Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Why It Takes Time To Get Pain Medicine In The ER



Three days.

Out of pain medication and vomiting so you wouldn’t keep it down, anyway.


Emergency department.


You’re in luck –  no one in triage!

A bed opens up, the nurse takes you straight to a room.

Gown, blanket.


Two minutes later you send your cousin out to ask how long it will be until you get your pain med.

Excuse me?


There is an unrealistic expectation of just how long it takes to get pain medication in an ER.

A few procedures that need to occur before that shot gets to its destination.

  • Registration – We must have the information. The admitting clerk is not trying to hassle by asking for your address and birthday and ID.  We need that information to officially identify our patients when we give medication.
  • Examination – There must be an evaluation by the physician or the nurse practitioner before medication can be given. There may be patients who arrived before you who have yet to be evaluated; there may be patients who arrived after you experiencing  life-threatening issues.  Either way, they will be seen first.
  • Orders – The physician/NP writes the order for your medication. Your nurse, also responsible for other patients, may be busy in another room.  They will notice that medication has been ordered and take the chart to prepare the meds.
  • Medication Preparation – The nurse pulls the medications from the medication dispensing system. The medications are carefully drawn up and all syringes are labeled before they leave the med room.  The nurse will bring them to your bedside.

And you get your shot.

It’s so basic, really. Organized. Logical.

But it is not instantaneous.

Nothing in the ER is instantaneous except CPR when you go into cardiopulmonary arrest.

So, understand that you will probably have to do a certain amount of waiting before you receive your pain medication. It’s okay to ask for an update if you aren’t sure of what is going on.

But at least let your cousin sit for longer than two minutes before you send him out to remind us that you are in pain.

We didn’t forget.

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »