ER staff try to prioritize treatment of patients based on severity of illness

Posted 1 January 2016 at 12:00 am


Waiting in the ER with a bleeding toddler must be awful, especially on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately ER wait is not uncommon and had that person been in a larger ER with even more patients with varying illnesses/issues, they would likely have still been in the hallway after two hours.

People that come to the ER are treated based on acuity. They are individually and skillfully assessed by trained professionals and seen/treated accordingly. It is not based on age, gender, profession, status in the community, who you know, if it’s Christmas, whether you’ve been up all night, or if you have to be to work in two hours, or any of many other reasons I’ve heard.

I understand that when you child is sick or bleeding, parental instincts are on high alert. You have tunnel vision. This is priority number one for you. I get that. I realize that if your wife is crying in severe pain, nothing else matters.

What you might not be aware of is that there is someone in the next room in a situation where time is critical and minutes or seconds could determine life or death. A person having a stroke or a heart attack would be a good example, or someone with a dangerous infection or serious breathing difficulty.

When you come to the ER, whatever reason brought you in is your number one problem at that given time. It’s the most important thing going on with you. Our job is to sort out all of those number ones and decide which order they come in.

The bottom line is waiting in the Emergency Department is never going to be a good time and nobody will ever look forward to it. Most people will feel they’ve waited to long. This may never change.

What may help is to understand the process of triage and prioritizing and be to assured that the staff in the ER work together every day to get people treated as swiftly and safely as possible. We will always do our best to make the experience as pleasant as possible without compromising safety.

As difficult it may be in time of crisis I hope if patients and families try to consider this during their next ER visit, it may be a little less stressful for them.

Danielle Gullo, RN