I recently wrote an article describing a variety of examples of poor behavior demonstrated by patients in the Triage section of my Emergency Department. While the article was written primarily to introduce the reader to some of the actual (rather than media-generated) challenges encountered by an ER nurse in a humorous vein (which is the modus operandi for all of my writing), my article evoked a tremendous negative response with regard to the readers' personal ER experiences. A majority of responders related their unpleasant experiences when they or a loved one was treated in an ER.
The most common complaint was that an extraordinarily long time was spent simply waiting: waiting to get back to a room while others who arrived in Triage later were brought back first; after arrival in a room, waiting for the nurse to come in and perform an assessment; waiting for the MD to come in; waiting for medication; waiting for tests to be performed; waiting for test results to come back; waiting for diagnosis or treatment; waiting for transfer up to a unit bed; or waiting for discharge instructions and prescriptions. Furthermore, more deeply entrenched in these woes was a complaint common to all: not being informed about what was going on with the process. These people were simply never told what was happening at any point throughout their ER experiences. (It is perfectly understandable that a person in that situation would feel forgotten and ignored, and thus become upset.)
After considering these problems, and at the suggestion of a colleague, I have determined to do something about it. I hope that this series of articles will inform and enlighten the reader regarding the challenges and intricacies of emergency medicine. I hold the firm belief that a well- and accurately - informed public makes for a great patient, because a better-informed patient is far better equipped to actively participate in the care process and is able to more effectively advocate for oneself. I have found that patients treated in this manner nearly always described a far more positive and satisfactory experience, even if an extended wait was involved. Thus, when I teach new nurses (and students), I pound into their minds the following adage:
Keep them SAFE, Keep them WARM, Keep them COMFORTABLE, and Keep them INFORMED.
When a nurse does this, it goes a very long way towards making the patient feel cared for - which is the whole point of nursing, if memory serves me correctly.