As an A&E nurse I’ve seen the recent articles around inappropriate attendances or failings of the emergency services, and the subsequent comments mostly slating the A&E departments and staff, some say ‘i was sent to urgent care when the a&e waiting area was empty’, or ‘drunken aggressive people in the waiting room seen before me’, allow me to explain a few things…you may walk into an A&E department with an empty waiting room and be furious you have to wait to be seen, these are moments i wish the walls were made of glass because little do you know each of our cubicles are full, full with people unable to sit and wait due to severe abdo pain caused by a ruptured appendix or a patient laid on the bed with a possible ectopic pregnancy that could mean they bleed internally, you also do not see that all the resus beds are full taking more than 1 doctor off the floor per patient, as one gets intubated and has 2 nurses making sure they maintain an airway, and another is arresting from a drug overdose, whilst the other is vomiting fresh blood from esophageal varices and needs urgently to be stabilised and given multiple units of blood, meanwhile there may be a baby in our paediatric resus with suspected meningitis having febrile convulsions. That drunk agressive person kicking off in the waiting room may be seen before you because that cut to their head from being assaulted means they now have a bleed on the brain which is why they are behaving so erratically, they may need an immediate scan which means we have to try and sedate them as we are unable get them in the CT scanner because they continue to punch out at staff, but nonetheless we will put up with being swung at because we know their life hangs in the balance. We are sorry you rang 111 and they said you had to be seen immediately or sent an ambulance but unfortunately they follow a flow chart of medical questions on a screen and have to suspect the worst case scenario, so yes we may triage you and decide your problem can wait to be seen in priority order, you are lucky you have the ability to wait, I bet the elderly gentleman in resus with a ruptured aorta surrounded by his crying relatives wishes he was well enough to wait in that waiting room. We also apologise you have to walk from a&e to urgent care to see a GP or a nurse practitioner and we absorb with professionalism the abuse you give to us at the desk when we stream you away about how you want to be seen immediately here, but unfortunately (or actually fortunately for you) your problem is minor enough that an appointment next door is all you need. The majority of us have many years of experience and more often than not we have seen your problem before and know what may be best for you more so than a quick google of your symptoms or a phone operator that thinks the sore neck you have had for months is a fractured c-spine and needs to be seen without delay. We are extremely proud of our service and our departments and you can have faith that we will want what is best for you 100% of the time and do whatever we can to help you, despite the verbal and usually physical assault we get from a number of our patients, whether it be about the wait to be seen, or the fact we wont pay for a private taxi to get you home. This isn’t factoring in what may be going on in our own lives, some of us may have recently lost a friend or a parent and just held the hand of a dying man whilst trying to comfort their family, all the while we are trying to hide our own emotions because it reminds us so vividly of our own personal experiences, but we will emerge from that cubicle, plaster on a happy face, and go into the next cubicle and try and make you smile because we can tell how scared you are. You may be outraged that we stand for a moment and have a quick joke in passing with a colleague but in a job where you are surrounded by sickness and death every day that smile may just help us get through the rest of our shift. You may not feel your experience is perfect but in what service or job is every moment of every day perfect? We are still only human but together we make one hell of a team, we can only promise to try our god damn hardest ever single second of every single day, so go ahead and give us all a break because more often than not we haven’t had one (or a wee) in 7 hours or more 👍
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton