"Academic medical center. Evening shift with 55 boarding admitted patients, waiting room backs up to 45-50 patients. A 70 year old woman presents with abdominal and back pain but relatively normal vital signs. She is in a chair in the waiting room. Due to the number of people in the waiting room her husband is sent up to another waiting area. She waits for over three hours. Her husband tries communicating with his wife via text messages, but no response. He comes down to ED to find his wife slumped over in the chair and yells to the triage nurses. The patient is in cardiac arrest. She is brought back to the resuscitation bay but is not able to be resuscitated and dies.
Our level of burnout in physicians and nurses is at an all time high.
The ED team, attending physicians, residents, nurses, techs, when finding out that she had been in the waiting room that long, are devastated, many in tears, highly frustrated by the failure of our institution and US healthcare in general to be able to provide adequate access for patients, adequate staffing for our hospitals and EDs, enough options for longer term care, and a safe environment for patients and providers. Our level of burnout in physicians and nurses is at an all time high. A tragic case like this, a consequence of boarding, is another wound in this long battle which shows no signs of letting up. It even seems to be worsening. When something like this happens, patients and families certainly won't be able to trust us, and we as providers cannot trust the failed systems we work in."