Of Emergency Rooms and Stressful Work Environments

Going into an Hospital ER is a bit like a meeting with your boss and an HR person. You are never quite sure how it is going to go.

I had just driven someone, who unexpectedly needed some medical attention, to the ER at the Credit Valley Hospital. It was early afternoon.

Hospitals intimidate me.

I try to act brave and normal, but the ambiance, the smells, the uniforms, the patients all get to me. Rarely have I gone to a hospital for a good reason. Even newborns are best visited in the quiet comfort of a home.

ERs take the hospital experience to another level.

There is a cold efficiency about the staff who work the receiving stations there. Whether you walk in on your own or are brought in by paramedics, they don’t seem to miss a beat in getting the right level of attention based on the severity of the situation.

When you spend ten hours in an hospital ER, you observe random things.

I quickly found out that ERs by default are not big on privacy as it relates to why you are there. It’s hard for them to be. Whether you intend to or not, you overhear conversations about people’s ailments. You can’t avoid them.

In the short wait before we were processed, I heard a young man claim that he had accidentally slashed his wrist; an older gentleman incessantly complaining to the nurses that his morphine was wearing off, and a man with a rather sizeable belly insisting that something was rolling around inside his stomach.


The number of patients at the ER surprised me.

There were the usual suspects – the broken bones, the cuts, the accidents… But, the ones who appeared middle-aged and outwardly healthy gave me pause for thought. I wondered if they all started out their days expecting to end up at the ER. After all, an ER visit is not something that you schedule in your calendar.

You can’t plan it or fake it. It is not like calling in sick for work.

I wondered if some of them had stressful work environments that contributed to their conditions.

About five hours into my ER experience, I noticed that the level of activity had ramped up. Intermittent sirens cut through the quiet of the hospital as ER nursing staff scurried about with a heightened sense of urgency. Cops and paramedics whom I had not noticed before were suddenly more visible.

Now, there is a stressful work environment if there was any!

That triggered some introspection.

Most of us have jobs that have some level of stress associated with it. I do believe that a certain level of stress is good and helps keep us on our toes. A complete lack of stress at work would indicate to me that either your are underemployed, or in a profession that does not involve customer interactions, deadlines, or functional dependencies.

However, at some point should we pause and reassess our situations?  

We are so caught up in the pursuit of wealth and the perceived stability that it brings, that we forget that without health, wealth won’t do us much good.

But then, I can be an armchair quarterback. I recently took a break from active employment.

I have the luxury of watching from the sidelines.

Considering, I was sitting in an ER, I figured that health is the one that people have less control over. In my books, health trumps wealth.

Both would be nice!

A recent article that I read in Forbes.com came to mind. Particularly, couple of lines stood out:

Being a cog in a large wheel allows you the freedom to be mediocre. It doesn’t take long to figure out the least amount of work that is required to just get by and not get fired.


Perhaps something to consider to keep your stress levels low at work, assuming you can play it right.

Sort of a “good enough” approach.

“You guys took over the ER today,” the Doctor joked as she wrote up the discharge note.

We had seen her as we checked in and at least ten hours had passed.

She was probably pulling in an eighteen hour shift, and still smiling!

I wondered what would happen if some of the the ER staff adopted the “good enough” attitude to their work. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that.

I left with a sense that I didn’t have to worry.

I felt grateful.

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Dax Nair

Dax is a marketer of cloud and security solutions with varied interests in technology, travel, food, racquet sports, and blogging.

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