Sunday, October 30, 2011

that's me at the triage window

That's me at the triage window. The one who looks exhausted and a little bit peeved. I watch you walk down the hall towards me and, like it or not, I sum you up in seconds just by the way you carry yourself.

I watch you walk in and see how you approach me. Are you shuffling? Are you frantic? Do you have to stop to rest on the way? When you get to the window do you go into excruciating detail going back five years about why you are here? Do I have to pull what's wrong with you out of you? Are you hanging over the desk in a dramatic fashion? Are you pale, sweating? Short of breath? Did you come alone? Do you come with a posse? Do you immediately ask me how long the wait is? Do I need to run you right back? Are you accompanied by the police? In handcuffs?

I will have a pretty good sense of the seriousness of your condition and what kind of person you are before you even come through the triage door. After about a year in ER you are pretty much an expert on the human race and all its quirks and personalities. I can go into a room and take one look at you and sum up how sick you really are.

You might think that sounds unfair. I am not giving you a chance. Its reality. I have to be able to sum you up quickly. If I can't tell if you are real or fake, a wimp or really sick, I'm not doing my job. I am the first one to see you. I have to develop an instinct for people. If I don't you might die. If I assess you in your room and you are in trouble and I don't intervene immediately or call the doctor, you probably going to go down the toilet.

When people come to the hospital, often they concentrate on the doctor: when can I see the doctor? Where is the doctor? You really should be concentrating on me because I'm the one who will prevent you or your loved one from deteriorating. I'm the one who spends the time with you, monitors you, trusts my gut when dealing with you. Your life is really in my hands. Especially if you really have an emergency.

1 comment:

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

This is so true: I had incredible pain when I hit the ER at 7 in the morning that Friday, the nurses were phenomenal. They bustled me in the room, stripped me, did a quick EKG some fancy bloodwork, slapped an IV in me and got me settled right quick. Due to the intense pain, they offered me morphine or dilaudid. Never used either one so they chose for me and kept me medicated, pottied and warm all day while tests were done. It was finally determined to be a GI iinfection that had almost gotten the better off me.

I digress, sorry. My point is that the nurses were the ones to keep me safe and comfortable all day while the Dx’ing was being done. The doc I saw the next day when he came upstairs to tell me he’d never seen Anyone in that much pain walk and talk before. I wear that as a badge of honor. My other two ER visits since 1979 have been very similar to this one and each time the nurses have done all that needed to happen.

I stand with the CNA and all my nurse friends in solidarity for decent wages, patient ratios and benefits like national Congresspeople receive.