It's not an emergency

Former ER nurses, it turns out, have a different definition of "emergency" than everyone else does. I will explain, then, what an emergency is and isn't.

In my world, emergency means you will quickly die if I don't do something about your problem. And by quickly I mean in the next few minutes. So basically, there are three emergencies, and only three.

  1. You aren't breathing.
  2. You don't have a pulse.
  3. You are bleeding profusely. It is an arterial bleed.

I'll also allow things that nearly invariably lead to one of those things in the next 5 minutes. If you're having such a severe asthma attack that a tiny squeak of air is still moving, I'll allow that. If you keel over in V-tach and still have a pulse for the moment, I'll allow that. Everything else might be a big problem. It might even necessitate some quick thinking and action. But it's not an emergency.

Here are things that are not emergencies.

  1. You forgot to tell me I needed to do something, and now you are behind. This applies even if it's shift change.
  2. The pharmacy closes in 30 minutes.
  3. Your patient "had" any sort of problem at all (emergencies cannot occur in the past tense).
  4. You think your patient might be about to [deteriorate, stop breathing, die, fall, choke]. (Emergencies cannot occur in the possible future.)
  5. You are vomiting. Vomiting seems to be often confused with an emergency and also for an activity that cannot be undertaken alone. "Oh my God, she's VOMITING!" OK, unless we're talking about a trauma victim on a backboard (thus invoking emergency #1), I don't need to attend this event.
  6. You have discovered a wound on your patient.

You get the idea. Note that the list of things that are not emergencies is much longer than the list of things that are emergencies and can be endlessly added to. Thank you for taking the time to read this helpful PSA!