It’s the situation we all dread: Rushing a loved one to the ER just to find out you’ll have to wait HOURS before they are seen by a doctor. As an ER Physician, I definitely understand both sides of the spectrum. I understand the patient’s frustration with having to wait on what is deemed as an emergency on their end, and I also understand the process behind admitting patients and why, at times, it can take longer than expected. Learn more about ER Tips here.
Long ER wait times are extremely common in the USA and are on the rise, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. The government and hospitals are working on better processes for shorter wait times, but that process alone takes time. Below, I wanted to touch on a few points that patients are usually curious about.
Why are ER wait times so long?
Long delays don’t always have to deal with the number of patients. There are other factors that can come into play: such as diagnosis, boarding, shift changes, disasters and more. Below, I’ll highlight just a few reasons why ER wait times can be so long. Keep in mind, that these are not ALL of the factors that may extend waiting times, as there are many other factors at play when determining how quickly we can admit a patient.
The Hospital Is Full
Every hospital and emergency care facility has a limited amount of beds available to serve patients. Once the beds are full, ER waiting times are extended. Most ER cases end as a same-day discharge or a transfer to a different department, however this causes prolonged waiting times. Once the beds are full, the staff is asked to prevent other patients from coming in.
When a huge disaster, or even smaller local disasters occur around the same time, you can expect to have a longer waiting time in the ER. This is completely unpredictable, but will ultimately effect how long it takes you to be admitted, depending on the seriousness of your injuries.
Emergency Center Closures
Thousands of emergency care centers have been shut down in the past decade, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. Less emergency rooms available is the direct cause for fewer emergency departments, resulting in overcrowded waiting rooms and longer waiting times.
How Can I avoid waiting?
The largest number of ER staff are usually present Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6pm. As we all know, this timing does not always equate to the busiest times for emergency rooms, as these are completely unpredictable. If you can control it, try to visit the ER time around these times to ensure the correct staff is available for you. Certain hospitals and facilities now have tools for you to see how long the wait time is before admission into the ER as well. Again, if you can help it, this can be a great way to ensure your wait is shorter.
PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT wait to arrive to the Emergency Room if you are having pain and something just does not feel right. Know your body. The above is referencing minor issues such as small cuts, bruises, etc.
Overall, I do understand how frustrating it can be waiting in the ER. Hospitals and Emergency Care facilities are doing the best they can to lower patient waiting times, because after all our number one concern is our patients. However, the best way to deal with long waiting times is not to freak out, get upset or begin talking down to the people who are meant to help you. In a time of crisis, it’s best to remain calm and patient and trust that ER doctors such as myself, are doing the best we can to ensure every patient is treated.
If you’re looking for more information about the ER, be sure to sign up to our emailing list to receive my audio book ‘Back To Baseline’ for free.