I don’t think I’ve ever had a patient plead for coffee.
Back in the old days (pardon me, sonny, while I put my teeth in…), patients in the Coronary Care Unit were not allowed to have caffeinated coffee.
No stimulating cardiac muscle in my department!
All we could give them was Sanka.
It would be a cold day in Hades before I’d be pleading with anyone for coffee, leaded or unleaded. I’d get it one way or another!
Even if it meant my husband had to sneak it in under his coat!
While at the BlogHer08 conference a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Emily Post’s great-great granddaughter, Anna Post. (Yep, THE Emily Post!). Anna writes a blog entitled What Would Emily Post Do? , focusing on modern etiquette and, along with other members of the Post family, contributes to The Emily Post Institute.
Our conversation turned to etiquette in the emergency department, something that was not covered in any of the great books on etiquette available that day.
I remembered writing a post on ER etiquette, and a quick search of the archives turned up “Mind Your Manners and Call Me in the Morning”, first posted back in 2005.
It holds up pretty well, but I thought it could use a bit of refining. So, here it is, The 2008 Emergiblog Guide to Emergency Department Etiquette.
The easiest way to understand emergency department etiquette is to realize that the majority of the issues revolve around privacy and confidentiality, both yours and that of other patients.
- Don’t ask about the condition or status of other patients in the department. Staff can not and will not discuss another patient with you.
- Stay in your room. Don’t congregate in areas where patient information can be overheard, including hallways or the nursing station. Use the nurse’s bell to summon staff for questions or requests.
- Limit your visitors. Ideally, bring no more than two with you to the ER. However, if you do have more than two with you, the others need to wait in the waiting room.
- Don’t stare into other patients’ rooms or at other patients as they go past on gurneys or in wheelchairs. Staring is just rude, period.
- Keep it to yourself. Don’t repeat what you do hear. Sometimes it’s impossible not to hear what is going on in another cubicle, especially when separated by only a curtain.
- If you are dealing with a very personal issue/condition yourself, it is perfectly okay to ask the staff to conduct your interview in a private area.
The next area of etiquette would revolve around cell phones. Cell phones are now permitted in some hospitals (in all areas except the intensive care unit), so it is important to discuss their use.
- Before you enter the emergency department, tell your family/friends that you will call them once you have been seen at triage. It’s easier on you to have them wait for your call than to have to ignore multiple incoming calls. Because…………
- Answering a ringing cell phone at any time while you are being examined or treated, either at triage or in the treatment room is a major breach of etiquette.
A major source of frustration in the emergency department is waiting. It’s inevitable. You will be waiting. You will wait to be triaged, wait to be treated, wait for test results and wait to be discharged.
- Asking for a time frame, or an update on where you are concerning test results is perfectly reasonable. A specific time can not always be given, but staff is happy to give you an update on your progress.
- Expressing frustration with the process can be therapeutic. Chances are the staff is just as frustrated as you are with any delays. Yelling, screaming and cussing at the staff is inappropriate and will not get you seen/treated/discharged any faster.
Etiquette in the ER is really no different than etiquette anywhere else. “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way. Treat others with the same respect with which you expect to be treated, and remember that the need to be polite does not end at the doors of the emergency department.
A visit to the ER is never easy. Observing etiquette in the ER makes your visit a more pleasant experience, not only for you, but for those around you.