What to say when patients ask How long?’

Below are sample responses recommended by Shelley Cohen, RN, CEN, a member of the Emergency Nurses Association’s task force on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act:

  • "We realize it is important for people to know how long they will have to wait to be seen. Being an emergency room makes it difficult to predict waiting times. Please let me know what I can do for you while you are waiting."
  • "I understand it is frustrating to wait with a sick child and not know how long it will be before the doctor sees her/him. Would you like me to recheck her/his temperature one hour after she has had the medicine I just gave her?"
  • "Although I do not know how long the wait will be, I can tell you that we always have a registered nurse here at triage. So if you should become concerned at any time while you are waiting, we are here to help you."
  • "What I do know is, our doctor will see you as soon as possible. While you are waiting, I will be more than happy to recheck your blood pressure and get you a new ice pack. My name is Shelley, and I am the triage nurse."