ER 101

24 August 2008

The move is complete. Orientation starts tomorrow. And although I am technically staying on per diem, I really have ended my tenure (ha!) in the ED. So before I have tons of nursing-school hijinks to write about, I wanted to share just a little of the wisdom I gleaned from 2 years of semi-controlled chaos in your friendly neighborhood Level I Trauma Center:

  1. Don’t run from the police. That rarely turns out well. Doubly true while on a motorcycle.
  2. Remember, cartoons are for entertainment purposes only — Gunpowder is not a toy.
  3. Don’t get your octogenarian mother completely, totally, shit-faced drunk and then wonder why she’s having gait instability and slurred speech.
  4. The Vagina: Not an approved storage device. For anything. Like, say, drugs. Or glass drug paraphernalia. Cuz that shit *does* show up on X-ray.
  5. If you’re an IV drug user, don’t inject other things that might have once contained drugs. Like month- old wads of cotton.
  6. If you’re an insulin-dependent diabetic, don’t embark on a solo multi-state road trip without any.
  7. If you’re allergic to peanuts,  don’t get drunk and have a Butterfinger.
  8. If you’re male, intoxicated, and your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/any female bystander says “I don’t think that’s a very good idea”, cease and desist, immediately. Particularly if your plans involve firearms, sharps, fire, or a moving vehicle.
  9. Parents, don’t drag your child in to the ER for a low-grade fever that they’ve had for all of three hours. It’s called Children’s Tylenol. And a phone call to your pediatrician.
  10. Oh, and moms, the ER is not free daycare, and RNs aren’t babysitters. If you do bring your child in, expect to be with them the entire time. And if you really have to have that cigarette, don’t expect the nurses to be cordial when you take your toddler outside with you for your nic fit. Especially when she’s here for an asthma attack.
  11. And finally, it’s never a good idea to threaten ER staff. For some reason the huge guys in suits ALWAYS take our side.

Alright, all joking aside. If I learned anything I’d really want to share, it’s this:

Your PCP’s practice always has someone on call. Trust that qualified professional to decide whether you need to come to the ER at 3AM for your hemorrhoids or sore throat or the back pain you’ve had for eight months — because maybe, just maybe, it can wait until Monday and a routine office visit.

Because the ED is for (gasp!) Emergencies. The MDs and RNs there are trained to manage crises. It is not their job to solve all your medical problems, diagnose and treat all your possible ailments, and update all your medications in three hours. It is their job to determine if the symptoms you are having are life-threatening or require immediate medical intervention, and once they’ve decided that is not the case, you will get the ‘follow up with your PCP’ dispo and shown the door. You may not have any answers. You may still feel like shit. You may feel like you wasted a whole day and a large copay for them just to tell you what you don’t have. But that’s how they manage to save lives and still keep one or two beds open for the MVAs and the heart attacks and strokes. Just something to remember next time you come for a visit.

Oh, and one other thing.  Use car seats.  Wear helmets and seat belts.  And for the Love of Bob, people, don’t drink and drive.


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