Emergency Room Doulas

I really think that there’d be a market for them!

This past weekend I had an interesting experience at the Charles V Keating Emergency and Trauma Center. First off, let me say that this emergency department is the spiffiest I’ve even, but perhaps I’m just just used to Montreal grunge. Comfortable chairs, televisions, access to information on what is going on in the emergency department, a highly efficient set up (the wait was not terrible considering I wasn’t triaged as a priority case as while I was in pain I wasn’t in threat of loss of limb or life), comfortable areas within the actual department once you are taken back to treatment.

While the staff was mostly wonderful, I could have used a doula. While I am a doula myself and will go all out for my clients at their birth, I tend to freeze up when it comes to my own health. Before we had children, Mike was a wonderful advocate for me if I ever found myself in a position to need medical care. He’d come to appointments and make sure that whatever we’d discussed previously was brought up to the doctor. He’d make sure I wasn’t forgotten in some back room. He’d fetch pillows/blankets when I was puking (aw, don’t I remember the joys of hyperemisis gravidarum). With children, he gets the kids and I get to stick up for myself.

Since that is not my forté, I could have used a doula to:

1. Remind me that going into the hospital at 4:30 without having eaten is a bad idea. You will be there over shift change and no one will be moved out of the waiting room for over an hour. You will be hungry and will spend $2.90 for a tiny granola bar that you will have to choke down.

2. Ask a nurse to speak to a group of people in the tiny assessment room about quieting down. I was sitting with another women in significant pain and nearby there was a wild couple with the cellphone going off every two seconds who were discussing their various issues with children’s service and the law (including vivid descriptions of robberies with a butcher knife *gag*). It really sucked the energy out of the room and made everything feel really negative and everyone else in the room was actually sick and in pain and didn’t need to hear that. It was a relief when the lady decided to go home without seeing a doctor.

3. Have an idea of what I hoped to accomplish before we saw the doctor and remind me if we were getting off track. The first night I did well at explaining and the doctors were sympathetic but the doctor on the second day was not good. He said several things that were just plain wrong. I’m a little bit educated on human anatomy and whatnot so I knew that there was no way that he could tell me that certain areas were fine from the tests he did but I kept my mouth shut. I knew that I wanted further investigation done. I knew I was very uncomfortable going back home to wait months for tests. I needed someone to insist he look at my photos. I needed someone to remind me to find out what the doctor’s speciality was and to help me advocate for seeing someone in the right department (as that is why we went to the city).

4. To take notes. The doctor gave me a whole load of instructions on release but they were all done in chicken scribble and I can barely make them out. It also would have been handy to have someone sit with you and brainstorm about what you would like to ask before hand.

I think that ER support people would be wonderful at sitting with people while they wait for tests/treatment. It can be scarey and when it is overcrowded, the staff will ask people’s family to leave the treatment/assessment areas and I know that some people really need the support. Elderly people could use someone to be with them most certainly. This should be a service that is provided to people coming into the emergency room department on their own. I think it would improve people’s experience and feelings that the treatment/assessment was effective. Instead, people leave not quite knowing what the next steps are, what the side effects of their medications might be/or how to take them, upset because they forgot to ask certain things, etc, etc, etc……it turns out that Mike came with the children to the emergency room department with the kids while I was in consultation with the doctor and the nurse did not ask if he would like to come in. My advocate was just outside the door and I didn’t know it! Unfortunately, he remembered all the things I’d wanted to ask that I’d forgotten but it was too late!

Maybe after all this, I’ll market myself as a general hospital doula…….has there ever been a time you just wanted someone there?


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