August 15, 2008, 8:28 pm

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Another offering to the god of constipation.

Okay, fess up.

How many of you snuck Ex-Lax pieces out of your Grandmother’s medicine cabinet because it was “chocolate”?

I did.

Guess what happened…


No diarrhea. No abdominal cramping.


Well, something actually did happen.

I got caught!

And back in the early 60’s, pre-Dr. Spock days of child discipline, one did not sit one’s child in the corner for a “time out” or have a “discussion” with one’s preschooler.

If you get my drift.

Let’s just say that I never, ever did that again.


I was on my way back from Employee Health, where I had received my annual TB test. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had titres on file for my childhood diseases.

It’s a wonder I lived past the age of eight. I have had rubella, rubeola, varicella-zoster and mumps!

But I digress…

I needed these lab values to send to Green Bay to be on-file when I began my community nursing practicum. But there was no mumps titre.

Hence my early morning trip to our hospital laboratory at 0750.


The waiting room was packed. Solid.

I immediately started getting tense. I had to be home by 1030, and I had a 40 minute commute. I signed my name on a slip and placed it in the “to-be-called” box. I skrunched into a corner seat with a good view of The Today Show.

I was never going to get out in time.

I just knew it.

What the hell was the lab doing back there? Baking biscuits for breakfast?


One patient was called.

I noticed that Matt Lauer was growing some hair back.

And when the hell did Al Roker lose all that weight?

I don’t watch the Today show very often.


Another patient was called.

Good Housekeeping had an article on spicing up your sex life.

(Yawn.) Yeah, okay.

People had an article on Britney.

(Yawn and gag.)


Another patient was called.

Dammit! I have things to do today.

The local forecast calls for sun.

Of course it does.

This is July in the San Francisco Bay Area, you were expecting snow?



Ah…finally! This wait has been ludicrous.

Tourniquet goes on. Blood comes out.

The tech and I chat about the ever-impending Joint Commission visit.

Finally, I am free to head home.

The lab is so damn slow!


It was 0820. I had taken a seat, been registered and had my blood drawn within only 30 minutes.

30 minutes.

In the time it takes Dominos to deliver, the lab had drawn four patients including myself.

They were hauling butt back there.

But it didn’t feel like that in the waiting room.


I felt like an idiot for being so tense and inwardly impatient.

But now I understand why someone will be upset that it took an hour-and-a-half for their abdominal evaluation in the ER. There are two reasons.

One, they don’t understand how the department works. We see the overview. They see themselves.

And two, time really does distort when you are waiting.

Now I get it.


An original post from


  • kate

    August 16, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Enjoyed your post; agree that the lab can be a sink hole of slowness sometimes. As for the ER, I’ve noticed lately that when I take in my elderly parents in for acute issues (promise; they are acute)things are moving a lot faster. There are templates that drive the initial evaluation depending on chief complaint so there’s no waiting on the doc to get over there, assess, and order. My Dad was on the gurney about 5 minutes and he already had an IV and blood drawn. EKG and CXR were on the way. I was floored. The doc came in a bit later, may or may not have added more tests but the brunt of the work was done at olympic pace. Very cool.

    I like your blog post. I never sneaked an Ex-lax chocolate but I did eat a brownie once that was laden with them and that was not fun.

  • Karin, RN

    August 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Nurse are known to be impatient patients, including myself. Funny post, and so true! I, too, am bored with TV and trashy magazines. Give me my laptop with internet access. I wouldn’t mind the wait.

  • ernurse

    August 16, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I second the laptop with internet access idea – maybe we should have those in the waiting room. Or maybe we should publish our own ER magazine on “While you’re still waiting” with short stories and anecdotes about what happens in the ER, etc etc…lol

  • Jen

    August 17, 2008 at 6:17 am

    re: distortion of time: I was listening to a documentary on the radio the other day about time. They were talking about how one’s perception of time gets distorted in different situations such as you describe. Because your brain has the leisurely time to mull over a high number of mundane topics you percieve having spent heaps of time (think of the long summer days when you are kid).

    Perception of time also happens in the case of a car accident (or similar situation). I guess normally we are recording and analysing what’s going on using our rational, frontal lobe but in high stress situations the more primitive amygdala kicks in and gives us the instinctive responses. Hence the whole “it was like time slowed down… I could see everything so clearly” stories of people in accidents–their brains had the equivalent of 2 cameras on all of the action.

  • Jen

    August 17, 2008 at 6:19 am

    oops –didn’t proofread:

    * I meant “long summer days when you WERE A kid”

    * ALTERATIONS IN perception of time also happens in the case of….

  • AlisonH

    August 17, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    There are waiting times when only cashmere yarn on the knitting needles is enough.

  • Teko

    August 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    None of you would make very good Midwives. I always taught my midwifery pupils to knit whilst awaiting labours progress. Never could afford the cashmere though!

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...

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