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7 Secrets of the Emergency Room


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What’s the worst thing you can say to the nurse in an emergency room?

This and other questions are answered in an informal survey of doctors, nurses and paramedics, who offer their own insights into the inner workings of hospital emergency rooms. Every year, the nation’s emergency rooms treat 117 million patients, and the average patient spends nearly three hours in the E.R.

But what really goes on behind the scenes? The magazine Reader’s Digest quizzed emergency health workers about the quirks and peeves of the E.R. Here is some of what they had to say.

  1. “The busiest time starts around 6 p.m.; Mondays are the worst. We’re slowest from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. If you have a choice, come early in the morning.” Denise King, R.N., Riverside, Calif.
  2. “People who are vomiting their guts out get a room more quickly. The admitting clerks don’t like vomit in the waiting area.” Joan Somes, R.N., St. Paul, Minn.
  3. “Never tell an E.R. nurse, ”˜All I have is this cut on my finger. Why can’t someone just look at it?’ That just shows you have no idea how the E.R. actually works.” Dana Hawkins, R.N., Tulsa, Okla.
  4. “Don’t blame E.R. overcrowding on the uninsured. They account for 17 percent of visits. The underlying problem is hospital overcrowding in general.” Leora Horwitz, M.D., assistant professor, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.
  5. “Never, ever lie to your E.R. nurse. Their B.S. detectors are excellent, and you lose all credibility when you lie.” Allen Roberts, M.D.
  6. “We hear all kinds of weird stuff. I had a woman who came in at 3 a.m. and said she’d passed out while she was asleep.” Emergency physician, suburban Northeast
  7. “Your complaints about your prior doctor will not endear you to us. The more you say, the less we want to deal with you.” Allen Roberts, M.D.

To hear all 50 insights from the emergency room, read both articles from Reader’s Digest, “15 Secrets the E.R. Staff Won’t Tell You,” and “35 More Secrets the E.R. Staff Won’t Tell You.”

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