An Open Letter
Dear Patient/Family Member:
Experiencing a cardiac arrest IS A RELEVANT PIECE OF INFORMATION TO REVEAL DURING YOUR TRIAGE ASSESSMENT. Yes, I know you were referred from a clinic for elevated potassium (7.4), but when we ask you about past or present medical problems, CARDIAC ARREST IS WHAT WE MEAN. We were even specific, “Do you have any heart problems?”, “Are you having or ever had chest pain? Nausea? Vomiting? Sweating? Dizziness? Passing out?”*
CARDIAC ARREST IS A HEART PROBLEM!
Also of note, you should always bring any referral paperwork, test results, discharge instructions from previous doctor, clinic, ER visits, etc. Always.
That way when you ask to go to the bathroom, a frantic, frightened waiting room patient won’t come running to the nurses’ desk screaming that “someone is on the floor and shaking violently.” That way we won’t have to code you on the bathroom floor.
Now for the wife. Please don’t begin your story with “We were making tortilla soup when the lab called and said he should probably come to the ER to have his blood tests repeated and……”
NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! Your story should start with “The same thing happened 2 months ago….” And when we ask you “what was done in the hospital, what did the doctors tell you?”, please don’t say “everything is better now because they did CPR and fixed his heart.”
NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.
PS – I’m sorry your husband is dead.
*For all you medical professionals out there, this patient received an EKG and repeat K+ (5.4) via VBG immediately after triage.