No, it’s not like the TV shows.
“The emergency department is nothing like Grey’s Anatomy or Code Black. It’s faster-paced and people do not hook up with each other in the hospital!”
Actually, it’s kind of like a horror movie:
“It’s like the Saw franchise. At first you’re excited for every day, then there’s lots of blood and screaming and crying and it’s terrifying. And there’s plenty of riddles, like, ‘What exactly did you shove up there?!'”
It takes an entire team to make an ER run.
“The ER is a team made up of so many people, not just doctors, nurses, and techs. There are transporters, environmental workers, PAs, public safety, respiratory team, and the ER is in constantly in contact with police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. The ER couldn’t function without any of these people. It’s definitely a calling.”
Social workers are also a huge part of the ER community.
“I’m a social worker in the ER. We have social workers on 24/7, which is fairly rare, but we’re a Level One trauma center, so maybe that’s why. In my hospital, when you get into a horrible accident, I dig through your wallet and phone to figure out who you are, and I’m the one calling your loved ones to tell them what happened to you and update them once they get to the hospital. It’s a hard job, but I love being the rock for people who having a crisis.”
Every day is different than the last.
“I work as an ER doctor. Day to day, every shift is unpredictable. Some days every patient will be whiny or complicated. Some (rare) days you remember that you’re saving people’s lives and you’re privileged to know their deepest, darkest secrets. And some days all you do is pull objects out of people’s butts and subdue wildly drunken assholes for their own good.”
They work around the clock with little to no breaks.
“I am an RN at a very busy suburban ED (emergency department). Each shift is always unexpected. Every day is different. I work really hard for 12 hours straight and sometimes don’t have enough time to take a break.”
So they really appreciate patience.
“If you’re okay enough to wait, be glad. The staff might not tell you, but the reason your broken arm might wait an hour or two to be seen is because someone else two rooms over is coding.”
After all, they are here to help you.
“We are here to save your ass, not kiss it. ❤️”
If you’re not seen right away, it’s probably a good thing.
“If you’re not being brought back immediately, breathe a sigh of relief. It means you’re probably going to be okay. It’s the people we bring back quickly who you should worry about.”
So come to the emergency room prepared.
“Please bring a book or something to occupy your time — and your own food (but wait to see if you’re allowed to eat). Expect to be there for six to eight hours at least. Less than that, consider yourself lucky. Seriously. We see the sickest people first, not the first people first. And we spend the time that is necessary to provide the highest-quality care possible. You’d want the same.”
“Please” and “thank you” go a long way.
“It makes a huge difference when people say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ We got into this work because we want to help you, and we see a lot of people who are manipulative and mean. If you have it in you to be kind, it makes a huge difference for us.“
They want you to like your doctor.
“I wish people felt comfortable asking to switch doctors if they don’t like their current doctor. You choose all your other doctors, why not these? Switch if you need to — it makes everyone’s life easier.”
But the ER staff is NOT your primary care doctor.
“We are not your primary care doctor. Stop coming in for pregnancy tests, vaccines, and tooth pain.”
They know when you’re lying.
“We’re allergic to bullshit. We know all the tricks, so don’t bother lying.”
They see quite a few patients for this reason:
“We probably have 10 people a week come in because of sex-related injuries.”
And this reason:
“My workload would be cut in half if meth wasn’t a thing.”
You should document any health-related decisions you feel strongly about now.
“It’s never too early to have your wishes for medical treatment on paper. You don’t want CPR if your heart stops? Don’t want to be on a breathing tube if you stop breathing? Have it written somewhere and tell friends/family where it is located!”
There are a lot of things that are beyond their control.
“Most ER employees work long hours, with minimal breaks, and want to see patients get better. A lot of grievances you may have with an ER are system-based, and the staff have little to no control over that. Be kind to us. We only want the best for you, and we’re working with what we’ve been given!”
Their humor may be a little different:
“This is our workplace, and just how you laugh with your coworkers, sometimes we joke around too. We see tragic, traumatic things — babies die, people lose loved ones, patients struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. If you see us laughing, we are not trying to be disrespectful to you when you don’t feel well — we’re trying to cope and enjoy our workplace just as you would in yours.”
But they care about you.
“We are truly rooting for you, but we put up a harsh exterior to protect ourselves. We do care, and we often put ourselves second to take care of you first.”
And they will fight for you.
“We’re some of the most resilient folks you’ve ever met. We may seem to laugh at inappropriate times or seem to have our walls up, but I promise, if you truly need help we will be there with every ounce of compassion and skill we have.”
They’re pretty amazing.
“Some patients are better than others. Some are crazy; some are just rude and really mean. But no matter who you are, what your background is, or how you treat me, I will love you and I will care for you. I might not smile when you yell at me or tear me down (and believe me, people will tear you down), but I promise to be your advocate and do right by you.”
At the end of the day, we’re lucky to have them!
“When it comes right down to it, we wouldn’t trade jobs with anyone.”
Thank you for all that you do!
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
This week, we’re talking about preparing for and surviving the worst things imaginable. See more Disaster Week content here.