The NEW Emergency Room


Our new reality.

Everything is new now.  Not new in the “new car smell” or new big screen TV way, but new in the “COVID Redefined Way.”  Healthcare, of course, would require that things be done differently, and indeed it is. Dramatically.  If you have been hospitalized, had a loved one admitted, or you’ve had to manage limited access to those in long-term care facilities, you know the pain of separation and limited access.

One hallmark of our work at Aberdeen Home Care is ongoing assessment of our clients so that Emergency Room visits can be reduced… or better yet… eliminated.  As part of our weekend preparation, we anticipate what might need attention to avoid… you guessed it... an emergency.

Kerry Wynne RN, a Nurse Case Manager with Aberdeen, was an Emergency Room Nurse at Mass General Hospital for 14 years prior to joining our team in 2020.  “A misunderstanding often occurs where folks coming to the ER have expectations that are not and cannot be met.”

Kerry explains “the role of the ER is to identify and stabilize your emergency.  With limitless appropriate scenarios that would bring someone to the ER, the system of TRIAGE (who gets seen first depending on acuity or level of need) is essential.  There are folks who need emergency intervention and are in a life-threatening situation, and there are those whose need is no less a concern to them but is not a life and death issue.  While my ER colleagues and I would not discourage ER use, we may make some suggestions.”

Kerry furthers, “assessing your symptoms prior to a long holiday weekend, when your PCP’s office is closed… utilizing urgent care or clinics that support your PCP’s practice are options other than the traditional ER.  During COVID, most hospitals including MGH were not allowing any visitors or supporters in with ER patients.  Managing any kind of ‘walk in’ medical service was a particular challenge when we were seeing many COVID positive patients coming through.”

The average community hospital emergency department is serving up to 150,000 individuals.  As some Emergency Departments have closed, more burden is put on the remaining hospitals.   As we come into the “indoor season,” where typically viral infections (colds, flu, and more) are more prevalent, it’s prudent to think: what can WE do?

Have you noticed that the common cold is back?

Do you wonder why?  Remember that our “cold” is a coronavirus, just like COVID-19.  Highly contagious.  We have been vigilant with hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing, and (no surprise) we have had far fewer colds.  Now that we are sharing air space, masks off, and less socially distant, colds and flu have that age old opportunity to pass from one to another via contact contamination and air.  The most powerful way for the coronavirus to spread, is from the “rebreathing” of air from, you guessed it, folks who are infected.

If you need the ER: get your mask, your hand sanitizer, and go – or call 911.

Hands down. If, however, there is another way to get your needs met, consider it.  If you are wondering whether to go on Sunday night for an issue that has been bothering you for days and seems “a tad worse,” is it possible to wait until your Doctor’s office reopens on Monday? When in doubt, call your PCP and ask what they (or the on-call covering doctor) think about your situation. 

You can expect: Stabilization, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Discharge from the ER.  Your discharge from the ER may, in fact, be admission into the hospital, or discharge home with instructions to follow up with your PCP for further work up.  If you are discharged home, that does NOT mean that you are not having a medical problem, it means that further work up or diagnosis can happen outside of the hospital.

The very best outcome of the Emergency Room is not to have to go there.  BUT, if you need to, manage your expectations with the information here.  Knowing what to expect in new situations is half the battle.  The other battle is staying well.  With so much demand on today’s health care providers, another thing we can do is to take more personal responsibility for our care.

At Aberdeen, weekend planning starts on Wednesday.  Take a good look midweek and report your findings or suspicions.  You may save yourself or a loved one from a trip to the ER.  We are all so grateful to have a resource like this in our community.  We can show our appreciation by judicial use of their services.  You could also order them some pizza.  That always helps…

joanne macinnis, aberdeen home care, kerry wynne, covid