Thursday, February 5, 2015
"I'm so sorry for wasting your time."
It's surprising to me how often people say this to me at work in the Emergency Department. Actually, it's not - it's surprising WHO says this to me at work in the Emergency Department, and WHEN, and WHY.
People never say this AFTER I have finished with them. They always say it BEFORE-hand. And the people who say it are usually the people who are absolutely not wasting my time. These are the people that emergency departments exist to help. They are most often elderly people who are quite frail and live alone, polite to a fault. For example, they may have fallen down during a dizzy spell and been unable to get up again for some hours until they were discovered by chance. You know - the people who could easily have turned up (or not) the next day - dead.
The other big pre-emptive apologisers are parents of very small babies, only a few months old, who have been dropped on their heads or have some kind of mysterious raging fever. Again, people where things can go seriously wrong very rapidly, so coming to the hospital for a safety check is an entirely sensible thing to do.
Or the guy who broke a bone in his leg but didn't come to hospital for 9 days despite being unable to walk AT ALL because he thought it was just badly sprained and hadn't even taken any painkillers. That guy apologised for wasting my time until I showed him his x-rays.
On the other hand, nobody has ever apologised for wasting my time when they have come to hospital on a busy Saturday night complaining of itchy arms. And nobody has ever apologised for wasting my time for telling me that the pain in their ankle is so agonising that I can't even touch it, let alone expect them to bear weight on it, but who then, after being cleared of fractures with an x-ray, stand up from their wheelchair and walk unassisted out of the department. And nobody has ever apologised for wasting my time when telling their child, who has bumped their arm and has a bruise, not to move it around like I am asking them to, just in case they hurt themselves. These people do not apologise.
However, I can't complain too much. Well, I can, and I just did. What I really mean is that it is hypocritical for me to complain. The person who wastes the most of my time is me. And I don't even get paid for it.