When you go to an emergency room, you may be like many people and feel that you should be seen right away. Unfortunately, many emergency rooms work on a triage basis. That means that the sickest patients are seen first. Then the staff moves on to those who don’t appear quite so unwell. This helps many people get seen by nurses right away, but the nurses’ opinions dictate how soon they’ll be seen by a doctor or other medical provider.
While triage can be helpful in some cases, there are risks. For example, a patient who isn’t showing serious signs of a heart attack at first might decline rapidly while waiting to be seen. Two patients with similar symptoms might be seen by a nurse who then has to determine whose health is in worse shape. If they only appear a bit unwell, they may be pushed to the back of the line when a bleeding patient turns up at the ER’s entrance.
Triages are imperfect, though they do keep waiting times down in the main lobby. Unfortunately for patients, if they are not having life-threatening symptoms, then they could be made to wait much longer than others.
What can you do to be seen on time or to get help faster in the ER?
As a patient, it’s essential to make the injury or illness you’re dealing with as easy to understand as possible. Don’t play down your pain or wait patiently if your pain is uncontrolled. When you arrive, tell the front desk if you know what’s wrong, or explain your symptoms succinctly. Let them know any patterns you’ve noticed. For example, if you woke up with a sore arm, now feel numb in your arm and have pain in your chest, then that information will help them understand that your symptoms are worsening quickly.
Negligent medical care can happen at any stage of treatment — and it can include delays being seen in an emergency room when your condition is serious. If an emergency room delay led to serious injury for you or a loved one, find out more about your right to file a medical malpractice claim.