Emergency rooms are generally places that people do not want to be in. They’re not places you go to when you’re sick. They’re places you go when something is really, really wrong, like a broken leg, a heart attack or when you’re violently ill. But at least they’re places you can safely assume are well-staffed, well-equipped, and the personnel is well trained. The place can also be expected to be perfectly sterile and you have no chance of infection.
But what if I told you that these were not strictly true? What if I told you that there’s a lot more going on in emergency rooms than you think, and I’m not referring to the good things that go on in order to save people. I’m talking about some rather insane, disturbing stories that make going to an ER an entirely different story. It already isn’t a pleasant place to be, but after knowing just what goes on in there, it might make the experience even worse than it should be.
So, the following article will give you some rather disturbing facts about the ER and the workers who work there day in and day out in order to ensure that their patients survive. So brace yourself for 15 disturbing facts about emergency rooms.
15. ER workers still have to rest…even when others are passing away
Working an ER shift is long and arduous. Especially with a reduced amount of staff and resources, it can be hard to stay awake that long. Which means that they often have to make some rather bizarre and awkward ways to get some rest while the people around them are suffering, or potentially dying.
This isn’t a result of them being lazy; no one can work like a machine for hours on end without a breather (even machines break down and need maintenance, too). The staff often feel very strange about this experience, as they could be helping someone who has underwent a massive traumatic experience to joking about the lame jokes on The Big Bang Theory within seconds. It’s surreal, but it’s also very real. They’re humans, too.
14. Compassion fatigue is very, very real
So while caring is all well and good, there is only so much a person can go through before their sense of compassion for other people’s problems just… dies. This isn’t a case of occupational sociopathy, this is a case of simply being around so much hell that they are desensitized to it. The problem is even more exacerbated when doctors and nurses have to go from dealing with terminal cases where they know the patient is going to die (and they can’t do a thing about it) to having to deal with some schlub who wants full disability papers filled out because he stubbed his toe really hard.
13. Even ER workers need to use google…
So going through webMD seems like a waste of time. A sore throat could easily end up returning a diagnosis of throat cancer, and an itch in your arm ends up being osteoporosis or something equally weird. Good thing that doesn’t happen when you’re dealing with professionals at the ER, right?
Wrong. Doctors often have to Google what’s wrong or what to do with a patient almost as often as the patients themselves. Of course it doesn’t happen with the more common cases, we know what to do with those, but when a rare condition comes along that they see once in a blue moon, they have to break out their phones and Google it like every other layman. At least they won’t use you as a guinea pig…
12. The staff might be traumatized and you wouldn’t know it
The things that hospital staff have to go through on a daily basis, as we’ve already seen, can be really, really hard on people’s minds and bodies. People dying, people who’ve gone through some seriously violent encounters with sharp objects sticking out of their bodies, gunshot wounds and people cut in half in freak accidents. Day in and day out. Trying to save these people, even when it is a lost cause, often have people in fight or flight mode at all times. It is practically a war zone to these people, especially when they’re working in neighborhoods with a high crime rate, where people get shot every night.
11. Some of the reasons why people come in are hilarious
Pop quiz… When taking medication, is it A) A good idea to read the instructions, or B) Just throw them away and take it as you see fit? If you chose A, then congratulations, you’re actually someone with more than two brain cells. The problem remains that there are a LOT of people who think option B is just as valid. There have been people who were issued enema kits or other stuff that have non-oral administration methods and yet they still have people who consume them in ways they were never intended.
Yes, there were people who took enema kits and drank them… only to have extremely funny results. There is also a massive number of people who have been admitted to hospitals for having been too liberal with anal insertions. I’m going to leave it at that…
10. Almost 2 million visits are due to drugs
“Just say no to drugs” and “Winners don’t use drugs” are slogans that anyone who has lived through the ’80s and ’90s knows. Despite what the news and the scaremongers like to say, drug use is an at all-time low. Teenagers, the bane of every old-timer’s existence, are actually using drugs and alcohol far less than ever before.
But despite this, there is still an abnormally large amount of people who are rushed to the ER as a result of an overdose of drugs. So drugs are still a pretty huge problem, and are flooding the emergency rooms far more than they have any right to be. So if you’re at the park watching your kids play ball with the other boys and girls, and one of them gets hurt and needs emergency care, then they will likely receive their care later than they should because someone had the bright idea to take a high dosage of a drug and OD.
9. Only 31% of them involve only illegal drugs
It seems that illegal drugs alone are a big cause of visits to the emergency room and take up a lot of time and effort from the already overworked staff. Illegal drugs make up 31% of all the visits to ER as a result of their use. Alcohol and other legal drugs (medication included, especially the legal opiates) are a substantial portion of the other ER visits, but there is another combination of both legal and illegal substances that really help to clog up the system. There is no doubt that there are people with head trauma and heart attacks that probably died because they couldn’t be cared for fast enough due to the visits from people abusing substances, legal and illegal.
8. There are more people who need emergency care than you think
From 1993 to 2003, there has been an increase of 26% in visits to the emergency room, and that number will not drop any time soon. Maybe it’s the rising population or our food consumption. Either way, the sheer amount of people that are going into the already overcrowded and understaffed emergency rooms all over the country is staggering. So no matter what you think your emergency is, chances are likely that when you do make it to the ER, you’ll be made to sit down for hours while overworked doctors are frantic to try to triage patients as best they can.
7. And fewer beds to provide for them
Oh wait, did I mention that while there has been a steady increase in people who need emergency care, there has been a steady slashing of both the budget and the staff that has been desperately needed for assistance? During the same time period from 1993 to 2003 that we have seen the increase in the number of emergency care patients, we have seen a decline in the amount of hospital beds. No less than 198,000 beds were stripped from 425 emergency departments. It isn’t surprising that the average wait time is no less than 3.2 hours when waiting for help. These people have no idea where to put them, even if they could get them through triage faster. When you realize that there are nearly 116.8 MILLION visits per year, just how many of those will result in the deaths of the people trying to get in simply because they couldn’t process them fast enough.
6. 90,000 people in ERs die from infection. That number is rising
You probably realized this was coming. Despite the availability of a variety of antibiotics that should be able to annihilate any bacterial infection, it seems that death from infection isn’t a thing of the past. In fact, there have been around 90,000 deaths from infection in the United States alone, and that number is rising. We don’t know exactly why this is the case, but it is speculated that bacteria are starting to adapt to our pesky use of antibiotics and are trying to continue their murderous ways despite our attempts to stop them.
Overuse of antibiotics is also another problem. Especially for diseases and situations that don’t really need them (like the flu, a virus that is unaffected by antibiotics). Maybe that’s something we need to change before the bacterial changes kill us.
5. Scabies scare ER workers the most
So bacteria is still pretty deadly. But at least you cannot see them. Out of sight, out of mind, right? At least there aren’t bugs and creepy crawlies going around like some medieval hovel.
But as we have seen, this isn’t even remotely the truth. Scabies, while invisible, are still actually little insects that love to burrow inside people and live under their skin. Their effects are almost immediate, with incessant scratching even if you never actually contract an infestation, and phantom itches that last longer than the infestation itself.
4. Most Trips are unnecessary…and can harm others
There’s a term in emergency rooms to describe hypochondriacs who come in to ask for treatment they don’t need. They’re called ‘frequent fliers’ by the less than impressed staff who often have to deal with real emergencies on a regular basis. These are the people who walk into clinics who are perfectly fine, but feel that their mild pain or some weird (but normal) sensation is going to be the death of them.
These people are possibly the biggest clogs in the system because even if the staff knows they’re perfectly fine, they cannot be denied and still have to be looked after, even if the time and resources used could have been used to better effect elsewhere.
3. Some people come in for drugs
Hospitals are full of drugs, ditto for the ER where they need all sorts of things that would sedate patients and numb their pain. Of course a lot of these drugs could be used to get high, and we all know that there are some junkies that will go to amazing lengths to get their fix.
This includes people who will claim that their pain is unresponsive to anything other than some very specific and highly controlled drugs that only emergency rooms and hospitals have access to. Doctors often have to be very cautious since there really ARE people whose pain is unresponsive to anything but those drugs, but there is no real way to test for fakers.
But another thing that is really terrifying is how some people who fake to get the medication don’t even use it. They peddle it to other addicts who want it. I’ve heard of at least one case of a woman who claimed she needed those drugs for her pain. But when she realized she was not going to fool the doctor, she told him that she would be on the streets to sell them them, since the income she gets from selling them is how she pays for rent and to feed her children… Scary stuff.
2. Sometimes doctors use you as a guinea pig
So you’ve suffered a car accident and you’re being rushed to the ER because both your arms and legs have been broken. You can rest assured that the staff are fully experienced, right?
Well… Yes you can, but remember this: there’s a first time for everything. At times, the new guys come in and they do need to get their feet wet for the first time, and you can rest assured that it is very possible that you will be the first person a doctor or nurse has to assist in their entire careers. But that isn’t the only thing. New treatments and treatment methods are made all the time, and there is only so much testing they can do in theory and in simulations, they do eventually need to be tried on patients in actual emergency situations…
1. The First Person you see might have no medical training
So after going through all of this, you would think that when you finally arrive at the hospital, you can at least expect the few people that are able to help you to be fully trained medical workers… Except they don’t have to be.
The very first person you meet, the person you have to talk to in order to get admitted might not have any medical training whatsoever. Even if they do have some very serious training, many of them are still not legally allowed to do much. Not even give medical advice.
Keep that in mind next time you need to go the hospital for any reason.
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