Emergency thinking

Waiting in line at the intake desk of the E.R., I tapped the edge of my insurance card against my hip, over and over and over.

The world’s calmest, slowest woman typed my driver’s license information into her computer.

“What happened to YOU?” the nice man behind me in line asked.

“Bike accident.”

He looked me up and down.

“They should hurry you up.”

The calmest, slowest woman announced that her printer needed paper.

“Thanks,” I told the nice man behind me. Really I wanted to yell things. I don’t get mad that often, but when something hurts I get mad and impatient from some deep-down primal place.

The calmest, slowest woman returned with a ream of white paper. She arranged it carefully in the printer tray. She printed several documents. She did not look up at me.

“Do you have any ibuprofen?” I asked. I knew that the wave of adrenaline that had carried me from the curb to the cab to the hospital was about to fade, and the reality of these scrapes was about to blare forth.

“Ma’am, I am not a nurse,” she said, and continued typing.

And then I saw how impatient and illogical I was being, so like a child, so self-centered. Of course, if you work in an emergency room, “emergency mode” must become taxing. Impossible to sustain. Of course she would not move at lightning speed; we weren’t on television. I wasn’t in cardiac arrest, here. Of course she would not hand out medicine; I would have to wait for the triage nurse like everyone else.

“What about, like, a tissue?” I held up my bleeding arm.

“Ma’am, I am not a nurse.”

And then I was so glad that this calm, slow woman was not a nurse, because many people would die on her calm, slow watch.

One thought on “Emergency thinking

  1. What we need to do is send Malcolm Gladwell and/or IDEO to a hospital waiting room for a weekend. Everyone’s done the patient room and treatment checklist research, so how about the stupid room at the beginning that makes you feel worse instead of better? First thing: better chairs. Anyone in a comfortable chair feels better.

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