By Nicole Ervast, Business Development Associate
A few weeks ago, I found myself in the ER for the first time in my life for a mild to moderate concussion (I’ll spare you the details). Considering that I work for a company that manages emergency departments, it was probably about time. Although it’s never a good thing to have to go to the ER, it was eye-opening to finally be able to relate everything I read and hear about metrics, beds and patient flow to a real experience. So, I’m here to give a patient’s experience in the ER, minus the bias of not understanding just how complex the system is.
The hospital I chose will remain unnamed, but I will say that I had an overall great experience (the fact that I was concussed and fading in and out of la-la-land may or may not have been a contributing factor).
Getting to the ER
This was probably the worst part of the experience that I had at “Unnamed Hospital”. The ER was easy enough to find, but parking was not. I guess the idea was that the driver (my mom in this case) would drop off the sick/injured passenger at the front doors and then proceed to park in the parking garage located on the other side of the hospital. The problem for me was, being concussed, I was in no condition to be dropped off. I was confused, my brain was working in slow motion, and I wanted my mommy. So the solution for us was to park in the parking garage and then walk to the ER. Suffice it to say it was a long walk.
I waited in the waiting room for less than an hour before being called back to triage. After triage, I was sent back to the waiting room, during which time they took my copay and insurance information. Shortly after this, I was called back for tests and went straight to a bed after my CT scan (which was fast!) Once I was in the bed I was seen by a nurse and examined almost immediately. I was given a visual acuity test, and after that is when most of the waiting began. Luckily my perception of time was a little distorted, so I barely noticed the time passing by.
After waiting for about 90 minutes, the physician finally arrived. He moved quickly, was friendly and answered all of our questions, but it felt very rushed. He did, however, take the time to sit down and have a conversation with me. He had a scribe, which allowed him to be engaged during the short time that he was there. After the doctor left, my mom came up with a few more questions, but we couldn’t find him again, so we settled for asking the nurse (who was friendly, informative and overall awesome).
In fact, almost the entire staff was awesome. From the medical staff to the radiologist to the guy who transported me for my CT scan, everyone was considerate and even comforting. The level of service was right en-pointe, which is probably what contributed most to my level of satisfaction as a patient.
Since I had a brain injury, very little of what the medical staff told me stayed with me. Since my mom was there to listen and take notes, this probably wouldn’t have posed a problem, at least for me. But they also gave me a 3-page printout with an explanation of my diagnosis, what to do if certain symptoms appeared and clear instructions to follow up with my PCP. I used this printout many times for reference, which prevented me from having to continually call and pester my mom.
I spent just over 3 hours in the ER before being discharged, which wasn’t bad at all. Although I had a good experience, there are always ways to improve, especially when you’re talking healthcare. Some things that could have made my experience even better are:
- The doctor spending more time with me
- Communication of how I performed on the visual acuity test (I never did find out)
- Closer parking!
And just as a side note, I was a good patient and made a follow-up appointment with my PCP to help prevent readmission (feel free to give me a virtual pat on the back!). This appointment was super useful, because he did a more thorough examination of me and clarified in more detail the information I had received in the ER. I definitely recommend the follow-up appointment!
For any readers who work in an ER (or run one), I hope this feedback from an informed patient helps you give your patients the best experience possible.
You can find me on Twitter @nicoleervast. I’d love to hear your thoughts!