Emergency Room Etiquette

Unfortunately, most mothers (and fathers) will sometime find themselves sitting in a room full of hollow-eyed strangers, with a child curled up and clinging, trying to ignore the TV blaring CNN or Nick at Night. In other words, many mothers will someday find themselves waiting in the Emergency Room. Perhaps a daughter may decide to ski herself into an oncoming tree, maybe a young child needs IV fluids after a virulent GI bug, or a son may need some x-rays after some excessively ebullient superhero enactments. Whatever the reason she ends up there (and we hope it is always a relatively benign one), a mother may feel understandably anxious, upset, overwhelmed and even terrified. The problem is that everyone waiting in an ER is white-knuckled, worried, and waiting with a loved one in need of medical care – a recipe for frayed tempers and lack of consideration. A wise mother knows, however, that maintaining her manners in the face of the apparent chaos and intensity of the ER, is not only the “right thing to do,” it may also help her child get good care.

ER doctors and nurses have seen it all. They will not be amused by imperious requests to “see a manager,” casually dropped comments about knowing a hospital board member, or disrespectful language. Pull some really colorful stunts, and they may even blog about you, but they won’t take care of your child any faster. A mother is her child’s most important advocate but irritating the staff is not advocacy. Asking pointed questions politely, paying attention, taking notes, understanding the expected sequencing of events (see doctor, medical testing, see doctor again), and learning the names of the medical staff are all effective ways to simultaneously maintain civility and advocate for a child patient. No need to fear seeming demanding, it is well within a mother's rights to ask for an update on her child’s status, just remember to use "please" and "thank you" and for goodness sakes don’t ask every 5 minutes. With luck, the child will be discharged shortly with a sheet of instructions, possibly a cast, prescription or stitches, and a follow-up appointment scheduled. In these cases, all parties should leave with a sigh of relief and healthy sense of gratitude.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice, but really, what kind of parent lets her daughter ski into a tree?

Anonymous said...

Love the "pointed questions." Amazing what a smile and a couple of "pleases" and "thank yous" can do!

capabilitymom said...

Love this - well said.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Thank you all! Lets hope we can all stay clear of the ER for the foreseeable future.

Hugo said...

Well said. This is great advice! We once had to take our daughter to the emergency room after she fell. We grumbled our way through a FOUR HOUR mandatory waiting period, only to find at the 3:55 mark that she had, in fact, fractured her skull (only slightly - she's fine, thank God)Does go to show you that sometimes you've got to trust the system. Keep up the great writing - you are clearly a very talented and wise woman.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Wise? More like wizened. But thank you for the flattery just the same.

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