My Rant on ER Inefficiency in the Digital Age

My blog post is late this week, but I have a pretty great excuse. In the past 24 hours I fell skiing, felt a pretty horrible pain in my left foot, managed to make my way down the hill on just my right ski (only because I have been skiing for 26 out of my 29 years on this planet and I'm a decent skier), limped into the lodge to report my injury to my mom, iced/elevated/wrapped/ibuprofen..... and finally gave up and decided it wasn't going to get better. I had to go to the Emergency Room up here in North Conway, New Hampshire.

So here is my question.... why did my visit to the ER take so long? The process was inefficient and frustrating for me, and I was definitely NOT the patient in the most pain. I can't imagine how awful it must have been for the guy in his early 20s who had a separated shoulder, or the woman who was pale white and clearly nauseous.

Here is the process. First I went to the ER at 5pm last night.
1. Go to front desk.
2. Sit in waiting room to fill out paper work.
3. Turn in paper work at front desk with my ID and insurance card.
4. Wait for 1 hour to be seen by triage nurse.
5. Triage nurse asks all the usual questions -- Am I on any medication? How did it happen? Rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Blood pressure. Temperature. Pulse.
6. Back in the waiting room.

At this point I decided that I was not going to wait another 3 hours (the estimated wait to see a doctor) so I went home to help my husband give our daughter a bath and get her to bed. I woke up this morning at 6am and went to the ER again since I still could not put any weight on my left foot. This time there was only one other person in the waiting room, and he had a migraine so severe that he was vomiting. I was OK with the fact that they took him in first.

1. Go to front desk.
2. Fill out paper work again because the lost my paper work from last night.
3. Turn in paper work at front desk with my ID and insurance card.
4. Wait for 15 minutes to be seen by triage nurse (ERs are significantly less crowded early in the morning).
5. Back to waiting room for 10 more minutes.
6. Go into registration room, which is on the opposite end of the waiting room and I have to walk... very painful for me... to help enter my information into the computer and receive my hospital bracelet.
7. Back in waiting room for 10 more minutes.
8. Limp, wincing, into an ER exam room with a nurse. Wait 5 minutes for a doctor.
9. Doctor examines my foot and leaves. Wait 15 minutes for X-Ray tech. (While I'm waiting I overhear nurses saying that they found my chart from last night and they don't know what to do with it!)
10. X-Ray Tech arrives and wants me to follow her. I had to ASK her to bring a wheel chair because I still couldn't put weight on my foot. (Apparently she had not looked at my chart to see what she was going to X-Ray before asking me to follow her out of the room!)
11. Get X-Rays.
12. Return to room and wait 20 minutes to see doctor after she has looked at the X-Ray.
13. Doctor says it is not broken (YAY!) but I probably have a bad sprain of the plantar fascia and I need to be on crutches for at least a week.
14. Wait 10 minutes for nurse to come in with discharge papers and give my the sexy boot brace and crutches.
15. Go to car and get in. Mom drives out of parking lot and onto main road just in time to remember that the woman at the registration desk still has my insurance card because I haven't paid the $50 co-pay yet. My mom drives back and goes in to pay with my credit card.

Why did I have to walk back and forth across the waiting room 4-5 times when I was clearly limping and wincing each time I had to put any weight on my left foot? Why did I have to ASK the X-Ray tech for a wheel chair so that I could get to radiology? Why wasn't I offered an ice pack? Why was the process so inefficient?

In schools we are able to submit grades online and post assignments to websites. In our day-to-day lives we communicate easily with email and text messages on our PDAs. My daughter's pediatricians' office is completely digitized. Why aren't ERs? They, by definition, should be more efficient than a regular doctor's office, right?

I just saw this commercial on TV while watching the NFL playoff pregame show on ESPN.
THIS is what I'm talking about. This is the efficiency I needed in the ER last night and today!


  1. Sorry for what you went through, Kerry. Historically, each ER is different from the next one. I met a friend's cousin last night who showed me his casted hand and he told me that the first ER he went to (in Methuen) casted his hand so poorly that the bones were not going to heal like that. He took the cast off himself and went to another ER who did a better job.

    People need to realize that ER's just do quickie stuff unless you go to a major city hospital where you will get better care....because they have better doctors.

    You should go see an orthopedist ASAP and not take the ER word for it that it is a sprain. You may have torn ligaments and if that is the case then you have to treat it differently depending on the grade of tear.

    Consider an ER a patch job until you see your physician or someone who gives more of a hoot on Monday.

  2. I just stumbled upon your blog post. It caught my curiosity – being a 2nd year x-ray student. I'm so sorry to hear about the ordeal you had to go through in the ER. I'm embarrassed that the x-ray tech that took your images lacked the professionalism to look up your history before coming to get you. I agree with the poster above me. Every ER is run differently. In fact, at the hospital where I do my clinical rotations it is hospital policy that all ER patients be transported to and from x-ray in either a wheel chair or gurney regardless of their injury or illness. It makes me cringe to think that you would have to walk on your injured foot through the entire process of getting admitted. Someone should have thought to get you a wheel chair no-matter how busy they may have been. My Dad was recently in the same situation as you. He went to a small-town ER to get his foot checked out and he was told to wait in a long line (standing-up of course!). He left without ever getting his foot checked despite my nagging, and it still bothers him to this day…

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  4. I am a long-time male nurse, so I understand what you share. You know not coming to the hospital for a checkup and waiting for your turn is something that can't be helped. Because I had so many patients, I had to walk often. I now know a website that reviews nurse shoes men's nursing shoes , I I already know more ways to choose shoes and I'll buy it soon.

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