Following a nasty stomach virus Sunday and Monday, I was left with severe stomach pains on Tuesday lasting all day into the night. By midnight I agreed it was time to go to the emergency room.
I am not expert on hospitals, let alone emergency rooms, and I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv; but I have been to both an American and Australian Emergency Room in the past 6 months (for non-life threatening emergencies) so I thought I’d do a little comparison.
American: the emergency sign is big, bold, and bright with ample parking spaces located nearby and an easy to find entrance.
Australian: when we pulled up we actually drove right past the emergency room. The signs were not clearly marked and we found no public parking on our drive around the entire hospital. There were plenty of spots reserved for those with a car decal and hospital staff, mostly empty, and since it was past midnight we parked in one of those spots and hoped for the best.
Checkin and the Waiting Room
American: When visiting the ER two years ago I had my hand scanned so on future visits check in would be quick. It was. I scanned my hand and immediately my face appeared on the screen. I typed in what was wrong with me and took a seat in the waiting room.
Australian: after we found the emergency room, the first stop is with the triage nurse who you go over your symptoms with, she gives you a quick diagnosis on the spot. Then you move on to registration, and following registration, move to another part of the waiting room before being seen by a doctor. My triage nurse was wonderful, she diagnosed me, and brought me out a medication that would kick in while I was in the waiting room so I could tell the doctor how I felt after the medicine. I was also given the option to leave after taking it if I felt 100% better and comfortable making that decision. I did not, but it was nice to have the option.
American: a registrar comes into the room with a computer and confirms or takes down your personal details and accepts payment for services.
Australian: after seeing the triage nurse you go to a new window and sit with the registrar to fill out personal information. This info is later verified by the nurse after you are called back.
American: four walls, clean room, comfortable bed, and a tv with a standard cable package. It was a very comfortable environment to enjoy several episodes of the Kardashians in.
Australian: uh… sheet walls?, I could hear everyone’s problems around me, and the people snoring a few beds down. It was not very comfortable, and it sure was awkward.
American: helpful. But I have noticed with the more doctors I saw in America over the summer, including those in the ER, they seem to be more about running tests that might not be necessary at that point in time.
Australian: very caring. Now this could be because I had a very nice doctor, Jeremy, whose face lit up when he heard my American accent, but I found him and the other nurses to be lovely. They did not try to do any other testing at that time that might not be necessary, instead opted for the “if you don’t feel better after these medications and rest then come back and see me” approach. When I was seen by my now regular GP on Monday after my stomach virus started he had the same approach. I really appreciate doctors who don’t put you through numerous testing until it’s necessary, and aren’t with that whole preventative medication stuff, cause that’s just not for me.
American: Being new it was updated with the latest technology for checkin processes, had very comfortable rooms, and provided all the luxuries you could want in a hospital. I can’t say all hospitals are this lovely but if I got sick again I wouldn’t mind revisiting.
Australian: it may not have been as modern/new/upgraded as the American hospital, but it was full of friendly and caring staff who all displayed a passion for helping their patients. Some of the processes seemed a bit redundant, like checking in at all different counter windows, and verifying addresses multiple times; but I was so impressed with the triage nurse, and the medication before being seen by a doctor. I can see how this might bring the wait time of emergency rooms down, especially for non-emergency illnesses like I was experiencing.
Fingers crossed there won’t be any more emergency room visits for me any time soon.
Have you ever been sick or visited a hospital in a foreign country? What was your experience like?