Silly reason for ER visit?

Nurses General Nursing

Published

Question: Is it really silly for someone to go to the ER with a broken toe?

My sister went yesterday and she got the impression that the staff thought it was trivial (it was the forth toe). Admittedly she has NO tolerance for pain. Still, urgent care was closed.

Should she have waited until Monday and seen her own doc?

AirforceRN, RN

611 Posts

There's not really a lot one can do for a broken toe. Most people leave the ER with little more then the diagnoses of a broken toe...maybe a script for some pain killers.

That being said, the average person probably thinks that something will be done and that's why they show up in the department. So do I think it's silly? No, not really, but you usually only have to do it once to understand that its unnecessary.

Jolie, BSN

6,375 Posts

Specializes in Maternal - Child Health.

As long as there was no evidence of compromised circulation or nerve damage, I would not go to my family doctor, let alone the ER, with a suspected broken toe. I can't imagine anyone prescribing narcotics for an uncomplicated broken toe, so there is really nothing to be gained from a medical visit.

That said, I know that from my experience as a nurse, mother and broken toe sufferer. The lay public may not share my knowledge. This is where a phone-advice line would come in handy to avoid unnecessary ER visits. Not only are they expensive, they are a source of aggravation to the patient who goes and waits hours to be seen, only to learn that they would have been better off at home on the couch with an ice bag and Tylenol or Motrin.

Hope she feels better :)

Ahhphoey

370 Posts

Specializes in ICU, M/S,Nurse Supervisor, CNS.

I don't think so. True, they may not have been able to do anything for it, but as the other poster said, she probably didn't know not much could be done and she may have gotten a script for some stronger pain killers which she probably needed if she has no tolerance for pain. Not everyone has the medical knowledge that we do, so I do try to respect people's concerns and complaints about their health. Of course going to the ER for a hangnail or cuz a finger hurts is a whole 'nother issue.:uhoh3:

Specializes in EMS, ER.

Just as long as she didn't call 911 at 0300 for it, been there done that a few times at varrying hours of the early morning. I'm not the most congenial person when someone breaks their toe at 1500 and calls 911 at some god forsaken hour, especially when they say that they called the ER and the staff told them to come in, and when they say they don't have a ride the ER staff tells them to call EMS.....:banghead:

pinksugar

243 Posts

A broken toe hardly qualifies as an emergency, no matter how you slice it. However, most people don't know that there really isn't anything that docs and nurses can do for it, so I don't think that it was really silly. I broke my own toe a few years ago and it hurt like heck!! I didn't go to the ER but a big vat of Dilaudid sure would have been nice! :chuckle I hope your sis is on the mend soon. :)

eriksoln, BSN, RN

2,636 Posts

Specializes in M/S, Travel Nursing, Pulmonary.

I think the general public would not know whether or not to go to the ER for a broken toe. I imagine the whole thing plays out something like this:

1. Pt. breaks their toe.

2. They yell and curse a lot, wait awhile thinking they just stubbed it really badly.

3. The pain persists or even gets worse. Maybe even some swelling.

4. They call a couple friends (unfortunately, not medical personnel), are told to put ice on it, elevate it and "I like advil more than tylenol" type stuff.

5. It continues to hurt, they think there must be something worse than just a broken toe going on for it to hurt so bad for so long...............

6. They find their way to the ER.

I dont think they are silly. They just dont have a medical background. Me saying they are silly would be like a banker telling me I am silly for calling about a charge on my account I dont remember or a plumber making fun of me for not knowing to stop the leak I only had to replace a washer.

Specializes in CAMHS, acute psych,.
I don't think so. True, they may not have been able to do anything for it, but as the other poster said, she probably didn't know not much could be done and she may have gotten a script for some stronger pain killers which she probably needed if she has no tolerance for pain.

Why didn't she ring you for your opinion, first? I'm only a student nurse, yet I am already the first port in every health storm (oh ... and yes, I usually say, ask your doctor)

BabyLady, BSN, RN

2,300 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Post-partum.
There's not really a lot one can do for a broken toe. Most people leave the ER with little more then the diagnoses of a broken toe...maybe a script for some pain killers.

That being said, the average person probably thinks that something will be done and that's why they show up in the department. So do I think it's silly? No, not really, but you usually only have to do it once to understand that its unnecessary.

Exactly. A layperson wouldn't typically understand that little is done for a broken toe.

She tried to call urgent care...they were closed. She followed the right route.

Specializes in CVICU.

Buddy tape it and call it a day ;)

jschut, BSN, RN

2,743 Posts

Pain is what the patient says it is....

and no medical background, a swollen toe, that's black and blue, and hurts like the dickens.... yea.....

emmalou*

112 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg; aged care; OH&S.

I've kicked my toe once and pretty sure I broke it and didn't get any medical attention because I knew there was bugger all they could do. TBH, I would have to be dying (or feel like it) to go to an ER. I'm a really clumsy person and apart from the broken toe, I've:

hurt my knee moving boxes and limped around a bit for a few days

hurt my back - was a bit sore and sorry for a day or so

when I was at uni I fell UP my stairs going home (had a few drinks at the pub!) and sprained my little finger quite badly

slipped over in the shower and bruised my ribs so badly I couldn't breathe in without pain but was able to function still

had generalised abdo pain a few times which was quite severe but went away in a few hours

had the beginnings of a UTI and just drank heaps of water for a few days

slipped over in the shower again and bruised my shin so badly I couldn't walk properly

Have never been to an ER in my life and in fact didnt see a doctor about any of the above although I did the usual first aid stuff. I'm a bit mad though, I just figured if things got worse I would see my GP and monitored my symptoms. I'm still here so I guess I didn't do anything too bad to myself!

I don't think it's a silly reason to go to an ER so much for a broken toe, particularly if the person was in a lot of pain and couldn't walk and thought they could do something or thought it might get worse if they didn't receive immediate medical attention.

The point is, most of my non medical friends/family would have gone to at least a GP, if not an ER for all of my above injuries because they are sensible.

Me, not so much. But then I hate ERs!

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