There are 6 important things a person must remember when being taken to the emergency room or having any form of medical treatment.
The story below is true. All I could think about during my encounter in the emergency room was, if I was feeling this way – what were other people thinking or enduring. Friends – I can’t express to you enough, you and you alone must be your own patient advocate. The more informed you are, the better your care and recovery will be.
After a falling out of a golf cart in a very random accident, I ended up a patient at the emergency room in South Haven, MI. Outside of my ego being bruised, a bump on the head, miscellaneous cuts and bruises my right ankle had been severely sprained. After much ice and elevation, I came to the realization that I could not place any weight on my right foot, nor could I drive home. After calling close friend to come get my car, we went to the emergency room. The fact that it was a Friday night, didn’t help the situation. After getting checked in and maintaining a sense of humor while waiting to be scene, about forty-five minutes later I was wheeled to an examining room.
A half hour later a nurse came in to take my vitals and re-confirmed my initial statement upon registration. A few short minutes later, the doctor came in to see me. He had a good bedside manner, was very approachable and listened. He too agreed that an x-ray should be taken of my right ankle, just to be sure there wasn’t a stress fracture. He felt confident that nothing was broken. Another half hour later I was then transported to the x-ray room.
The nurse who wheeled me from my room began to follow their standard operating procedures by asking me my name, date of birth and social security number. She then went on to ask me what I was here for. I answered to have my right ankle x-rayed. She then corrected me by saying that the doctor wanted my left wrist x-rayed. I responded that was incorrect. We then went through the name, rank and serial number routine again to make sure she had the correct paperwork. Same end result. I asked her to contact the doctor as I refused to have an unnecessary x-ray.
I wasn’t trying to be argumentative, I was not going to spend money regardless of insurance for a test that wasn’t necessary. Her response was, I’ll gladly do this, however it will be at least another half hour or so until the order is changed. At this point, my patience was wearing thin and I asked her to get her supervisor or the doctor immediately.
The supervisor came, realized someone had checked off the incorrect boxes, walked the paperwork over to the doctor for an amended signature and in less than twenty minutes the error was rectified. The young nurse then said, “Okay – you can now walk over to the table and hop up for your x-ray.” I looked at the nurse and said, “If I could walk, I would not be here”. Her response was, “I’m a student, what do you want me to do?” I answered, “Then let’s use this as a teachable moment. If a person can’t walk over to the table on their own, don’t you think it could be helpful to roll the wheelchair as close to the table as possible and help guide the person out of the chair and on the table?” She replied, “Oh, nobody told me that!” At the risk of being snarky – really? Did the vice president of common sense leave the building? She kindly rolled the chair next to the x-ray table and stepped away, with no offer to assist me. Fortunately, I was strong, healthy and alert enough to shift my weight and slide myself onto the table. The correct images were taken and the same non-assistance of getting back into the wheelchair was provided. I made the
decision not to create a “teachable moment” to calmly provide feedback with the student, as it was clear she was not in a receiving mode. I was returned back to my room with the expectation of having to wait for yet another hour. Much to my surprise, the doctor within 10 minutes entered the room and shared it was good news, no break and just as we suspected a very bad sprain. The prescription, ice, ibuprofen, ankle taping, an air cast and crutches. Sleep, elevation of the ankle and minimal weight on my leg. Before the doctor left, I voiced my concerns about the student nurse. He graciously listened and even acknowledged my concerns but I didn’t leave feeling confident that the feedback loop would be used for improvement.
I’d like to say that my experience was an isolated incident. Regrettably, many other community members have said they fear this health care system’s emergency room has come to accept mediocrity. Many went on to say that they now drive an hour away for emergency care. Bottom line, there are so many variables that transpired during my single experience that are unacceptable. Why would a health care system expose themselves to avoidable errors that could end up in lawsuits?
The only short fix that I see is encouraging everyone who goes to an emergency room have a patient advocate with them every step of the way. Ask questions, don’t assume each person you come in contact with is familiar with your case. Refuse a test if it doesn’t make sense to you. Ask to speak to someone else if you aren’t getting the information you need. If you don’t have a family member who will go with you to act as a second set of eyes and ears, ask a friend or neighbor. Don’t be shy. Don’t assume you are being an inconvenience; you can return a favor another time.
If closing, if I hadn’t been of sound mind, I would have:
- had the wrong x-rays taken.
- more tests charged to my insurance company.
- a longer stay.
- and possibly even more injuries due to lack of physical assistance.
Please, never be afraid to speak up and ask questions. No one cares about you and your well-being, let alone knows your body more than you!