My experience in the ER- long rant-sorry

Nurses General Nursing


I would love opinions on this one- Yesterday hubby wakes me and tells me he hurt his back. He is lying on the floor and can't move without 10/10 pain. How he got up the stairs I have no idea. This is unusual for my very stoic, it never hurts THAT bad kind of guy. I called his PMD who is away for the weekend. After a busy 12 hr the night before and less than 4 hrs sleep, I made the decision we were going to ther ER. He agreed to go which made me feel like it was warranted. I didn't want to seem silly using the ER for something nonemergent, but I couldn't think rationally seeing him in so much pain, and I wanted something diagnostic to tell me he hadn't broken his back. I admit to losing all common sense when a loved one is injured. So we go, he is triaged(vitals taken, questioned about how injury occured). We waited only 5-10 min and were taken back into pt area. There we sat for 2 hrs. Not a nurse, doc anyone. Hubby had to use bathroom but we couldn't fllag anyone down. I asked someone? who happened to walk by for some hot packs and she asked me what I needed them for. I told her he had injured his back, was in pain and she replied - we don't have those and he needs cold anyway. Now, my restless hubby is trying to convince me he is not staying any longer- we must leave. I am trying to keep him calm and NOT notice that I have never seen him in so much pain and not get mad myself that not a nurse has walked by. This hospital is part of the system I work for. I realize that there is a priority level in Er, but they were not running around tending to other pts. When another pt did come in, they all flocked over and stood attending to her. I'm not saying I think hubby needed red status, but couldn't they have checked in to see how he was doing? I can't IMAGINE even with 10 pts at a time, ignoring a high pain rating. Even if I couldn't get a doc to assess I would offer hot packs etc. I'm sure we looked like we were seeking narcs, coming to the ER with something so silly as back pain, but at least LOOK at him. He could've had a tree limb sticking out of his back for all they knew. So, after a few hours of waiting I let no sleep and grimacing hubby get the best of me, and we left. I feel like trash that I would probably roll my own eyes at, but I just couldn't deal. So now he is staying on the couch/bed until Mon morning when we can talk to PMD. I don't know what else to do. He is certainly not going back to another ER- I suggested we go to another with a better reputation for seeing pts, but he will not go. It is probably just a muscle strain that requires rest but I am freaked out that it is something worse. I just cannot get over the nursing part of this. How can they just ignore a pt completely. Even running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I find time to stop in and see my pts. Sorry if this seems like ER bashing, I used to think highly of what they have to deal with and how they do it. Now I am just another annoyed consumer of health care.

I would write a letter to the ER manager and explain the situation. If they're neglecting your husband, I'm sure they're neglecting others. Is this a JCAHO accredited hospital? They could get in big trouble for this. If I were in your shoes I would have taken him to another ER after I left that one. There's no reason for someone to be left in that much pain for an entire weekend. By the way, I'm an ER nurse.


48 Posts

Thanks for your response. I struggle with the fact that during resp season, I look at all the people coming into our ER and think- can't these freaks just take some tylenol and stay at home? It was hard to sit and think we were wasting their time and also think he really needed someone to check him out. There is no way he will go back to the ER now- you know how difficult boys can be!


4,516 Posts

The least they could have done was give him an injection to take the edge off til he could be evaluated IMO. I'm so sorry for what you went through. ER gets so many drug seekers I think they can get jaded and not realize how much pain someone really is in. No excuse to leave someone in excruciating pain for so long however. Hope your hubby gets dx and treated is he doing? Hopefully it is just a sprain that will resolve quickly.

Katnip, RN

2,904 Posts

I'm truly sorry you had to wait like that. It's just poor practice. But I do have to ask, did you go to the nurse's station and ask for help? It's no excuse, but the squeaky wheel and all that.


265 Posts

I worked in Er for 2 yrs - in"drug seeker" capitol of the world. However, there are ways to asses if a pt is truly hurting or not. If no one came and at least got the initial assessment, how could they know? This is poor nursing. I know where I worked, the Doctor usually didnt even know about the pt until the nurse got them worked up - so I cant say anything about the Doc. I think I would have stood at the nurses desk until someone assessed him. If you dont get any response from the nsg manager, you can always report them to the State or even worse, Joint Commission. You will definitely get some action from them. You can notify them anytime. It doesnt have to be around inspection time. They will do a surprise visit. I would follow this up.

If a nurse is so jaded that she never believes any pt- then its time to transfer somewhere else. At least 1 out of 5 pts are going have a life threatening condition. :angryfire


25 Posts

When I hear stories like this I always think to myself, "Who are these nurses and where did they come from?" Most ER docs that I've worked with are so good about letting the nurses give pain meds (and not necc. narcs if seeker is a frequent abuser) until they can get in to see them. I know it's not unusual to have a 2+ hr wait for the dr. but goodness sakes?! I try not to go 1/2 hr. checking on my pt's. Sometimes I get wrapped up with a trauma, but I ask SOMEONE to watch over them for me. And don't think for a second that back pain is a silly reason to go to the ER. I'm sorry you had such a poor experience.

Specializes in Critical Care, ER.

1st of all, PMD should have had out of town coverage. Second of all, was there a trauma? Did you medicate him at home? My guess is that if he could sit in the waiting room for so long... he didn't have an acute process going on. Giving someone an injection prior to a full clinical assessment is not a good idea... and it's not too legal either. Who would write for it? Weren't you seen by a triage nurse who examined his back and interviewed him prior to returning him to the waiting area? If not, many nurses do tend to eyeball pts and look for complaint specific problems from a distance. I think to expect them to approach you and ask how you are doing is not too realistic. I have sat in the same ER where my dh works for hours with a really sick kid and no-one ever asks how we're doing... I understand what they are going through and that sometimes you just have to wait and actually understand that you may not see the whole picture from where you are sitting.

Clearly you are concerned for the wellbeing of someone that you love and who you know is in pain, I hope he feels better soon!


1,334 Posts

Specializes in NICU.


When I read the original post is says that he waited 5-10 min in the waiting room and then was taken back to the pt area and it was there that he waited for 2 hours. I take that to mean he was occupying an ER bed and could assume that that meant someone was going to see to him.

Is that what happened BuffaloLPN?


48 Posts

Yes, we were taken into the back. It's not a problem waiting to be seen by doc, I was just upset that nobody(nurses) ever came back to check on him. I couldn't have gotten a nurses attention unless I went strolling around the department, which I thought would be rude. I didn't realize you had to wait for a nurse to appear if you needed something. As we were leaving I could see them all sitting at desk, which before that I had no clue was there. Could I have asked then for help? Probably. Convince my husband to go back and wait longer- NO WAY.

Result- he felt better after 2-3 days of couch, heat, meds. Primary said it was a muscle strain/possible tear. And not to go to that ER again.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

Wow so sorry to hear about this Buffalo. Hope he continues to improve. I will not speak on the ER issue, I am not an ER nurse. But I am sorry about what happened to you and the dh.


4,516 Posts

Glad DH is feeling better. :)

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