October 22, 2005, 3:30 pm

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Emergency Department

As you travel among the galaxies, it is possible that you will require some form of health care attention.

On Earth, the primary means of obtaining such care is through what Earth inhabitants refer to as an “Emergency Department”.

It is well for you to remember the Hitchhiker’s motto:


It is in the Emergency Departments of Earth that you will learn first-hand the concepts of “sitting” and “waiting”.

You will first be directed to an area where you will “sit” and “wait” for a process called “Triage”, where you will be instructed to “sit” and give the Nurse your entire health history, unless of course the ED, as it is called, is horrendously busy at which point nobody cares about the nose bleed you had on Alpha Centauri last millennium.

You will then be instructed to a room where you will “sit” and “wait” to be assigned a planetary medical source number, or in Earth parlance, be “registered”.

Once you are called to “Registration”, you will “sit” and give the data collector your planetary information. As in Triage, this will have to be done verbally, as earthlings are not equipped with telepathic sensors.

(This does not, however keep some earthlings from assuming that nurses and doctors already know everything about them because it is “in the chart”.)

Do speak in English as Babelfish are not indigenous to the planet. However, if you land anywhere in the region known as California, Spanish is the main language of approximately 51.8% of the population.

You will resume “sitting” and “waiting”.

You will then be escorted to a cubicle where you will be instructed to replace your clothing with a garment of dubious construction.

The doctor will then arrive and, while you “sit”, proceed to ask you the same questions presented to you in Triage. It is important that you vary your story slightly in key areas, in keeping with the Earth tradition of never telling the same story to both doctor and nurse.

Should you need to see a specialist, who will ask you the exact same questions you have answered twice before, vary the story a second time, thereby insuring that the ER doctor and nurse look like, as they say on Earth, idiots.

Once the physical examination is complete, you will “sit” and “wait” for serum to be taken from your portals.

You will “sit” and “wait” for radiographic images and something known as Computerized Axial Tomography of your cranium. Having completed that, you “sit” and “wait” for the results.

It is possible that while “sitting” and “waiting”, you received a consciousness-altering plant derivative highly sought after by earthlings with cranial discomfort.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Medical Edition suggests that you do not travel through hyperspace for 24 hours after reception of such derivatives and that you refrain from consuming Pan Galactic Gargle-Blasters for 48 hours.

Virgin Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, are, however, permitted.

Ignoring these recommendations could result in quite forceful regurgitation of gastric contents. While this is considered a polite compliment on Seti Alpha 5, it is quite repugnant to earthlings.

Once the doctor releases you from the health care area, you will “sit” and “wait” for discharge instructions. They are rarely read or followed by the average earthling. You may find them of interest as a cultural artifact.

They are given on the theory of “covering one’s derriere”, although earthlings do not attach them to that area.

The precise origin of this theory is rumored to be related to an Earth game called “suing” where great sums of currency are given after a large competition to see who has the better attorney, the patient or the hospital.

The End

(My apologies to the late Douglas Adams. I was watching “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” on DVD last night and couldn’t resist a parody.)


  • Dr. Deborah Serani

    October 22, 2005 at 7:52 am

    This is a great post, and love the title parody too.


  • Karen

    October 22, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    Very nice. 🙂

  • unicorn

    October 22, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    I love the book!
    If you have not read it: DO IT!!! It’s hilarious!

    best wishes
    the “sitting” unicorn

  • Anonymous

    October 22, 2005 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you for the humor you pull from emergency nursing!

    I really needed it this week. I’m a new emerg nurse working in a trauma center. I love my work…but had week from hell, and just happened to stumble across your blog. It really brightened my day…and distracted me from the itch of the *gasp* scabies I picked up homeless crew last week.

    Thanks and please keep posting.

    Junior ER-RN

  • Kim

    October 25, 2005 at 12:54 am

    Unicorn: The book is the funniest thing I have ever read. I have the TV show and the movie on DVD.

    Dr. Deb: Thanks! : D

    Junior colleague: Thanks and welcome!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

Continue reading »

Find Me On...
Twitter     Technorati

Subscribe to Emergiblog

Office of the National Nurse

Zippy Was Here

Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics

  • Perspective
  • Confidentiality
  • Disclosure
  • Reliability
  • Courtesy