and why am I getting it?
” Nurses have (too) many patients to care for: While your nurse is probably strong, smart and very well informed, as most are, she or he may have a dozen or more patients to serve.
So while your nurse might be doing the right thing, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be afraid to double-check that she knows who you are, what you need and has specifically checked your arm-band to be sure they’re giving the right treatments to the right people.
* Waiting is part of the game: Sometimes, when you wait hours in the emergency department, it’s just inefficiency of some kind. In others, though, your doctor or nurse spends a long watching you, sometimes without making a big deal of it, to observe how you look, how your speech sounds or other factors.
To observe a patient properly may take a while if they’re waiting to see what effect a slow-acting drug is having, how you respond to a full dose of IV medication, whether your symptoms seem to be staying the same, getting better or getting worse and more. It can be maddening, especially if it turns out that your fine, but it may be the best thing for you.