Comment

Planet Rachael: why the Curly Wurly theory could extend to managing emergency department expectations

A long wait in an emergency department underlines the wisdom of telling people the true situation at the outset, says Wendy Johnson
Picture of a Cadbury Curly Wurly bar. Wendy Johnson says a long wait in an emergency department underlined the wisdom of telling people the true situation at the outset.

A long wait in an emergency department underlines the wisdom of telling people the true situation at the outset

Theres been much in the news about the failure of emergency departments (EDs) to meet targets and about patients in corridors and, literally, on the floor, as they wait to be seen.

For those in the know, the failure is not in EDs but in social care, which if working to its optimum would allow EDs to function exactly as they should.

I had cause to accompany Rachael to an ED recently with a suspected fracture. We waited more than eight hours to be seen. Not ideal, but also not unexpected

...

A long wait in an emergency department underlines the wisdom of telling people the true situation at the outset

Picture of a Cadbury Curly Wurly bar. Wendy Johnson says a long wait in an emergency department underlined the wisdom of telling people the true situation at the outset.
Picture: Alamy

There’s been much in the news about the failure of emergency departments (EDs) to meet targets and about patients in corridors and, literally, on the floor, as they wait to be seen.

For those in the know, the failure is not in EDs but in social care, which if working to its optimum would allow EDs to function exactly as they should.

I had cause to accompany Rachael to an ED recently with a suspected fracture. We waited more than eight hours to be seen. Not ideal, but also not unexpected as we had been advised as such on arrival. So far, expectations had been met and patience kept in check.

What we had not been told about was the doubling up in cubicles and patients waiting in corridors, of which Rachael became one. As a consequence, suddenly our expectations were not met.

Collective solution would curb criticism of ED staff

This proves what in my house is termed the Curly Wurly theory. When Rachael was about five she was given one of these chocolate bars which to such a young person with a sweet tooth and very small hands appeared to be a never-ending strip of ecstasy.

Imagine then the crushing of expectations when it’s opened and found to be not only full of holes, but also wafer thin. She talks about it to this day. Had we told her what to expect she likely would have just enjoyed it as the nice chocolate bar it is. Instead she cried for a whole afternoon.

The answer lies in the collective solution of telling people the situation as it really is.

If this were the case I genuinely believe that those attending EDs would leave and go to a more appropriate place to have their particular medical needs met, or if they needed to be there they would rally round, as would their families. They would then be part of the solution rather than be critical of the staff, who are doing their utmost under almost intolerable circumstances. A win-win theory?


Wendy Johnson, head of safeguarding adults at risk and nursing lead for learning disabilities at Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. A long wait in an emergency department underlined the wisdom of telling people the true situation at the outset.Wendy Johnson is head of safeguarding adults at risk and nursing lead for learning disabilities at Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Swindon. She writes about life with her daughter Rachael, who has autism

 


More from Planet Rachael

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to learningdisabilitypractice.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs