R Privacy Issues

Let's face it, ER's are crowded and noisy. Despite our best attempts to maintain a patients privacy, when the next patient is six feet away with only a thin curtain between them, it is hard not to over hear what is going on next to you.

One night we had an elderly gentleman in curtain area 1 and next to him a prim, middle aged lady. The PA was trying to explain to the man what his diagnosis was but his efforts were being hampered by the fact that the man was very hard of hearing. The problem was something of a personal nature so the PA was trying to be discreet.

PA: Sir, you have pubic lice
PT: What's that you say?

PA: I said you have pubic lice.
PT: What?

PA: You've got lice down there
PT: Can't hear you son, you have to speak up

PT: Oh.

Of course we all overheard the conversation, including the prim lady in the next cubicle, who was red as a beet by now. The ER staff, dignified until the end, were draped across the counters shaking with silent laughter until tears ran down our faces.

Most of the time privacy in the ER is an illusion maintained by patients pretending they don't see or hear what is going on around them. Sometimes it is impossible to pretend.

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