Why patients abuse the ER...I'm beginning to understand


Last night my 8 year old daughter started complaining of a sore throat, headache and both ears hurting. As all parents do, I felt her head...a little warm. I took her temp..100.3. I have her some tylenol and sent her to bed. Approximately 3am, she woke me up crying....ear hurting, headache. I gave her ibuprofen and benadryl...I know i'm a bad mom, but it was 3am! I also call in to work. Around 8 I started calling the pediatrician........"sorry, can't see her today". I considered abusing the ER docs....(which i've done numerous times), and having one of them check her out, but we made our treck to the walk-in clinic. Only 5 people in the waiting room.....shouldn't be too long. Two hours later....we are called to a room. Keep in mind that was two hours of constant whining with the occasional bout of tears. Once in the room I ask the nurse how many doctors are seeing patients today.......she replies 2. I'm thinking to myself "what's up with the 2 hour wait then?" but i hold my tongue. I've been on the receiving end of this too often. After sitting in the room for an additional 30 minutes, the doc comes in, very nice, curtious woman. As i suspected....raging otitis media and very red and swollen tonsils. Scripts in had i head to the cashier..........."that will be $71.00" she says with a smile. Considering we had never been to this particular clinic, we paidnew patient price. I left thinking........"next time, if we can't get in to see our doc.....we are abusing the ER" Sorry, just had to rant!:D


213 Posts

wouldn't the er be more expensive? for $71 you saved your child several hours of misery. the next visit will be cheaper.


48 Posts

Actually, it would have been cheaper to go to the ER. First of all, I probably could have gotten one of the docs to see her for free. But I made the choice not to abuse my position. Second, I probably would not have had to wait that long if I would have checked in. (Again, employee priviledge) Third, we have a fast track, and a basic visit (no lab, no x-ray) is around $60 and I would not have had to pay that upfront. My point about patients abusing the ER is...........paying up front. I have insurance, but my children are rarely sick, thus my deductable was not met. I had the $71, but a lot of people don't. Even with insurance it is very hard for the average joe to fork out that amount of money......and at the ER, you don't......and the docs are WAY faster. :D :D


558 Posts

I couldn't agree more with you. I have yet to recieve speedy or adequet care at one of those walk in clinics. ER is faster and often cheaper. Often times it is difficult to get into your regular md when you are actually ill and suffering at leaste in a timely manner. So one is left with either walk in clinics or ER. Can totally relate to your delima.


814 Posts

I don't think you abused the ER in any way. It is not uncommon for a concerned mom to take their child in after hours. The abuse part IMHO is when patients do not follow up with their primary care docs. Such as when a parent keeps taking a kid in for otis media and has not followed up with the fact that the kid has problems that need to be adressed to prevent reoccuring infections. Just my opinion.


541 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac/Vascular & Healing Touch.

A diagnosis of acute pain is not abusing the ER! Not treating it would have been not caring for your child. You did try to see your PCP & was put off, so you did the right thing! :kiss


77 Posts

We have been at our new duty station for 4 months. During this time, we have needed to take the kids to the doctor 3 times, I needed to go once, and my husband has needed to go twice.

Because he's the active duty member, he's never had to wait for an appointment, however, we have yet to be able to get in to see a doctor (never the same one, and we've yet to meet our PCM) in less than a week's time.

A week is unacceptable for an ear infection, broke ankle, or almost anything acute. We have had no choice but to use the civilian ER for each and every problem we have had since moving here.

I hate using the ER for simple problems probably as much as the ER staff hates seeing us come in for simple problems. However, there are those that have no choice.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 26 years experience.

in MILITARY HOSPITALS (we are USAF) this time of year, GOOD LUCK seeing a doctor other THAN making a trip to the ER. If my kids are in pain or VERY sick and I cannot get in to see their PCM at Peds, I know I am in for a 3-4 hour wait at ER. But I will do it for their health's sake. I don 't consider this abuse when we try to see a doctor and are told nothing opens for 10 days when one is acutely ill. We are given no choice, sadly.


2 Posts

I think there is a very easy answer to this -- get a new primary care doctor. Almost every doctor in my area keeps same day appointments open in our area, for just this reason.

Worst case scenerio, you should have been worked in meaning you would have had a two hour wait on average, but no upcharge for a new patient and could have seen your regular doctor.


299 Posts


yes, if you have a perceived life threatening emergency, by all means go to the er. however, if it is a saturday night and your family is coming over for social hour, and you have to make a critical decision for an entertainment event, don't get the whole clan together in the clampet mobile to go to the er for a tick on your arm that was removed a week ago.

i think that patient first could handle this emergency but isn't it more fun in the er!


1,093 Posts

you know - sometimes i don't even mind the bs visits.... what i do mind is that tick bite pt (from a wk ago) complaining about having to wait 20 min......


541 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac/Vascular & Healing Touch.

you must work near me, because they are everywhere!!!! Esp on good TV nites, so they can sit in lobby & get cable for free!

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